Top Tips for Relaxing Home Design

01
of 09

Ideas for Building, Remodeling, and Decorating a Relaxing Home

The all-white bedroom of television personality David Letterman
Keep it simple. The all-white bedroom of television personality David Letterman. Photo by Susan Wood/Hulton Archive Collection/Getty Images

Several years ago, my life was in chaos. I was in the middle or writing a home design book, and my publisher was having me choose all of the pictures from photographic slides. My house was a mess of papers and stacks of cardboard-encased film. I had strict, weekly deadlines. Ironically, my book was called The Stress-Free Home.

Our new Digital World has simplified many of today's processes. I've long since tossed out my slide projector. Or have I? It might still be in the closet. One of the downsides of our attachment to all-things-digital is that we tend to ignore much of what's around us—we focus on the pixelated screens like horses with blinders. We are not mindful of our surroundings. This is how we've been coping.

Glamorous homes in movies and glossy magazines are impressive, but are they relaxing? Reaching for a Hollywood ideal, we may create a very different kind of home than the one we really need. For worry-free living, consider taking a simpler, more realistic approach to home design. Follow these sensible ideas for building, remodeling, and decorating a home where you can kick off your shoes, enjoy a few laughs, and truly relax.

Ideas in this article are adapted from my book, The Stress-Free Home. It's the book I used to get my own life back on track.

02
of 09

Make Easy Changes

Four colorful, mid-century geometric patio chairs
Colorful, mid-century geometric patio chairs. Photo by George Rose/Getty Images News Collection/Getty Images

Minimizing the impact of stressful events begins with identifying things you have control over. Even the smallest remodeling projects can renew your spirit.

We're powerless over so many things. Yet, no matter what life brings, you still have the power to fill your home with soul-pleasing details. Sometimes an unrelated action such as painting a door will bring a fresh outlook and open the way to new beginnings. Simply rearranging the furniture is healing, allowing you to shape your environment in meaningful ways.

Instead of launching a full-scale remodeling project, begin with these easy changes:

  • Paint the front door
  • Hang shelves
  • Remove heavy curtains
  • Install full-spectrum light fixtures
  • Change the baseboard moldings
  • Install a greenhouse window
  • Replace cabinet knobs
  • Strip away old carpeting
  • Let each family member choose a new patio chair.

Tip: For a relaxing home design, take small, simple actions.

03
of 09

Slow Down

Robie House upper bathroom restored with Frank Lloyd Wright designed clerestory windows
Robie House upper bathroom restored with Frank Lloyd Wright designed clerestory windows. Photo by K. Anderson/Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust/Archive Photos Collection/Getty Images (cropped)

My neighbor has been painting his house ever since he moved into it. He's mixing the paints to hues that satisfy his aesthetic. He replaces the Victorian fish-scale shingles and repairs details, and then he paints one side of the house at a time. You would think I'd be annoyed at his deliberate process, but actually I enjoy it—probably more than he does.

Changing the appearance or layout of your home is, in itself, potentially stressful. For a smooth, worry-free transition, make changes gradually.

  • Instead of throwing the entire household into upheaval, work on just one room at a time.
  • Instead of emptying a closet, clean out a single drawer.
  • Create a soothing "comfort corner" filled with favorite, familiar objects.
  • Start with a small room, like the bathroom. Take ideas from architecture, like the clerestory lighting in the renovated Robie House bathroom. What would backlit patterned glass look like in your bathroom?
  • Digitize. Photos, record albums, and videos. Take your time and do it yourself.

As you redecorate or remodel, be cautious about removing photographs and mementos. Memories that are painful to you now may be treasured years later. For an easier transition, remove sentimental items gradually and keep them in storage.

Tip: Remodeling and redecorating should not be rushed.

04
of 09

Follow Your Instincts

Children's author Jacqueline Wilson in a recreation of her childhood bedroom
Children's author Jacqueline Wilson in a recreation of her childhood bedroom. Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images News Collection/Getty Images

It's much easier not to care. Our world is filled with stimuli and obligations and responsibilities. When we get home, we may see our surroundings as just another prison that sucks our time and energy. This is transference—allowing the outside world to color the good decisions you've made and truths you know in your heart.

The atmosphere of a room is more than the sum of its decor. Things we cannot explain or even name influence how we feel. To create relaxing spaces where you'll feel at peace, listen closely to your instincts and choose details that resonate for you.

Tranquility Tools

  • : Explore the deeper emotional contexts of rooms and their decor. Reflect on childhood memories of home.
  • Jungian Analysis: Make meaningful artwork the focal point for your rooms. Recall the spaces you see when you dream.
  • Eastern Ideas: Ancient Eastern philosophies such as feng shui suggest helpful ways to create harmony and balance in the home.

Tip: Listen to your instincts when you design your home.

05
of 09

Involve the Entire Family

The family cat curled up near a computer by a window
The family cat curled up near a computer by a window. Photo by Lewis Mulatero/Moment Mobile Collection/Getty Images (cropped)

Designing relaxing spaces will call for friendly negotiations and carefully considered compromises. Involve the entire family in the home design process.

Designing for serenity is a personal process, but it affects much more than the self. Through the harmonious arrangement of colors, patterns, and shapes, we hope to encourage harmony in our relationships. Every being in the household--children, pets, and aging parents--will be impacted by seemingly insignificant details in the home.

One person's passion for Victorian details may yield to another's appreciation for Bauhaus simplicity. Meanwhile, the architecture of the house may cry out for Classical Greek Revival or colonial decor. Designing relaxing spaces will call for friendly negotiations and carefully considered compromises.

