Happiness Haven

Transforming a home into a positive space will enhance mental health
By Kamala Kirk
Marisa Vitale/Submitted

Environment plays an important role in contributing to mental and physical health, and a home can be designed to have a positive impact on your life. Being happy is essential to well-being, and with many of us working remotely and spending more time at home these days, it’s crucial that one’s surroundings reflect the things that bring them joy.  

“Updating your space is a simple way to living a happy life and having a better mental state,” says interior designer Amy Peltier of Amy Peltier Interior Design & Home in San Marino. “Your home is the place you come back to wind down after a crazy day; it’s your ultimate sanctuary.”

Mood enhancement

According to Peltier, one way to transform your home into a happy space is to switch out your pillows with vivid colors and happy patterns — anything that is bright, fresh and cheerful.

“Adding color is an instant mood booster and helps set the tone of your space,” Peltier says. “And playing around with your accessories and creating symmetry in the room will overall help the room feel more balanced.”

Peltier also suggests swapping out all the photos in your picture frames with updated pictures. Examples include photos taken on family trips and other life moments with special meaning.

“This creates a positive effect and overall happiness reflecting on your joyful memories,” Peltier says.

Smell also plays a big part in feeling the vibe of the space, which Peltier says can be done by using fresh flowers, plants, candles or even diffusers — anything to give a sensory experience.

“It enhances your mood but also promotes a feeling of calmness and reduces stress,” Peltier says.

Meditative murals

A mural can do a lot for a space and can be incorporated just about anywhere, including ceilings. Interior designer Allison Knizek of Los Angeles-based Allison Knizek Design shares that some of her favorite places to add murals include dining rooms, bathroom walls and accent bedroom walls.

“A mural can take you on a mental vacation,” Knizek says. “Washing a wall with a scene from a tropical destination is the best way to take your mind to faraway lands. Murals are attention drawing and stare-worthy. I just love sitting and contemplating all the details of a mood-evoking mural in a dining room.”

When it comes to design and imagery, Knizek says she gravitates to tropical scenes, specifically with birds and leaves. “These motifs have been traditional threads in murals for centuries and yet today, paired with the right furniture, look totally modern.”

Knizek uses two types of murals — a wallpaper mural (such as the blue parrots from Ananbô Paris) that is installed by the roll by a professional paper hanger, or a hand-painted mural. Knizek hires Tina Crandall from The Art of Tina Crandall to hand-paint all of her murals, but depending on one’s skills, it can also be a DIY project.

“Murals are a great way to define a space in a home where one space flows into another,” Knizek says. “When a kitchen, breakfast area or dining area is adjacent to another room with no dividing walls, a mural with distinct borders can ‘carve out’ a visual room.”

Incorporating mindfulness

“Home meditative spaces are becoming increasingly popular for incorporating calm, rejuvenation and recovery into daily life,” says Sarah Barnard, a leading LA-based designer of personalized, sustainable spaces that support mental, physical and emotional well-being. “While there are many benefits to having an isolated space devoted to meditation, using similar design considerations throughout other home areas can extend meditative practices and calming experiences.”

An unusual approach that Barnard says is gaining popularity is removing or limiting mirrors in the home. Not only can removing mirrors help with mindfulness as sensations of washing one’s face or brushing one’s teeth will become more apparent without the visual distraction of a mirror, but windows can provide a calming alternative and a routine connection to nature.

“Limiting mirror use can also offer a more experiential link to dressing, focusing on appealing patterns and textures, the sensation of wearing the clothing, and the emotional response to apparel,” Barnard says. “A new approach to daily routines may require a less automatic experience, leading to a mindful morning.”

Tactile elements throughout the home can also encourage mindfulness, from plush rugs underfoot and textured tiles to cool stone surfaces that draw attention to the experience of surrounding materials.

“Engaging with textures can encourage grounding and a present mindset, especially when abutting contrasting textures,” Barnard says. “Temperature can also support a thoughtful material relationship, with heated tile flooring drawing attention to the contact of feet against the surface.”

While many can benefit from reducing clutter, Barnard points out there are areas of the home where maintaining a minimal space can be challenging or inconvenient. To combat stress, prioritize areas of visual focus, whether drawing attention to a large window view or work of art to create a center of peace and encourage other visual elements to recede into the background.

“Keeping items behind drawers or doors can help minimize visual noise, particularly if using the material in contrast to the room’s focal point,” Barnard says. “If using a blue work of art as the room’s centerpiece, using neutral or warmer hues in other areas of the room can make the blues of the artwork stand out, drawing the eye to that location. If focusing on the outdoor views, using deeper colors or black metals to frame windows can create a strong visual statement that draws the eye toward the views.”

Battling anxiety with conscious design

“As many of us have increased our time spent at home, designing spaces to encourage emotional and physical support and security can help manage feelings of uncertainty,” Barnard says. “When things are unpredictable, designing to support feelings of preparedness can help manage feelings of instability.”

One shift Barnard has seen is a desire for homes to function independently, with homes designed to meet base needs. Creating sustainable energy sources through solar, offering built-in water purification systems, wood-burning stoves, and additional opportunities and spaces for ample food and supply storage can support a sense of security and preparedness.

“In addition to offering comfort, these items can also be helpful in daily life to reduce overall energy costs and consumption, and create improved opportunities for socializing,” Barnard says. “An outdoor wood-burning stove can offer an entertaining space for summer cookouts. At the same time, additional food and beverage storage create spaces for snacking throughout the home, ideal for larger layouts where the kitchens are distant from bedrooms.”

Barnard adds that once base needs and feelings of safety have been met, it’s important that homes surround us with a sense of beauty and joy to support our emotional happiness and well-being.

“Using healthy, natural materials, artwork and personal items of value that spark happiness can help combat stress and anxiety,” Barnard says. “Beauty is also a valuable tool to encourage mindfulness, creating opportunities to slow down and appreciate our surroundings through sensory experiences.”

Another crucial design element when designing with anxiety in mind is a connection to nature. Barnard says biophilic design has been celebrated for its effects on mood and happiness, and anecdotally harmony with nature has been considered beneficial for mental and physical health for some time.

“Prioritizing views of nature and natural plant patterns and themes in design can help support a connection that inspires a sense of calm and well-being,” Barnard says. 

“In addition to its emotionally supportive benefits, a reference to nature can help create an expansive point of view, offering opportunities to zoom out and take on a fresh perspective. Feeling connected to your surroundings, whether that’s plant life, wildlife or your neighbors, can add in preventing feelings of isolation and encourage recognition of self as part of a larger community.”

Amy Peltier Interior Design & Home


Allison Knizek Design


Sarah Barnard Design


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