What makes a space comfortable and welcoming? A lot of small changes that are easy to make.
Is your home bringing you down? As anyone who has lived in cramped, dark or tight quarters knows, your living space can have a big effect on your mood.
For ideas on how to bring positive energy — and style — into your home, we talked to Justina Blakeney, the designer behind the Instagram hit Jungalow and the author of “The New Bohemians Handbook: Come Home to Good Vibes.”
Blakeney, 38, is a firm believer in using design to improve the quality of your life. Her own home, a 1926 bungalow in Los Angeles, is filled with color, pattern and greenery, which she says improves her mood and enhances productivity and relaxation. She offers some tips for creating a home that supports well-being.
1. CLEAR THE ARTERIES
“Doors should swing freely, passageways should be cleared, and zones should be created that support your daily routines and activities,” says Blakeney, who discovered the importance of this after her daughter was born five years ago and the area behind her front door became a landing pad for shoes, strollers and other gear.
“The front door couldn’t open fully,” she says. “I didn’t realize the effect it was having on me until it was gone. That was a revelation to me. Here I was thinking I was very clever using a coat rack behind the door as a space-saving solution, when it was creating this clogged artery.”
The same attention should be paid to furniture you keep running into, like that odd-shaped coffee table or the corner of your bed.
“All these tiny, little things on their own are not a big deal,” she says, but taken together, they can damage your mood. “All of a sudden you’re annoyed, and you don’t even know why. It might be you need a round coffee table instead of a square one or a different landing pad for your stroller and coats.”
2. USE THE 2-FOOT RULE
Establish passageways of at least 24 inches between furnishings, Blakeney advises. Why 24 inches? She settled on this dimension, she says, by keeping a tape measure in her purse and putting it to use in any room that lifted her mood. In those where she felt most at ease, she found, there was usually that much space, or more, between pieces of furniture. “Even in small spaces,” she says, “if you can leave 2 feet for these passageways, you tend not to bonk as much and get as cluttered.”
3. DO A DEEP CLEAN
Don’t just sweep away the cobwebs — remove items associated with bad memories and replace them with things that evoke hope, beauty or cheer.
“I’m a very nostalgic person, and I like to hold on to things,” Blakeney says. But after a bad breakup, she adds, she once purged her apartment, even scrubbing down the exterior windows: “It immediately lifted my spirits in sort of a magical way. All of a sudden, you could see the sunbeams coming through. It felt spiritual in a way, and I really felt renewed.”
She also got rid of all the photos, gifts and mementos that reminded her of her ex. “It’s not just sort of the physical action of cleaning,” she says. “It’s an emotional letting go.”
4. SET AN INTENTION FOR THE SPACE
“It sounds a little woo-woo,” Blakeney admits, but think about “what you want the room to bring to you.”
When she and her husband moved into their 1,100-square-foot home in Los Angeles, for example, she wanted the master bedroom to feel like a romantic retreat: “It’s a small room, and we just have our big king-size bed, where we do all our snuggling and hanging out, and built-in bedside tables. And that’s it.”
A few other design details contribute to making it feel “like a boutique hotel,” she says: A significant part of the bedroom was turned into a walk-in closet to hide clutter; glittering gold wallpaper with palm trees lines the walls; and antique French doors that open to the backyard were installed to let in light. “Every single time I go into my bedroom,” she says, “I feel like I’m on vacation.”
5. LET IN LIGHT
“If I had to pick one tool that makes a home feel good, I would pick natural light,” says Blakeney, who also added a window in the kitchen. “Having a big window where there was none is a huge game changer. I would choose that over the sofa of my dreams.”
If adding a window is not an option, she recommends hanging mirrors in strategic places to reflect whatever natural light you have.
6. FIND YOUR HUE
“Colors have emotional impact,” says Blakeney, who gravitates toward bold ones — and vibrant patterns. “Think about your best memories: What colors do you see?”
The colors you associate with positive feelings, she explains, can be used to create “an emotionally supportive environment.” An example from her own home is the bright blue master bathroom inspired by a trip to Lake Tahoe: “I had never seen blue like that until I was in Tahoe, and I wanted to bring a feeling of freshness and our vacation into that bathroom.”
Don’t have a color in your memory bank? “Look at colors that you already collect” — in your closet, on your car, in your Pinterest feed. You may already be tapping into shades that evoke positive feelings without even thinking about it.
7. ADD PLANTS
“Anyone who spends a day hiking in the forest can attest that being in nature is good for the soul,” Blakeney says. “Why not bring that feeling home?”
This may explain why she has 52 houseplants in the tiny home she shares with a husband, a child and a cat. The plants, which range from small succulents to large palms, appear in every room, adding a touch of whimsy and life.
“Living energy in your home is positive energy,” she says. “It’s people, pets and plants that make a home.”