After an anxiety-filled 2020 and during the continuing pandemic, many of us are looking to our homes for nearly everything: a place to work, study, sleep, eat, exercise. And don't forget unwind.
Homes these days can offer calm and relaxation, designers say. Whether that means a decor refresh or a few small additions, they suggest some easy ways to create a more restful home space for 2021.
Think both big and small as you assess your rooms, says John Eason, an interior designer in New York.
"The feeling of a soothing room comes not only from the overall effect and aesthetic, but from key details,'' he says.
THE NEW `COZY'
Don't be limited by conventional ideas of what makes a space cozy, Eason says: "Metal and stone are as comforting for their sturdy dependability as wood is for its flex and give. Deep, rich colors can be as relaxing as cheerful, bright ones."
Sustainably produced textiles and environmentally friendly paints with velvety finishes can lend a healthy and comfortable vibe.
Find apps that play calming music and relaxing stories, or YouTube videos of crackling fireplaces or lapping waters.
Aromatherapy candles and diffusers wafting scents of nature, or baked goodies, are easy additions, as are soft toss pillows where you'll be binge-watching.
In recent years, the Danish word "hygge" came to describe the concept of coziness. The Welsh have their own apt term: "cwtch." Pronounced "kutch," it loosely references both cozy nooks and extra warm hugs.
FOLLOW YOUR OWN TASTES
Create your easy-living vibe based on your own sense of balance, harmony and good energy, says Leigh Spicher, national design director for Atlanta-based home builder Ashton Woods. That's especially true now when guests are discouraged because of safety concerns.
"The best way to design a restful, relaxing home is to make it about you and the people you live with," she advises.
Choose colors you love, not necessarily what's trendy. Frame travel pictures and personal photos.
We all need more screens if we're working and spending more time at home, but allow yourself to escape them too, Spicher says.
"Make sure there's a space in your home without tech, including TV," she says.
Real plants, and a mix of elements like wood, stone, metal — perhaps even a water feature, like a table fountain — can create a soothing, authentic living space.
DEFINING THE SPACE
It can be stressful when too much is going on in a space. Get creative with delineating spaces and their functions.
"For children, I love to create a designated play area by overlapping a fun, patterned area rug with woven poufs and storage ottomans," says Amanda Amato, a designer in Caldwell, New Jersey, and style expert for HomeGoods. She also suggests creating a reading nook in a forgotten corner of a room, and reducing clutter in a small bedroom by multi-purposing a writing desk as a nightstand.
SEE THINGS IN A GOOD LIGHT
Chip Wade, a designer and architect in Cumming, Georgia, uses light to define different parts of a room and to create a laid-back atmosphere.
"Lighting is a key component to personalizing my space. Controlling my entire lighting setup remotely on my phone makes it easy to dim and create scenes," he says.
You can swap out regular bulbs for color-changing ones that offer sunrise, sunset and other mood-enhancing hues.
Eason likes to play with the way light works on various surfaces.
"An upholstered wall lends a peaceful air to a room for its sound-absorbing qualities, but also for how it affects the play of light," he says. "Creating pools of light in a variety of intensities, rather than an overall brightness, and having that light emit from fixtures that are focal points, can create a sense of focus and calm."