Is your home attractive, welcoming, even exciting from a design standpoint and/or from the personal touches you’ve added which make it truly your own, but the idea of relaxation almost never occurs to you? When you come home after a long, stressful day, do you find it difficult to unwind but can’t quite put your finger on the reasons why?
These ideas for soothing color palettes (hint: most are soft, neutral colors found in nature), feng shui decorating tips that help you conserve energy and also rejuvenate, and patterns and designs on walls, floors, and in furnishings that imitate nature – actually called fractals and used in modern ER designs to calm people – can bring peace to your porch, balance to your bedroom, a lull to your living room, bliss to your bath, and calm to your kitchen.
A Sense of Color
First, according to experts, among the priorities in aligning your home with all things restorative is color. Though one may covet bold, jewel tones such as deep or bright reds, blues, greens, purples, yellows, etc., designers say for a peaceful environment choosing a single accent wall in a room is best if you are inclined to use these colors. Or, choose one room in which you don’t normally spend a lot of time (the dining room, for example, if generally reserved for guests and parties) and go all out with jewel-toned walls and bold artwork, objects, furnishings, an area rug, etc. But for peace and balance in the home, the neutral, warm, often muted colors found in nature are easy on the eyes and spirit and also provide for continuity so that when one enters from the outside, there’s no assault on the senses.
A Light Lift
Next, abundant natural light can be mood altering in its effect on the brain and body. Letting as much as possible into the home through skylights, large windows, and opening small warrens of rooms to one another (time to release that stress by knocking through a few walls!) can improve one’s sense of well-being. If this kind of renovation is not in the budget, try jettisoning heavy window treatments and thick, cumbersome blinds and curtains in favor of translucent Japanese screens that can be completely folded or pulled aside during the day (depending on your location and décor), or perhaps plantation shutters with slats that can open wide for maximum light. Again if combining rooms is not in the cards, decluttering to create clean, open spaces can make the difference between feeling tense, inundated, closed in, and overwhelmed to living in a space that breathes deeply – as should you.
A Model for Mental Health
In progressive emergency rooms at some of the nation’s leading metropolitan hospitals, patients can wait up to 8 hours just to be seen. Organic design – typically manifested in shapes that replicate nature in the form of grasses, reeds, willows, flowers, trees, and leaves often painted on walls, etched in glasswork, on ceilings, and/or seen in fabric–falls under the guise of “positive distractions,” according to D.C.-based interior design principal Barbara Huelat of Huelat Parimucha Healing Design. It all results in an environment of calm, respite, hope, and healing and can do the same in the home.
Commissioned to redesign Washington Hospital Center’s outmoded 1980s ER One – Washington’s largest trauma center – in 2007 and 2010, Huelat’s “evidence-based design,” where stress, anxiety, and even pain are mitigated by the inclusion of skylights, organic design, items such as soothing tropical fish tanks (who doesn’t relax by the sea!), and interactive murals, has resulted in a documented reduction in stress in typically frenetic terrain. Fractal design, or what the architecture and design industry calls “nature’s geometry,” is the way snowflakes look or how the veins in a leaf actually resemble the tree itself (in short, it’s repeated). Seen in ER One floor patterns, walkways, and furnishings, fractal design brings the idea of nature and its many patterns inside. “You can even see fractal design on shorelines, for example,” Huelat said. “And there are no abrupt turns in nature–it’s all gradual curves as opposed to abrupt, jarring lines and colors–much easier on the psyche.”
In the home, choosing natural materials like warm woods, wicker, rattan, bamboo, stone, and clay and natural fibers such as wool, flax, and cotton in muted hues can help tame the mind, body, and spirit.
May the (Life) Force Be with You
Feng Shui, a system of “geomancy,” is said to use the laws of heaven and earth to improve life’s harmony and balance by allowing for positive qi (pronounced “chee”). This is done, in simple terms, through furniture placement, where art, mirrors, and openings are placed in a room and you in relation to them. Among feng shui’s many benefits is its resulting relaxation, rejuvenation, and the encouragement of good fortune to boot. Consulting a professional practitioner is one way to incorporate feng shui principles into your home. There are also many books written on the subject. Donald Trump is said to have become a follower after losing some Asian clients, reportedly due to negative feng shui. Nowadays engineers, architects, interior designers, and those in the real estate profession are becoming certified in feng shui principles to bring peace and positive energy into their clients’ residences.
Depending on the nature and extent of one’s investment, from simple adjustments in a single room to large-scale interpretations, a healing environment is within everyone’s reach.