'Creating Calm Spaces' by Kristy McDougall


Since studying interior design I have been interested in bringing calm into the home, creating spaces where you can relax. This I feel is crucial in todays' hectic world. Bringing positivity, life and a calm space into your home.

There are many ways of bringing calm into your home from colour, to texture, using mementos/photos, furniture placement, bringing the outdoors in, scent and lighting. I will look at these below:

Colour - there is a whole psychology to colour, which is used throughout the design world. For example, red is often used in fast food restaurants because it is thought to evoke energy and emotion, causing people to move on quickly. Whereas, blues and greens are calming and restful colours, especially in the softer hues and are often used in places like doctor surgery’ waiting rooms, where the intention is to calm waiting patients.

With this in mind soft blues and greens are an obvious choice, or soft yellows which evoke happiness and can feel warm and 'sunny'. Also, soft shades of lilac and heather can have a calming effect. I personally feel in your home choose the colours you love or that mean something to you, don't be afraid to try colour in your home, it can put a smile on your face every time you return home to see colour on the walls or in furniture / accessories that you love. Start with a few new cushions in your favourite colours. Here are a few colour scheme ideas below:

Texture - you can't beat coming home and relaxing in your favourite chair, with a soft cushion, or the feeling of bare feet on a soft rug. This feeling of softness can help you relax, feel cosy and secure. I believe natural materials are calming too - wooden floors although cold; feel earthy and solid. Also, wooden furniture, the natural tones can be soothing. Or beautiful stone, perhaps slate, granite or marble - the natural pattern is beautiful and soothing.

Add a combination of texture to your home with a lovely soft rug on a hard floor, walking across these two surfaces with bare feet stimulates the senses emphasising the softness of the rug in comparison to the hard floor.

Blankets or throws stored in a wicker basket add a lovely soothing addition to a lounge. Here you have the natural element with the basket and the soft texture with the throws; that people can help themselves to on winter nights.

Another texture to consider is a smooth surface, this also appeals to the senses and is calming to touch. Such as silky materials; perhaps a group of silky cushions together, or a silky throw on the end of a bed.

Mementos/photos – I love landscape photography. I have printed many of my photos, had them framed & put them up around the house. They are my family's memories - places we've visited, the place where my husband proposed, family holidays, etc. Lots of family photos too; reminders of people I love and happy days.

If you have collected objects on travels or have objects with sentimental value, it's lovely to display these too. They are personal to you and memories for you. It's comforting to have these around you, a lot of the time you may not even notice they're there, then every so often you stop and take notice and this gives a reason to smile.

Furniture placement - positioning furniture so that you have enough space around you to feel comfortable and not to overcrowd a space; to encourage relaxing. On the other hand, a small space can feel cosy with a squashy sofa or a couple of chairs close to each other, as long as there are not too many accessories, keep it simple! It's about getting the balance right for you. See what feels comfortable for you. Also, consider a good view out of the window or of the television, a favourite picture, or anything else you would like to see from that position. Consider a table within easy reach of a chair or bedside. Or a floor or table lamp close to where you would like to sit and read.

Symmetry – many people find symmetry calming. It’s pleasing to look at and instantly relaxes us as we gaze at the room, furniture, pictures or whatever it may be. An example of this is a fireplace in the centre of a wall, you could place pictures or shelving symmetrically either side. Another example is having 2 chairs or sofas facing each other, centrally in a room with a rug and coffee table placed in the centre of the two chairs, simple but effective!

Space - similar to furniture placement but I what I mean here is declutter. To feel peaceful a space certainly needs to be tidy. If you have a pile of washing left, or some old magazines that you need to sort through, you may not realise it, but this can make relaxing more difficult, as subconsciously you know you have that job to do.

Bringing the outdoors in - I feel there is a strong connection with nature and feeling uplifted and calm. For example, having plants around your home. Not only do many of them keep the air cleaner, they add green - a soothing colour, and bring life into your home too.

Cut flowers are another good option, their beauty and colour can be very uplifting, as well as the scent many of them bring.

Pictures of a beautiful view can be very uplifting too, reminding you of a special place, thinking about a warm beach or a lovely sunset, whichever appeal to you and spark joy. Also, gazing at these views relax the eyes.

Using other natural materials around the home helps to bring the outside in too, e.g. rattan, stone and wood. Rattan planters or storage baskets are lovely, and practical. Stone worktops, pots and vases. You could even have little pebbles/rocks, especially if you don't have a great deal of space. Add these to the top of your plant pots, around a candle or in a small glass dish or vase. All will help add a calming element.

Scent – strongly evokes memories, for example if someone is wearing a perfume I used to wear, I recognise it instantly (and I've tried many perfumes over the years!). Or I love that smell on a warm evening in the Mediterranean. Or the smell of baking cinnamon / cinnamon scented candles, they remind me of Christmas, wonderful memories. We all have scents that we love.

It's uplifting and calming to arrive home to a familiar smell, perhaps room scent, washing or flowers. I recommend choosing a room scent for your home, positioned in the hallway or first room that you enter, as a welcome home.

Lighting - adds ambience. A crucial part of interior design, it’s important to have different lighting options in a room for various tasks and moods. When considering a calm atmosphere, you don’t want lights to be too bright. Our pupils dilate when we are anxious so bright light becomes very uncomfortable. Therefore, dimmer lights are a much better option. Perhaps several table lamps, floor lamps and/or a main light on a dimmer switch.

Candle light is a soothing option; in a safe place such as a hurricane lantern candles can look beautiful in any room.

       Kristy Cassidy Design