HAPPY BY DESIGN | How to make your home more joyful
Tips and tricks for creating a happily designed home; a space for your loved ones that radiates warmth and welcome.
As the blue-sky days of September turn to crispy evenings, many of us start reaching for comfort rituals.
Whether that’s a long bath, a leafy walk or cooking up a bubbling dish of mac cheese, there are certain routines we know bring inner comfort and warmth.
For the home, too, autumn is a great time to pull down the blinds and get cosy. In fact, if you were to borrow from the Danish concept of “hygge” (roughly translated as “cosiness”), you’ll look to create a snug, welcoming environment that is all about the good things in life.
As far as happy design is concerned, the good news is you don’t need to invest in loads of expensive kit or lengthy renovations to spread some feel-good cheer. From kids’ paintings to repurposed curtains, most things you need will already be at your fingertips – it’s more about dusting off and reframing what you have. Here are a few of my favourite ideas, if you care to have a look…
Frame kids’ artwork, photographs and mementos
Think outside the box in framing little sentimental trinkets you have around the home. In fact, you can turn the task into a mini home-foraging project, upending drawers and boxes to find long-lost mementos.
That might be a napkin from your favourite holiday restaurant, your beloved grandma’s neckerchief, or a funny set of photo booth snaps that time has long since forgotten. Anything that makes you smile.
Going to a professional framer can work magic in turning these small, incidental objects into a real work of art – I’ve often used RO Frames for exactly that purpose. But since framing can be expensive, it’s also worth shopping around for cheap frames from charity shops or car boot sales, or looking on Etsy for a few bargains that translate to homemade art for your walls.
Object Story pick: Botanical greetings cards
Let loose with plants and greenery
Indoor plants are, of course, glorious, but don’t forget you can bring outdoor plants – like potted geraniums in for the autumn, too. A simple set of herb pots (thyme, rosemary, sage) is also a handy way of sprucing up a sunny windowsill or two.
For homemade displays, get handy with a pair of secateurs for berry branches to display in big glass jars; an easy trick for making a really striking statement. Meanwhile, jam jars or glass bottles can be dusted off to fill with mini sprigs of cow parsley, old man’s beard, rosehips or trailing ivy. Happiness all round.
Object Story pick: Parisian hand-blown glass vase
Let there be light, lots of light
Golden pools of light are the key to a warming home come autumn; which is your cue to scatter lamps across side tables, bookcases and even on your kitchen worktop. Play around to find the best effects.
In terms of the lamps themselves, fabric shades have made a comeback lately, and make for a cosy retro feel. It’s even possible to have a whirl at making your own – raid your fabric stash or if you're feeling more confident invest in some beautiful fabric, and take your pick of online tutorials to do your worst with.
If you’re more of a painter at heart, keep a lookout at local charity shops for wooden bases to transform; or take a plain lampshade and customise as you please.
For a more gently glow, you can’t beat a mish-mash collection of candles and holders (every home has at least 10 variations; hunt them down and see!) for a rustic feel.
Object Story pick: Stubby beeswax candles
Have fun with textiles
If you are at all talented with a thread and needle – and by that I literally mean being able to sew in a straight line – there’s a lot you can do with fabric. A simple café curtain, for example, lends an instant splash of colour/pattern, and looks lovely in a bathroom window – or if you’re facing out onto a road, and want a little privacy.
You could also use it to hang in a pantry, or across a kitchen sink area. Replacing cushion covers is another easy win, giving a sofa area or even a whole room a fresh air of playfulness just with a new choice of fabrics. You could also think about putting a ruffled curtain behind the glass in a cabinet, which hides things away nicely – while also giving an added dash of texture and vibrancy.
Put your books on show
Books are a window into the soul and if you’re a devoted book-lover, you might even remember certain periods of life depending on whatever you were reading at that point. So putting the reads that you and your family love on show is a wonderful way of capturing your home’s personality – as well as honouring the tastes of all who live within.
Get creative with your displays: since many book covers are also artworks in themselves, you might want to have some facing outwards. Alternatively, you can play around with stacks versus rows of books, or layer with photo frames, little bud vases and family trinkets.
Object Story pick: ‘Books’ letterpress archive box
Create a calm space
Everyone deserves a small sanctuary spot in their home; be that a comfy chair in the corner with your favourite cushion, or a windowsill that has beautiful light. Wherever you choose, try to keep this little corner free from clutter so it’s always an inviting space for members of your home – young or old – to enjoy a calm moment in.
It doesn’t have to be grand or over-curated; this is just about acknowledging that sometimes joy comes from a snug, well-kept nook where you can have time to cuddle a pet, have a breather and a coffee, or read a book for ten minutes.
Remember, it’s your home!
With so much “inspiration” out there in the online world, it’s easy to get distracted by other peoples’ homes; or sometimes even feeling that your own home is not enough.
Always have in mind that your home is your space to do as you like with; to be delightfully messy, or mindfully minimalist; to be on-trend or off-radar, as you so please. Wall colours, furniture, artwork, layout: it’s all up to you – so roll with whatever makes you happy, and floats your particular boat.