There is something that happens in every human brain when it feels joy. When the pleasure center of the brain (specifically the nucleus accumbens) is activated neurons fire, endorphins are released and joy is felt. I’ve spent quite a few years as a marriage and family therapist learning to help others find joy in healthy ways by letting go of bad habits and forming good relationships resulting in a better quality of life. However, it occurred to me recently that some of the most basic ways to increase joy in our lives might be as simple as changing pillow cases. Believe it or not, joy can be linked to good design. That does not mean that we all need “live, laugh, love” or encouraging cat posters on our walls. It means is that we should pay attention to design and the items in our home that speak life into us. Aristotle wrote, “Happiness is activity of the soul in accordance with virtue”. This idea is rather abstract but it’s not far fetched to think we can find virtue in our home decor. Guided by such inspiration, my experimental journey to find joy in my own home began.
Here are the principles I followed while redesigning our family space.
- Declutter: Start by looking at the cluttered or busy spaces in your home and challenge yourself to get rid of 50% of those items. I did this with our mantle, shelves, and coffee table. I can’t tell you how much I love having more negative space in our home. It’s freeing and adds a sense of peace to areas that were too busy. I know it’s been said many times before but having less is more because you end up enjoying the quality items you have.(Shibori Tea Towel by Odessa and Sons, California Tea Towel by Maptote)
- Out with the old, in with the new: Get rid of things that you associate with negative experiences. It may sound odd but our old couch was something that was given to my husband before we were married and it never really felt like mine. Investing in a good couch that represents our whole family yet still didn’t break our budget. The Sven sofa by Article transformed our living room. We updated key areas of our home with simple pieces from like these Sterling accent chairs by Living Spaces and rose gold coffee table by Capsule. (Arm Chairs by Living Spaces, coffee table by Capsule)
- Invest in quality handmade pieces by local artisan or makers: Knowing the materials and who crafted accent pieces adds value to your home. (I found this beautiful alpaca wool hand-knotted throw made by Broadwick Fibers, Handmade lamp and triangle mirror by Kylle Sebree, Coffee Table by Capsule) Blanket by Garber and friends.
- Fill Your Home With Meaningful Art and Items: Add prints in unexpected places, like the kitchen or bathroom. Lively prints and artwork can brighten utilitarian spaces. We live in a time where it’s never been easier to find an artist that you connect with. Online connectivity has taken out the difficulty in commissioning original pieces and companies like Framebridge make it a snap to turn your favorite captures from your phone or desktop to lasting artwork. For unique finds I love searching through etsy and thrift shops. The most meaningful art in our home is a hand-me-down oil painting from my grandmother, surfboards made by my husband and prints from The Spanish Lady Shop that I commissioned based on my family’s style and interests. I also love when people collect and showcase unexpected items like an old ladder, interesting tapestry, a beautiful hat or vintage baskets. Art is subjective so fill your home with pieces that speak to you, open your eye, and stimulate your mind. (Bath time print by Home Grown Books, Herbs print by Rose Henges, Be Still, Salty Air Beach Hair and beach scene print by The Spanish Lady Shop, Square framed prints by Framebridge.)
- Mix Adult and Kid-Friendly Accents: In children’s rooms add whimsy with a mixture of mature items. You may find it more fun to play in a room the is catered to children with adult accents that they can grow into. Designing and decorating children’s rooms is always a process because they continue to grow. I’m constantly getting rid of old toys and trying to make room for actually play. Key pieces like this rope lamp from Land of Nod look equally as great in any room because of it’s timeless quality. I’m in love with this dip dye denim teepee and floor bins because they can easily be moved from room to room for play and easy clean up. (Wave tapestry by Walls need Love, Nesting robots by Perfectly Smitten, Tee Pee, Baskets, and Rope Lamp by Land of Nod)
- Don’t Be Afraid To Decorate With White: Try adding white to the bedroom for clarity. White reflects natural light which can give any home a more open feel. On a physiology note, natural light can be a benefit to your wake and sleep cycle, making you feel more refreshed. White is easily bleached or touched up with paint if needed and color pops against a neutral palate. As someone who loves vibrant pieces and a lot of flair, I have learned that adding texture and colorful tones balances a white background. Having two boys of my own, our white walls get their share of marks and scuffs but nothing a magic eraser can usually buff out. (Liora duvet by anthropologie, Shibori pillow cases by The Shibori Shoppe, Nightstands by Living Spaces, Shower Curtain by Walls Need Love, bathmat and towels by Bluebellgrey)
- Bring the outdoors in: It might go without saying, but decorate with plants everywhere! Indoor plants have a host of mental and physical benefits. Plants fight indoor pollution and remove chemicals from the air. Some plants like the purple waffle plant, the English ivy, the variegated wax plant, and the asparagus fern can actually remove (VOCs) volatile organic compound from indoor air. Just a few other benefits from studies done include: improved mood and well-being, reduced stress, anxiety, and depression, and increased feelings of calm, relaxation and creativity….all from bringing more greenery into your home. Pretty amazing right?! My favorites include succulents, cacti, hanging air plants (especially in small places), and philodendron which drape gracefully and grow to great lengths. (Case Study Ceramic Planter and Stand by Modernica)
After applying these principles of design our home is more streamlined, easier to clean, and more true to our family aesthetic. Cheers to making memories in you own home and increasing your joy!
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