With our homes now places of work, learning and play (thanks, COVID!), it’s little wonder the sense of clutter, mess and chaos probably has you feeling a little overwhelmed.
For those of us living in a small house or flat where space is limited, it can be even harder to separate work from home life, with paperwork cluttering the kitchen counter, the bedroom now the meeting room, and the coffee table a part-time printer stand.
But even in a small home, there are clever and cost-effective ways of creating a feeling of calmness in your home, even after a busy day of Zoom calls and home-school craft.
Rest and recharge
“The way that you set up your house and your rooms can really help to nurture and recharge you,” says Natisha Fodor, an interior decorator with Mont Albert Interiors in Melbourne.
“Our homes are usually the places that we retreat to at the end of a busy or stressful day, or to relax and entertain with friends on the weekends.
“But with many of us spending so much time at home now, it can be difficult to separate those different parts of our lives.
“That’s why it's so important that we make sure we have some relaxing spaces within our homes that we can go to after a busy day of phone calls to switch off, unwind, and enjoy doing the things we love – be that time with family, reading, or whatever your favourite hobby may be.”
Fodor has shared her top, cost-effective solutions for creating a relaxing home environment that won’t break the bank.
Start by decluttering
If you have piles of paperwork or other clutter that you’re aiming to sort through one day, try not to put it off. Even if you don’t consciously think about it, visual clutter around the home can add to your stress levels.
“Declutter your home and get organised,” Fodor says.
“Most people find it hard to relax in a messy, cluttered space, but allowing 15 minutes a day to sort through unruly paperwork and meaningless mess can immediately boost your mood and lift your space.”
As you declutter, choose a few items that are of sentimental value, and evoke feelings of happiness and put them on display. You might choose photos of special occasions or holidays, or objects that remind you of a person or place.
“Put the rest away. You can always bring them out later, but you don't have to have everything you own on show.”
Work to your budget
If money is limited at the moment, decluttering is the most inexpensive but effective thing you can do to make your home more relaxing, Fodor says.
There are other low-budget ways of creating an appealing space.
“You could move the furniture around and add a few inexpensive items like a pot plant, some cushions or a nice floor rug, all of which you can pick up cheaply, either from the likes of Kmart, or Facebook Marketplace!”
Buying some inexpensive sheer curtains can also add a feeling of luxury to a room, Fodor says.
Set up separate zones
Work out the function of each room and zone of your home. This will help to create designated areas for different activities, Fodor explains.
Set up different spaces for work, study, exercise and relaxation.
“Try not to let your working life and the clutter from your work desk spill over into the zone where you want to relax at night,” she says.
“If you don't have a lot of space, pack things up and put them away out of sight so you have that separation at the end of a busy day.”
If you live in a small home, even a corner area can be allocated as a space for relaxation. Set up a comfortable chair and cushions in a corner or near a window, with a table for a drink, where you can read or enjoy hobbies.
“Have a stool where you can put your feet up, a lovely cushion that you can tuck under your head, and have a view into your courtyard, garden or to the sky.”
Plants are a simple, relatively cheap way of adding a feeling of calmness.
“Bringing nature into your house can promote feelings of tranquillity, and you don't have to have a green thumb in order to enjoy them,” Fodor says.
“There are a wide variety of indoor plants now widely available at your local hardware store or nursery that are very low maintenance, guaranteed to lift your space, and your mood.”
For an interesting look, try using unusual pots or other vessels for indoor plants, such as antique pots, bowls, copper pots or baskets.
If you have dogs or cats, first check that the type of plant isn’t toxic to your pets.
Bring in light
Light can have a huge impact on your mood, Fodor says.
“If your home does not get a lot of natural light, that can really dampen your mood and make a space feel cold, uninviting and less relaxing.
“Getting as much natural light into your home during the day is really important to promote a feeling of relaxation.”
If you have a room that doesn’t enjoy much sunlight, simply adding a mirror to reflect what light it does get can help to create a more airy and relaxing space.
In the evenings, opt for table and floor lamps to soften the light in a room.
Choose calming colours
“Colour choices can have a really powerful effect on how you feel,” explains Fodor.
We all have different colour preferences, but generally the softer, natural colours are calming for everyone. Add some colour inspired by nature: soft greens and blues, greys and stone to layer in your personality.
“Colours that you find in the outdoors can really evoke a feeling of calm. Some pops of bright, happy colours can also be great in the right places.”
If you can’t change the wall paint colours, use throws and cushions in those colours to help achieve the same feeling.
Use different textures
Different textures can add a feeling of warmth and relaxation to a room.
“Add soft cushions in lovely tactile textured fabrics like velvet, and chunky woollen throws if the weather is cool.”
Adding cushions and a beautiful throw is a simple way of making a sofa or chair more inviting, Fodor says.
There’s inspiration all around us. So see what’s possible in your own home. Sometimes a small simple change can bring a great deal of pleasure and joy in our everyday routines.
Natisha Fodor is an interior decorator with Mont Albert Interiors in Melbourne.