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The Correlation Between Interior Design and Mental Well Being

Mental health is important and deeply personal to me. Several of my family members and dear friends have struggled with everything from anxiety to severe depression and one of my dearest friends committed suicide when we were college sophomores. That was almost twenty years ago, but most days it doesn't seem so far away. A couple of years later I gave birth to my sweet ten-pound baby boy, William, and would, in a couple of more years, face his diagnosis of autism, which would greatly alter the course of our lives. I have certainly had my moments over this harsh reality, but I never really gave myself much time to sulk. I have always faced it head on with a can-do attitude, which some see as admirable, but it is really just the way that I cope: stay busy, busy, busy...find all of the solutions. I have since developed anxiety myself, so when I write about mental health and say it is deeply personal, it is something I deal with on a daily basis. I have learned how to manage it well, though: a tidy house, a good book, yoga, good music, baking, time with my family, time in nature, daily walks, one-thousand piece puzzles, and


I get lost in design shows and design books and talking design. My down time usually involves some aspect of design, even if it's just me staring at a wall in my house that I want to change until hours later I exclaim, "I've got it!" I have been thinking a lot lately about the correlation between interior design and mental well being. I think of my son and how his diagnosis affects so much about the way our house looks and functions. Most of the time, ninety-percent of the lights are off in our house, even at night. I always found Will was less inclined to meltdowns and just an overall poor mood if we just stuck to lamplight and natural sunlight, so the lamps are ever-shining and most of our blinds stay open always. Another important aspect of design to help alleviate some of his demons are what I like to call nests. He likes small, enclosed spaces where he can tune out the rest of the world. His bed is an enclosed, built-in bunk that he spends most of his time in and y'all remember our little kitchen nook? I had Will in mind when planning that and guess what. He eats 98% of his meals there, curled up with cozy pillows and surrounded by a view of nature, two of his favorite things. Yes, we have pushed him out of his comfort zone and forced him to be uncomfortable in many ways, especially socially, because we wanted him to thrive and he has. He will graduate with a regular diploma this May, drives himself to school each day, and took a beautiful girl to the homecoming dance this September. But, like all of us who go out into this wonderful, but stressful world each day, he needs an escape, a place where he can feel at peace, where his demons can be quieted and his quirks are no longer gawked at or misunderstood. He can just be his true, unfiltered, unapologetic, wonderful self.

And he's not the only one.

Our home is my respite. It is my great peace and my perfect getaway. It isn't grand or precious, but it is comfortable and it surrounds me with things I love most: my family, amazing memories, soft places to land, colors that soothe me, and smells and sounds and tastes that delight me. It is a profondly personal space. There are hundreds of our favorite photos throughout. My dining room table was made by my husband's hard-working hands and from wood out of my grandparent's dairy barn, a place where some of my fondest memories were formed. My husband's grandmother's recipes are on the kitchen wall. My children's artwork is all over the laundry room walls. My books envelop me when I cozy up in my library. Mine and my husband's grandparents' aerial photos of their farms are on another wall. The coffee cups and dishes and bowls are all out on open shelving so that we always remember that good food and good coffee are at the ready to comfort on even the toughest of days. The colors are mostly neutral, which calm me, except for some green here and there, which remind me to go outside and get my bare feet in the grass or even lay in it and look up at the sky. If you haven't looked up at the sky in awhile, I highly recommend it. There's nothing quite so grounding. The seating is comfortable, even tempting a sometimes rare nap when my overly-imaginative and overly-analytical mind finally rests. House plants sit beside almost every window. A fire blazes in our fireplace all winter long and our grandmother's quilts are everywhere, ready to encompass us in love and sweet memories and a reminder to enjoy every season of life, even the most barren. In summer, the pool beckons to me to just float awhile and just bask in the sunlight. Back inside, Frank Sinatra or Gregory Alan Isokov or Lana Del Ray usually sing in the background and my favorite scent--Bath and Body's Paris Cafe--often engulfs my senses. I try to keep baked goods in our three cake stands on the counter and my pantry stays stocked with the things I need to make our favorite dishes at the ready. All of my senses are encouraged in the best way.

I walk in and I breathe easy. My anxiety fades away and it's just me and my sweet husband and beautiful son and daughter and I am filled with tranquility and gratitude. I am my best self when I am home and it allows me to refuel and go out and give my best to the rest of the world. And the cycle continues. It really is a beautiful, life-changing cycle.

There are many reasons I love interior design but THIS is my ultimate purpose: our home should be a refuge, not another source of stress. My goal with any client is to give them this great gift. I want to help them find functional solutions to clean the clutter so that it not only is put away, but also no longer clutters their mind. I want to create cozy spaces where they can relax. I want to give them beautiful spaces, but also personal spaces that evoke happy thoughts and memories. I like to think of myself as a therapist of sorts. We can't control everything that happens, but we can control what our homes look like. Sometimes we just need a little help.

If you've been feeling blue or just overly stressed, consider changing your interior spaces, even if it's just lighting a candle or listening to music that soothes you. Maybe it's finally getting some of your favorite photos or artwork on the walls. If your home doesn't feel like your favorite spot, maybe it's time to fix that. You deserve beautiful interiors and to feel at peace and the correlation between the two is undeniable. Interior design is therapy. Of that I have no doubt.

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