How to promote calm with interior design
Award-winning interior Instagrammer Emma Hopkinson of the @thecrapflat talks us through creating a mindful, balanced home in six simple steps.
Balance is a loaded word, and in the home, it tends to centre more on creating a sense of calm, unity and flow. With 74% of us in the UK saying we feel overwhelmed or unable to cope, there’s a real need to not only find balance but to hold onto it and build it into our every day. Home is our resting place, our recharging station and the hub around which life is lived – when our homes are balanced, our lives feel more balanced too. My own journeys on Instagram and through my blog, All Up In My Space, have made me think about the spaces we create in new ways, especially looking at how we can use them to sustain better mental health. So, without further ado, here’s my guide to decorating your way to relaxation and balance, one carefully-placed throw pillow at a time.
DEFINE YOUR HAPPY
What makes your heart sing? For me, it’s clean lines and neutral tones in a colour palette of anaemic toast, but maybe for you, it’s inky blues and evocative art. Maybe you yearn to wake up in a room that feels cosy; maybe space is your thing; maybe you want one of those under-floor fish tanks with a trapdoor like Bond villains have. Whatever it is that gets your calm going, it’s worth taking time to find it. Hit up Pinterest and Instagram, flip through interiors magazines and shop your own home, taking note of the things you already own that give your heart a little flutter of, ‘I love you, plant pot’. It’s so easy to get sucked into trends and newness, but a space that’s all yours should start with a deep, emotional understanding of what you truly like.
Even the smallest flat can be a calm, functional place to live, work and rest. Create spaces you can move in and out of for different tasks, so your brain behaves itself. A small desk for work, surrounded by things that inspire and don’t distract you; a dining area you can sit at for lunches and dinner; a sofa area you can lounge in. Zone them out with rugs and screens or even a subtle tonal shift, and then use them for the task they’re meant for. In a small space like my crap flat, it’s the difference between sanity and stress.
Not in the workout sense – I’m talking colour. We established that I get my calm kicks from warm neutrals and toast – where do you get yours? I can’t imagine feeling calm in a room painted neon, but maybe you can. Painting a room can feel like a big decision, so if you’re not totally sure what chills you out, close your eyes and think of the last time you were really relaxed – where was it? Can you take any tonal inspiration from there? Once you have a vague idea, explore that colour palette, grab some swatches and see which ones speak to you. Maybe you carry one palette through each floor of the house to help with flow, maybe you switch it up completely from room to room – if it works for you, I’m here for it.
Existing, as I do, on a plane of beige and white, texture is important. It helps to stop a space looking stark, and creates a sense of warmth. Layers invite you to snuggle up, fabrics soften hard edges and wood grain brings in a touch of nature. Even within those parameters, there are decisions to be made. Do you prefer a raw linen or a silky satin? Do you fold your throws or artfully cast them askew? I favour a relaxed look and feel that doesn’t make me want to tidy it up every ten seconds. Consider multiple blankets and soft, squashy pillows; play with one colour over several textures – there’s a big game being played in textural, plaster-like wall paint right now too. Find what you love and go hell for full-grain leather.
LOVE YOUR STUFF
Choose wisely, move slowly – that’s my motto when I can control my excitement. From the furniture to the rug to the print on the wall, everything needs to give you an emotional or functional benefit to warrant its place in your space. And if it gives you both, all the better. As a habitual impulse-buyer, I’m learning to see something I love and wait to buy it. If I’m still thinking about it a week or two after I’ve seen it, I know it’s the one. Shopping this way means I’m taking more time to think about where I’m buying and who I’m buying from, meaning I really appreciate the stories and craft that go into certain pieces.
The absolute most crucial part in creating a sense of balance at home? Make time for yourself in it.
Life is a whirlwind of deadlines and phone-time and meetings and events and last-minute changes and all the things that balance-professionals would say balance isn’t. So when I’m at home I make sure I find the time for breaks and breathers. 20 minutes for a steaming bath here, a quick tea break on the sofa there – finding balance in my space has been as much about taking myself and my wellbeing seriously as it’s been about finding nice things. Try lighting a candle at the end of your working day, then once that becomes a normal thing to do, try taking five minutes to do some breathwork. Before you know it you’ll be stepping off the tube and straight into calmsville.
What makes your relaxing space is totally unique to you, and finding out what that is can be an empowering part of the journey to a balanced life. There’s power in getting to know what you love and why you love it, and a huge sense of relaxed achievement to be found in looking around at the space you’ve created that’s your little part of the world. Take your time, trust your gut and stay well clear of anything that looks like an undressed salad.