Happiness. It’s something we all want more of in our lives, right? But have you ever given much thought about the relationship between your home and your emotions? To the idea that the interior design of the spaces you live in might be impacting on your happiness? Interiors stylist, creative consultant and author Amanda Talbot is at the forefront of this emerging ‘happy design’ trend. Indeed, it the subject of her latest book, Happy: Creating Joyous Living Spaces Through Design (Murdoch Books: $69.99). We chatted to Amanda and asked her to share some insights about creating a home that helps boost your happiness and wellness.
Can you briefly explain the link between emotions and interiors?
Happy design is emotional. It speaks to our hearts as much as to our heads. It displays optimism, self-confidence, gratitude, hope, compassion, purpose and empathy. It is a very exciting prospect that if you understand what makes humans happy, you can use this knowledge to build cities, homes and objects that can enhance our daily wellbeing. The simple key is to understand what makes you happy and what frustrates you. Implementing the things that make you feel good and removing the things you dislike is a great starting ground. When we design a space that functions and taps into our emotions happy and sad it is a great base to live your life.
Can you talk us through the happy design trend?
The main flaw when it comes to people’s ideas of happy design they oversimplify the meaning. It’s usually fallen into the cliche of bright, bold, childlike and a little tacky. Historically words like ‘happy’ and ‘design’ have not really been used together. Instead, pragmatism tended to be of paramount importance to design and was how designers justified themselves and their values. We are hearing words such as soulful, emotional, creative, beautiful, heartfelt and joyful being used more commonly to describe design. We are seeing a lot more designers looking at aesthetic or tactile interpretations of happiness. They are using incredible colours, textures, quality of materials and finishes to interpret happy design.
In your eyes what qualities should a healthy and happy home possess?
For me, a happy home is a space that supports you and your family’s way of life. I believe the perfectly designed building displays optimism, self-confidence, gratitude, hope, compassion purpose and empathy. On a more practical level the survey I held when doing the research for the book (which I called “Happy Poll”) I discovered common things that made people unhappy about their home were lack of storage, too much clutter, not enough space for alone time, no garden, noise, lack of daylight, out-dated interiors and furniture. Once you identify those problems then it is working out how to fix the things that bug you. If you don’t have an outdoor garden and it’s getting you down then how can you create one inside?
How important is it to have a sense of order and serenity in your home?
Order in a home in my opinion helps to create serenity. When we have control over our stuff in our home it gives us a sense that we have control over the rest of our life. Being disorganised creates extra stress that you don’t need. Those of us who lack order at home usually have tunnel vision about what’s possible and shut out new ideas that could solve our dilemmas. The best way to create order is to swap bad habits for good ones. By introducing new rituals, make lists, give everything in your home its own place. If you can’t find space for it, you don’t have any emotional attachment to it and it has no value or function then get rid of it.
What about colours? Any colours you would recommend within certain spaces in a home?
The thing I learnt about colour is it’s a VERY personal choice. So many of us follow fast fashion trends for colour inspiration, but you can’t let some stranger tell you what are the best colours for you and your family…The one proven ‘happy’ colour is yellow. But the key with using yellow to remain a happy colour is you must use it in small doses. Think of it as your exclamation mark in your colour palette. An important tip: overstimulation and under stimulation are both as harmful as each other. So make sure you create a pallet with at least three colour ways.
What about the connection to nature? Bringing the outdoors in…
Nature is fuel for the soul. Enjoying nature results in us not only feeling calmer and happier but also more focused, disciplined, healthy, social and creative. It’s been shown that nature can improve our health. The more time we spend in a natural environment the more likely our immune system is boosted. Connecting the outdoors to inside isn’t a new concept but what we are seeing is a lot more urban development trying to strive to work the landscape and the building together to become one…If you have a large garden plant more trees. Use natural materials in your home like stone, timber, wools and linens. Most importantly, make sure you have plenty of house plants.
When lighting is used correctly it is one of the most evocative ‘feel good’ tools for interior design. It is essential if you are building or renovating to make sure you are getting plenty of daylight into your home. Don’t underestimate the importance of daylight for your health and happiness. We must design the lighting in our buildings to resonate with our natural circadian clock. During the day we need plenty of daylight and in the evening when our bodies are winding down we need to focus on soft task lighting to help our bodies to wind down. As the night gets later the important to keep turning of lights and overhead lights are a big no-no after dinner and the dishes are done.
Lastly, any other wellness advice people can use in their home?
The most important thing I have learnt from writing Happy is that happiness comes from attitude. Don’t get stuck on where you may live is not good enough… Just focus on what makes you happy and how you can incorporate that into the space you live now. So just start today to unveil what makes you and your family tick and before you know it by answering those hard questions you will look at your space and how to decorate it with very different eyes.