"There’s no place like home," Dorothy Gale once mused, a lasting pronouncement that takes on new meaning as many of us commit staying inside during the pandemic. As our homes stretch to become makeshift offices, schools, and gyms—and as stress, fear, and anxiety mount—it’s more important than ever that our dwellings bring us comfort. Here’s what revered designers have to say about making your home a happier place.
Define Your "Happy" Home—and Set an Intention
Happiness can be whatever speaks to and nourishes your soul. For French interior designer Pierre Yovanovitch, contentment at home means access to nature and the outside environment: "I feel uplifted when simply opening windows for fresh air, traversing the gardens—any space with some greenery."
Meanwhile, Gabriele Chiave, creative director at Amsterdam-based design studio Marcel Wanders, says that a home is a sanctuary when it’s conducive to reflection and allows you to bring out your best self. He enacts this by surrounding his space with cherished trinkets, art, memorabilia, family photos, and souvenirs.
Canadian interior design duo Yabu Pushelberg’s George Yabu and Glenn Pushelberg say that they begin every morning with a pour-over coffee ritual—their g0-to blend is Imperialiste Noir from Social Coffee & Tea Co.—because "it’s something enjoyed in the moment and allows us to set up possibilities for the day with a positive outlook."
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Clear the Clutter
If you have more free time on your hands, New York–based interior designer Alyssa Kapito advises editing and eliminating non-essential items. "It helps with focus, relaxation, peacefulness, and to ultimately see things in a fresh, new light," she says.
Chiave says that beyond the COVID-19 crisis, purging our living spaces should actually be a regular exercise: "I believe that this allows us to frequently shape our environments and reconnect with ourselves."
Yabu and Pushelberg take it a step further and explain that if you have a weekend to spare, perform an intensive tidying up, from top to bottom: "Choose one space to focus on and remove everything. Then give its surfaces and crevices a complete exfoliation. This is the first step to clarity."
"Give surfaces and crevices a complete exfoliation. This is the first step to clarity."—Yabu Pushelberg
Doing so, they say, will result in a blank canvas that allows you to shape and define your new mood. "In re-evaluating the possibilities for this space, consider adding elements of joy and purposefulness to it," they suggest. This method of paring back, organizing, and rearranging helps your home feel fresh and exciting, and meets your ever-evolving needs.
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Repurpose, Re-Accessorize, and Rearrange
Kapito encourages people to tinker with movement: "Oftentimes, that chair has been sitting in the corner for a decade. When you move it to another location, you’re shaping a new vignette for that space." She also says to consider placing a lamp in your kitchen to elevate the cooking space, or repurposing an old stool for a side table instead.
Yovanovitch agrees that by simply rearranging furniture and textiles that you already have, you can shake up your space. "Step back, challenge yourself, and imagine all the possibilities and angles," he says. "Break things up and reposition, for example, your sofa, which can alter the look of your interior." Even shifting smaller pieces such as nightstands and vanity tables help create visual focal points and add vibrancy to a space.
"You challenge your brain to readjust and reorient itself; and as a result, your senses are reawakened and enlivened."
California-based interior designer Kelly Wearstler says that now is the perfect time to experiment and be fearless. "Move things around," she encourages. "See how pieces feel in different rooms, different corners." For instance, try creating a new seating nook in a bedroom with the chair that was once in the kitchen. "There’s an energy shift when making such adjustments," she says. These minute changes can also be applied to sculptures, photos, and trinkets. For instance, when creating a tablescape, consider the interplay of texture and scale: "The result will be something so special to gaze upon, and will help set a new mood and dynamism to the room."
Find Ways to Enhance Natural Light
Highlight the hidden beauty within your home with natural lighting. Yovanovitch says that this means opening window shades and curtains to "make room for productivity and imagination."
Chiave emphasizes that light makes spaces look larger and fills them with joy. "The sun is life-giving," he says. "Every interior space we design, we seek to complement them with natural colors, light, and elements like plants." One clever trick, he tells us, is to use mirrors to expand the scope of a space: "It feels as though there’s more room to stretch out."
Wearstler adds that if you want to control the amount of light streaming into a space, consider using a gauzy, sheer fabric, as "it allows for thoughtful diffusion, all while giving an ambiance and allowing vitamin D inside."
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Set Boundaries—But Leave Room for Flexibility
Yovanovitch and Chiave find balance by using each room the way it was intended—for instance, using the dinner table as a place to reconnect rather than as an office, if your living arrangement allows. Delineating boundaries makes each area more purposeful. They argue that attributing spaces for specific functions allows you to step into a productive mindset.
Meanwhile, Yabu and Pushelberg say that ultimately, do what’s best for you: "We cannot prescribe to such defined markers—follow your instincts, and do what feels right in the moment."
Liven Things Up With Greenery
The designers are ardent believers of the healing power of plants and herbs in the home. Wearstler stresses the importance of connecting to the natural world: "It’s rejuvenating, reinvigorating, and provides a greater sense of well-being." She says that foraging for wild flowers and sculptural branches while exercise safe social distancing is not only ideal for making fresh arrangements, but is also an inexpensive way to beautify a dwelling.
Kapito says that floral arrangements from markets and supermarkets (if delivery is available) are a good idea; otherwise, there’s always fruit to consider: "A beautiful, antique bowl brimming with pears or oranges will do a lot to lift your spirits!"
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Get Adventurous With Color
Yabu and Pushelberg say that for a quick and easy change-up, consider switching up the color of your bedspread or towels—and even the placement of spices in your kitchen. "You can positively influence your mood this way through subtle shifts in your daily routine," they say.
For a weekend project, Chiave says that a fresh coat of paint can do wonders to transform a space. "Doing this really creates a different flow and life force," he says. "You challenge your brain to readjust and reorient itself; and as a result, your senses are reawakened and enlivened."
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