Serenity rules: how to create a calm and comfortable home
It is not just clutter that can cause a sense of unease: indecisive decor can also result in a feeling of disjointedness and confusion within a home
Keeping things calm at home: ‘O’Kelly advises creating “relaxation zones” and manipulating light to convey a sense of calm’
The fast-paced and demanding nature of life today means that as well as providing us with a functional space to live, our homes also need to serve as a place where we can retreat from the world. However, issues that are common to many households, such as clutter, poor lighting or confused decor can result in a living space that feels disorderly and chaotic.
By implementing a few simple and practical changes, a home can be transformed into an inviting and serene space that is ideal for kicking back, relaxing and unwinding.
Keeping clutter at bay is a constant battle for most of us, yet, there is truth in the old adage “tidy house, tidy mind”, as overflowing drawers and jumbled shelves make a home feel cramped and overwhelming. While attempting to create order can feel like a daunting task, there is no need to tackle your clutter ‘Kondo-style’. Arlene McIntyre, creative director at Ventura Design Interiors, says that simply removing unnecessary items from eye-level spaces can immediately make a room more visually appealing and spacious.
“Sometimes, just clearing the clutter in your home can automatically make room for mental space. Clearing down counter tops can instantly help to create a more relaxed atmosphere. Organise wardrobe spaces, declutter bathroom shelves and empty out anything that is no longer needed in kitchen cupboards. This will really help to create that sense of calm.”
A feeling of calmness is a multisensory experience and introducing soft and luxurious fabrics will add a touch of chill-out comfort to a home
It is not just clutter that can cause a sense of unease: indecisive decor can also result in a feeling of disjointedness and confusion within a home. While Pinterest and Instagram can make it tempting to keep up with the latest interior trends, choosing to apply just one results in a better sense of order and cohesion between spaces.
“When visiting a new client’s home, I often find that they have lost their sense of direction or they are uncertain of what their own personal style is,” says McIntyre. “It is always important to try and establish this first, and then run that theme throughout the home. Chopping and changing between different trends and styles can make a home feel unsettled and off-balance.”
A feeling of calmness is a multisensory experience and introducing soft and luxurious fabrics, with cushions and throws, will add a touch of chill-out comfort to a home, particularly in the bedroom, which McIntrye advises treating as a “sanctuary”. Opting for calming colours, serene scents, and soft lighting are also effective ways of constructing a soothing sense of domestic zen.
“Try using more energising scents in kitchen and bathroom areas, and more calming scents in living and bedroom spaces,” says McIntryre. “As a rule, I generally keep downlighters to areas such as bathrooms, wardrobes and kitchens, where a lot of light is required.”
“Colour is very individual to everyone but it can really set the mood in a space. Cool tones are often helpful in reducing stress and anxiety and promoting relaxation. Try using light greens, warm sandy tones, pale blues, and soft greys on the walls. Layer in colour through your scattered cushions and artwork.”
When renovating, extending or building a home, consideration of not just how a space will look but also how it will feel when completed is important. Architect and founder of Design Urbanism Architecture (dua.ie), Darragh Breathnach, says that the structure and layout of a room can greatly influence how it is experienced.
“Making sure that junctions between different surfaces, such as wall and ceiling junctures, are aligned and structured, is important for creating a space that doesn’t distract. If this is not correctly resolved within a room, it is something that is subconsciously sensed and a room will feel unsettled.”
The materials used in a build and its access to natural light are both hugely significant when designing a tranquil space and Breathnach advises taking a less is more approach. “Avoid using too many materials,” he says. “I try to stick to a maximum of three, including glass. This will give a sense of calmness to a space and ensure that the different materials are not competing with each other.”
“Homes that manipulate and work with natural light and shadow ensure a greater connection with the environment, which is crucial when designing a serene space. Having a connection with the passing of time and the seasons, with a rooflight, for example, will lead to a more relaxed atmosphere than a space that relies on artificial lighting.”
A strategically positioned bistro table, with chairs and an umbrella, conjures up images of lazy days in the sun
Achieving a serene ambiance is not just important for living in a home, it is also influential when it comes to selling a property. Sherry Fitzgerald director Rena O’Kelly says that buyers can be swayed by the feel and atmosphere of a home, however, striking a balance between offering a neutral palette and retaining a sense of unique personality is key.
“Organised spaces that create an overall feeling of calm will create serious appeal. The well-cited cliche of creating a neutral palette so that would-be buyers can visualise their own stamp is true, to a point. However, you don’t want the decor to be bland and without personality. People are drawn to the personality of a house, as depicted by the decor, either because they can identify with it or because it is a style that they aspire to.”
O’Kelly advises creating “relaxation zones” and manipulating light to convey a sense of calm and encourage potential buyers to visualise themselves making the space their own to unwind in.
“These areas could simply be an occasional chair with a well-placed throw or a side-table with a lamp and room to place a book,” she says. “We live in a dull climate, so maximising the use of light and reflecting it wherever possible will increase the overall appeal of a house. Alternatively, large lateral spaces can be defined by a dramatic light piece such as a contemporary chandelier or wall-mounted light.”
Outdoor spaces can also offer a place for contemplation and relaxation, as well as a serene view from within a home, therefore, it is important that they are not overlooked. As with the interior, keeping the garden neat and tidy by removing clutter, such as unwanted furniture or old plant pots, will ensure a feeling of tranquility.
O’Kelly suggests making the most of whatever space is available. “Gardens can come into their own in Ireland, particularly in the summer. A strategically positioned bistro table, with chairs and an umbrella, conjures up images of lazy days in the sun.”
The use of leafy plants or bamboo screening on a balcony can help to create a feeling of privacy and peace, and if no outdoor area is available, a touch of nature can be brought indoors with the addition of plants and fresh flowers.
“Fresh flowers and well-kept plants are so important in the home,” says McIntyre. “Fresh flowers in the hallway will always give a lovely reception, both visually and through scent. I love a big bunch of fresh flowers in the kitchen, combined with fresh fruit, in a large bowl.”
So, it seems that when it comes to creating a calmer home, the advice is much the same as for creating a calmer life: it is all about keeping things simple, connecting with nature, and trusting that small changes can make a big difference.