How to Tweak Your Living Space for More Happiness
Take a deep breath—you don't need to Marie Kondo
Interior stylist Natalie Walton asked people what makes them happiest at home for her new book, This Is Home: The Art of Simple Living. Here, she shares her surprising findings about what leads to feeling content, connected, and calm.
In your book, you focus on the touches and details that make people feel happiest in their homes was so interesting. Did you find any common threads?
"It’s noteworthy that what made people happy was as much about the things they had let go of as it was about what they had held on to. None of their homes was overloaded with stuff. The collections were edited, so what was left was a distilled essence of the important moments from their lives. The pieces had a history and meaning— artwork created by a family member or a friend, or an object purchased on holiday. Artwork can be especially evocative. There is often a story behind the purchase, or it can remind us of a particular time in our lives."
It seems as though everyone is on a Marie Kondo minimalism kick.
"There’s always a lot of talk of decluttering. But sometimes we benefit when we hold on to special objects. One woman I interviewed bought a hammock when she was 19 years old and working in Venezuela. At the time she had thought that one day she would have a nice, sunny place to hang this hammock. She didn’t have that until about 20 years later. Now she hangs it off the balcony in her bedroom. It makes the space extra special for her, and it’s not just a hammock—it’s a reminder of her life journey."
Many of the people you interviewed talked about how important the light in their homes was, or they decorated their spaces with natural elements. Why do you think people are blurring the line between indoors and outdoors?
"Being in nature has never been so important. But we live in a highly connected world. Rarely do we have a moment of quiet or stillness. We can bring nature into our home, however, and embrace it as a way to feel some release. Nature is a cureall for many modern maladies, and it’s free. I do it myself. My home has many windows overlooking trees. When I moved in, I made all my interiors neutral. The trees are beautiful to gaze at but also busy visually. I didn’t want the inside to compete with the view."
I was also struck by how many people said their favorite space in their home was the place where their family and friends gathered. Why do you think that is?
"We are social creatures. We need to connect with one another. Our houses are ideal places for us to get together and share experiences. We create a sense of home when we turn on music, put flowers on display, share meals. These are touches that can make us enjoy our space yet are often overlooked. Sometimes we make life complicated. If the house isn’t as clean or tidy as we would like it to be, we don’t want to have people over.
I say, host friends outdoors in the garden or on a deck or a balcony. Or just have people over for dinner, turn the lights down low, and light candles—no one will notice. At the same time, as important as it is to create spaces [where people can] connect, it’s also a good idea to have quiet spaces to retreat to. A spot that’s free of clutter. Natural light or a warm breeze always helps. Keep it simple yet soulful."