Tranquility Tools

  • Select a family color and incorporate it into the scheme for each room
  • Incorporate details drawn from several cultures
  • Create inviting communal spaces to invite dialog

Tip: Relaxing home design is a family affair.

06
of 09

Plan for Comfort and Convenience

View of living room and dining room from loft
Break down barriers. Let the light shine in. Photo by Spaces Images/Blend Images Collection/Getty Images

The most relaxing environments honor your need for space and privacy. Designing a relaxing home may mean rethinking the placement of rooms and furnishings. Expansive open areas will suggest freedom, but cozy, comforting nooks are often preferred for relaxation and meditation.

As you rethink the floor plan of your home, look at how you live and where you spend most of your time. Also reflect on homes you have visited. What features did you especially enjoy?

Comfort and convenience are key when planning room placement, storage, and furniture arrangements. Modern theories of ergonomics suggest ways to encourage stress-free patterns of posture and movement. Many designers also look to feng shui, vástu shástra, and other ancient philosophies for ideas on ways to redirect the flow of energy through the home.

Tranquility Tools

  • Feng Shui: Balance the flow of energies according to ancient Chinese philosophies
  • Vástu Shástra: Follow guidelines from ancient India for harmonious floor plans and furniture arrangements
  • Ergonomics: Choose room arrangements, furnishings, lighting, and storage that will minimize strain and will help family members move safely and efficiently.

Tip: Arrange rooms for a smooth flow of traffic through the home.

07
of 09

Choose Calming Shapes and Lines

Abundant sunshine illuminates hand-crafted wooden chair on a bare wooden floor
Abundant sunshine illuminates hand-crafted wooden chair on a bare wooden floor. Photo by Historic England Staff Photographer, English Heritage/Heritage Images/Hulton Archive Collection/Getty Images (cropped)

Our sense of unity, proportion, and balance will often determine whether a room feels "right." For relaxing rooms, choose calming shapes and lines.

Every room is unique, expressing the personalities and values of those who live there. Nevertheless, we all have a seemingly inborn need for what is often called the "universal principles of design." Our sense of unity, proportion, and balance will often determine whether a room feels "right."

An undersized painting on a long, blank wall can create an undercurrent of unrest. A single heavy armoire at the far end of a room can make the space feel lopsided, upsetting our equilibrium. However, the need for balance and order does not mean that our homes must be predictable or boring. Instead, you are likely to discover a great deal of quiet excitement in the subtle interplay of line, shape, form, and pattern.

Tranquility Tools

  • Rounded Forms: Circular tables, round columns, arched doorways
  • Archetypal Patterns: Crosses, stars, spirals, the Golden Ratio
  • Symmetry and Proportion: Paired windows, matching chairs, evenly spaced columns
  • Balanced Groupings: Windows, furnishings, or other details arranged in groups of three, six, or nine

Tip: Ancient ideals of sizes and shapes can bring inner peace to your home.

08
of 09

Feed Your Senses

Rose petals floating in bathwater
Rose petals floating in bathwater. Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images News Collection/Getty Images

Sensual details add richness and texture. Relaxing homes feed the senses with light, color, aroma, and sound.

Many studies have shown that color and light will trigger strong physiological and emotional responses. Serene spaces make full use of mood-enhancing full-spectrum lighting combined with healing colors drawn from earth, sea, and sky.

Other sensual details, selected for their soothing properties and medicinal powers, add richness and texture to the atmosphere. The gentle notes of a wind chime, the restful scent of lavender, and perhaps even the energizing taste of strawberries become as important to the room as its furnishings.

Tranquility Tools

  • : Use healing aromas from fresh flowers, dried herbs, and essential oils.
  • Color Therapy: Choose colors for their proven ability to affect emotions and physical well-being.
  • Light Therapy: Flood rooms with the healing rays of full-spectrum lighting.
  • Sound Conditioners: Mask distracting outside noise with soothing music and sounds drawn from nature.

Tip: Relaxing homes feed the senses with light, color, aroma, and sound.

09
of 09

Love Nature

Inviting resting place in an Australian lodge
Inviting resting place in an Australian lodge. Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images News Collection/Getty Images

No home is an island. Every house is a part of the environment and uses natural resources. Homes designed for peaceful living often blur the boundaries between indoors and out. Rooms extend into gardens, flowers bloom on window sills, and decorative details express an appreciation for earth, sea, and sky.

When you connect with nature, you're also connecting with your spiritual self. Listed here are just a few ways you can incorporate eco-friendly and nature-loving design.

Tranquility Tools

  • Build with natural materials such as wood and stone
  • Use natural, non-synthetic fabrics such as cotton and wool
  • Use non-toxic, biodegradable paints and varnishes
  • Decorate with living plants
  • Choose compact, energy-efficient appliances
  • Open shades to capitalize on natural sunlight
  • Install water-saving devices on faucets

Tip: Relaxing homes embrace nature.

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Craven, Jackie. "Top Tips for Relaxing Home Design." ThoughtCo, Aug. 9, 2016, thoughtco.com/top-tips-for-relaxing-home-design-4036699. Craven, Jackie. (2016, August 9). Top Tips for Relaxing Home Design. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/top-tips-for-relaxing-home-design-4036699 Craven, Jackie. "Top Tips for Relaxing Home Design." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/top-tips-for-relaxing-home-design-4036699 (accessed November 20, 2017).