How to Create a Happier, Healthier Living Space During Springtime
"Longer days and sunny skies this time of year are so rejuvenating and optimistic — there's a vibrancy in the air that I love to capture in a living space," says Kate Hamilton Gray, an interior designer in New York and owner of Hamilton Gray Studio. "Surroundings really affect your mindset, so when the weather shifts, I always make decorating updates to tap into the spirit of the season. Right now that translates to the scent of fresh flowers and a feeling of airiness to bring a punch of vitality."
Luckily, those updates don't require a big lift — or big bucks. Here, Hamilton Gray walks you through her easy tips for harnessing the energy of spring.
1. Go natural
Big branches of blooms set the spring tone in a home, says Hamilton Gray. "They're gorgeous, but they also signify a fresh start and keep the larger, natural world in sight." And we know from studies that bringing the outdoors in boosts mental energy and a sense of calm. "Go for branches with buds that haven't bloomed and you'll get a few weeks out of them." (See: The Health Benefits of House Plants — and How to Decorate with Them)
2. Put out some eye candy
Place a big bowl of fruit or vegetables on the dining or coffee table or the counter. A variety of filled smaller bowls or pretty plates works great too — whatever you have, says Hamilton Gray. "This is when we start to see an abundance of fresh produce," she says. "Showcasing it is aesthetically beautiful, and at the same time it gets you excited about warm-weather food and inspires you to eat more natural stuff."
Choose anything in season, like apricots, cherries, and fennel. Hamilton Gray's favorite food decor is artichokes. "The shapes and textures are so visually interesting, and they have a long shelf life," she says. "Bonus: They're delicious and good for you." (Steal these other tips to design a kitchen that encourages healthy eating.)
3. Lighten up, brighten up
"Clean your windows, and you won't believe the impact it makes after months of darkness," says Hamilton Gray. "Suddenly your place is flooded with natural light, which is key to an atmosphere that vibrates with energy and joy."
Research backs this up: Exposure to sunlight increases serotonin, which helps you cope with anxiety and boosts happiness and focus, plus it helps improve our sleep at night. "I also open my windows as early in spring as I can," says Hamilton Gray. "All of it — the soft breeze, fresh air, natural scents, sunlight — breathes new life into a room."
4. Give WFH zone a makeover
You spend what seems like most of your life here, yet it's typically ignored when decorating, says Hamilton Gray. "Small changes will get you feeling inspired and excited to do work you care about," she says. "For starters, dial up the color with a new accessory. I have a faux leather desk mat in a cheerful blue that I love this time of year. Organize some personal objects that announce the warm, sunny weather on a pretty tray, like a seashell from your last beach trip or a family vacation photo. Revamp your inspiration images if you like mood boards, or pile up a few visually stunning books." (Related: How to Set Up the Most Ergonomic Home Office Ever)
5. Do a bed reboot
"Switch to linen sheets — they're breathable and soft and comfortable for sleeping in warmer, more humid temperatures — and go for a bedspread that's lighter in weight and color," says Hamilton Gray. "I always swap out my bedding around now, and it signals to my brain a transition from cocooning under a heavy comforter to craving an airier place to rest and rejuvenate."
6. Set a happy scene
Hang a new piece of art that is optimistic and joyful, and it will radiate that vibe in your space, says Hamilton Gray. "Nothing pricey — just whatever speaks to you," she says. "Online resources, like Artifact Uprising, will print one of the millions of photos living in your phone. I put up a large image with a brass binder clip, which feels less permanent and easier to swap out as seasons or moods change."
Shape Magazine, April 2021 issue