Can our home make us happier?
Those of us who are fortunate enough to be safe and well and staying at home have had a lot of time to survey our work-life surroundings. Cleaning, clearing and de-cluttering cupboards and drawers, in-between sending emails. If you are one of the many who have been on a domestic sweep – step back, review the space you’ve created and think about (re)designing your home for happiness. In my quest to create more joy in life, I’ve discovered a slew of books that have recently hit the market, all of which promise to help transform our spaces into oases of happiness. Here are three favourites, by women who know their way around good design:
Happy By Design: How to Create a Home that Boosts Your Health and Happiness by Victoria Harrison
Victoria Harrison is an influencer, editor of Houzz.co.uk and popular design writer. In Happy By Design she set out to answer: “Can our home make us happier?” and the findings she unearthed from NASA researchers; master perfumers like Roja Dove; sleep, colour and wellbeing experts, resulted in her developing a Happy Home Program and this book.
Her book takes a bullet-point approach to creating a happy home. It has a colourful layout that is easy to skim and navigate. Each chapter cites the research behind the topic and how it will improve your wellbeing. Then, it goes about outlining practical steps to achieve this in your home. Harrison devotes substantial sections of her book to decorating with plants, flowers and gardens and their benefits to your health. As someone with a real love of greenery – minus a garden, plus a black thumb – I found the lists of toxin-filtering plants and urban gardening tips super helpful for city living. The rest of the book is devoted to the ‘feeling’ of your environment but again, takes a very practical approach to improving your sleep; creating coziness; the boomerang joy of making others happy, plus how to digitally detox, tidy and light your space. Victoria Harrison makes designing a happy home unintimidating and very do-able.
Ideal for… The novice decorator; the budget-conscious because of the ease and affordability of the advice; or the person who has little time and wants to just dip in and out of the book for tips and tricks.
Happy Starts at Home: Change Your Space, Transform Your Life by Rebecca West
Rebecca West is an interior designer who found her career and a happier home after divorce. Being in a home, ‘that reverberated with sadness, loss and defeat,’ forced her change her space and discover the huge positive effects it had. Finishing the book feels like you’ve had a super therapy session – especially if your home is stagnant, full of unwanted memories or not serving your current lifestyle. I, personally, had an a-ha moment while reading this book that helped me re-frame my resistance to unpacking a lot of unpacked boxes.
West approaches a joyful home by getting deep into your needs, values and hang-ups to provide a different perspective on designing a joyful home. Each chapter is in the vein of design self-help with questionnaires and exercises to reveal your priorities around theme: including financial fitness, self-worth and spirituality. It helps you identify what you want in your life, for example socialising more, or finding love, and then gives tips on how to design your home to support that intent. Happy Starts at Home also discusses how to design for multiple tastes especially if your partner’s or family’s style differs from yours. West encourages you to address the half-finished projects, minor repairs and design annoyances that drag us down daily. Her ultimate tenet is that by creating a home to works for you today – and that is as individual as you are – it will manifest a more joyful and self-actualised home.
Ideal for… Those who procrastinate or have tried sorting out their spaces but never manage to get where they want with their home. Also for more introspective types who want to figure out the ‘why’ behind their joyful home; and those who want its design to reflect themselves, not The Joneses’.
Happy Inside: How to Harness the Power of Home for Health and Happiness by Michelle Ogundehin
Michelle Ogundehin, was in the process of writing this book when Alyson interviewed her for TNMA’s podcast, and now the book has been published (extract coming soon). Thanks to Michelle’s 20 years of design experience, first in architecture and then as former editor of Elle Decoration, the design information is solid, mixed with a thorough consideration of all the elements of health hygiene, good lifestyle habits and research to back it up.
We are introduced early on to the importance of paring down possessions: ‘It is my absolute belief that most people do not in fact need more space; they need less stuff. Combined with a re-think of the space they do have.’ The first four chapters are dedicated to doing just that by choosing what is in your home and learning design fundamentals like establishing a colour palette. From this foundation, the second half of the book focuses on the main spaces of the home like ‘Welcome’ for entrances and ‘Retreat” for bedrooms and bathrooms. Here, she discusses the ethos of each space, as well as providing more specific design tips. It reads like a master-course for the spirit as well as the home because mixed throughout are quotes from ancient Greek philosophers, Zen masters, plus her admiration of Buddhist and Japanese traditions which underpin information like what type of essentials oils to mix for energy to why you shouldn’t have a ‘formal’ unused space in your home. Michelle recommends you take at least three months to work through the book in order to apply its principles. It is not a fast read, but it is luxurious in content.
Ideal for… The house-proud, people who have the time to develop / evolve their space, and those who believe in a holistic approach to lifestyle and home.
We hope you find inspiration in one or all of these books and we look forward to hearing about your happy home transformations. Tweet us pictures @thatsntmyage
Alexia Economou is a design and culture journalist, and regular That’s Not My Age contributor @thedesignfeedTW