Dysfunctional spaces make for dysfunctional people. Think about the last room you were in that just didn’t work and how that subsequently made you feel. It’s searching the kitchen drawer for a spatula as your dinner burns. It’s staring at a blank white wall in your office as you desperately grasp for inspiration. It’s trying to watch your current Netflix binge while craning your neck and rearranging pillows to make the sofa bearable for the next hour (or four). Don’t you feel a little agitated just thinking about these rooms? Now, imagine living in them! Interior design affects our mood, so it is crucial to design for better living.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. I am an interior designer. Of course, I am going to advocate for a well-designed home! But, is a thoughtfully planned design plan really necessary? The short answer is yes. There’s tons of evidence out there that our environment changes the way we think, feel, and behave — even resulting in long-term effects on our general wellness. If you feel stressed in your home, it is time to take a step back and see how the space can be transformed. It’s more than designing a better home. It’s designing a better life!
Movies That Got Me Thinking About Transformational Interior Design
Transformational interior design is just that — a design that transforms you. We’ve all walked into rooms that instantly change our mood. Think about how you feel walking into a 5-star hotel room, sitting down in a dimly-lit romantic restaurant, or crossing the threshold of a beach bungalow. (All very different, right?) I got to thinking just how powerful transformational interior design is during movie night last weekend. Two of my favorite films (which are also books) perfectly illuminate the power of our environments. If you haven’t seen these movies, I encourage you to plan a double feature.
Enchanted April is the story of four women thoroughly dissatisfied with their dreary, gray, rainy lives in London. By chance, they find a classified ad to rent a medieval Italian castle for the season. (Spoiler alert: it rains on day one.) Once the clouds clear the following day, the women uncover a world drenched in sunshine, peace, and wisteria. This new environment allows these characters to become reacquainted with their desires and simple joy. (I’d take a sun-drenched Italian villa over a leaky London flat any day.)
Cold Comfort Farm
Cold Comfort Farm is a parody of over-romanticized country life, which has its downfalls just like anywhere else. Flora Poste, an orphan of the 1919 Spanish Flu epidemic, finds herself plucked from her socialite standing and dumped among her relatives in rural Sussex. Here, she meets her hellfire and brimstone preaching uncle, farming cousins, and a herd of hopeless Jersey cows. (Most urbanites would find this drastic change of environment excruciating.) Instead of wallowing in her newfound home, Flora makes it her mission to bring a metropolitan flair to the farm. Comedy ensues, but the lives of all involved become a little more redeeming.
This whole movie marathon is a way to say…environment changes us. Take power to transform your space to help yourself become the person you want to be.
7 Ways to Transform Your Space and Elevate Your Mood
Now, it’s time to take action! Here are my seven recommendations on how to transform your home to elevate your mood.
1. Fix the Problem, Not the Look
As a homeowner, it can be challenging to have an unbiased view of your space. Maybe you realize something is off, but you just can’t put your finger on it because you are too busy rearranging the Tupperware cabinet for the 100th time. Interior designers are trained to not only address aesthetics but also fix issues with scale, proportion, and flow. In other words, fix the problem, not the look. For example, a cramped kitchen won’t magically open up with a coat of fresh white paint on the cabinets. Maybe the work triangle needs to be addressed. Maybe that trendy kitchen island needs to be removed. Maybe a butler’s pantry off the hall is the answer. Bring in an interior designer to help you uncover the solution that was under your nose the whole time.
2. Personalize Comfort
Comfort means something different to everyone, but it feels the same to all of us. It’s the warm, fuzzy feeling that just ushers in the sense of home. The secret to unlocking comfort is personalization. After all, do you want your home to look like the cold aisle of a big box store or a retreat from the outside world? Layer in rich textiles, collections of your favorite objects, and wall hangings that carry meaning.
3. Examine Color
By now, we’ve all had some exposure to color psychology. You’ve heard a story about how painting prisons pink brings out good behavior, or how red and yellow fast-food restaurants make us hungry, or how blue bedrooms are more relaxing. Color plays a massive role in how we feel and act within a space. High energy colors get us wired, while muted shades help us relax. Examine the color of your home and make sure the palette is working in your best interest.
4. Let There Be Light
Let there be light! We’ve recognized the link between natural light and wellness for decades. That’s why we created solariums to help treat tuberculosis patients and brought the concept of the sunroom home for a recharging afternoon tea. Natural light boosts our mood (and can even improve our health). Bring in natural light wherever you can, whether by adding clerestory windows or selecting different draperies.
5. Take a Trip
Fresh perspective brings a lot to the table. In the case of Enchanted April, four women found inner joy from a simple trip to the Italian countryside! Take a trip and bring home inspiration to your space. We can’t all live in a beach bungalow, but relaxing coastal elements can be incorporated into your home design with the proper application.
6. Put Up Walls
If your space isn’t working, it may be time to put up some walls. Physically, not emotionally. The popular open-concept floor plan of the last decade can at times feel daunting. Many of my Austin interior design clients come to me complaining that they can’t find privacy in their open-plan homes. Dividing up a house can create intimate spaces to retreat and recharge. In other cases, walls simply hide the mess and tasks you don’t want to deal with! For example, closed kitchen layouts allow you to shut a door and leave the dishes in the sink. Enjoy a movie with the family in the next room and let it be a problem for another day.
7. Bring the Outside In
Finally, transform your space by bringing the outside in. Creating indoor-outdoor living spaces allows us to connect to nature, appreciate our roots, and unplug from the distractions of the day. Whether it’s a sunroom, a screened porch, or just a bright plant room, natural connections will do wonders for your home and your mood.
Well, there you have it! Start by taking just one of these ideas and applying it to your space. The transformation will shock you.
Amity Worrel is an award-winning interior designer based in Austin, Texas. She has worked on high-end interior design projects for celebrities and tastemakers in NYC, LA, and the Bahamas. In 2008, Amity decided to bring her passion for diverse design back to her hometown of Austin. Her spaces pull from timeless design concepts ranging from coastal contemporary to cozy cottage to Austin eclectic. Emotional connections, functional flow, and a touch of humor remain central to every interior design scheme. Her work has been published in national and local publications, including The Wall Street Journal, House Beautiful, HGTV Magazine, Better Homes and Gardens, and Austin Home. In her free time, she loves perusing estate sales and diving into design history. Learn more about Amity.