When I moved to my new apartment in North Carolina, I had the goal of creating a relaxing, re-energizing space just for me.
My studio apartment in Harlem informed that goal. It had some nice natural lighting from the large windows that faced the George Washington Bridge, but the ceilings were low, the colors were dark, and it was very cramped. Add the fact that New York really is the city that never sleeps, and you can understand why I had trouble unwinding there.
I left my city studio behind for a much bigger apartment in a Southern suburb and got to decorate from scratch after I sold and donated 80% of my belongings. Obviously living somewhere that isn’t hectic Manhattan has proven to be less stressful in itself, but I’ve also taken a lot of steps to make my new apartment a calm and chill habitat.
Here are eight ideas to help you create a peaceful and relaxing home just for you:
1. Add Plants and Flowers
There’s just something about putting a little greenery in your space that makes you feel good. Living plants can be air-purifying and flowers are just plain lovely to smell and look at.
I received a few plants while I was performing in a show, and they were honestly the nicest gifts. One cast member gave me a beautiful orchid that brightened up my living room with a nice pop of pastel purple, and the bouquets I received looked lovely in a vase on the counter.
If you’re looking for a plant that won’t be too easy to kill, try buying a succulent or two. More advanced green thumbs could consider adding a spider plant, peace lily, snake plant, or aloe vera to their homes. Visit your local garden center to find the ideal plant for your environment.
Does the idea of keeping any planet alive fill you with dread? Fake plants won’t include air-purifying benefits or a bonus aroma, but they can still be pretty to look at!
2. Stick with Your Preferred Textures
Some people love tile and others love hard wood floors. Some like to feel their toes hit carpeting instead of a cold floor when they wake up in the morning. One person may like the chunkiest yarn throw blanket and another might like something lighter and silkier. It’s all a matter of personal preference.
What textures are calming to you, both aesthetically and tactilely? Try to include those textures throughout your living space. You likely won’t be able to change the flooring if you’re renting, but there are certainly other ways to enhance your spaces’ textures.
I personally find wood and marble to be calming to look at and feel, so both materials play significant parts in my decor. I found a wooden coffee table from HomeGoods that matches my vinyl floor, and I have a marble side table and coasters. I specifically picked out a mattress with cooling technology as well because I like to be cold when I sleep. All of the textures in my place are pretty cool and sleek, and I don’t have anything that is too fuzzy.
If you want a more cuddly space, try adding a super soft throw blanket. Consider sprucing up your bedroom or living room with an area rug if your feetsies desire that. Invest in a pillow with cooling technology if you tend to get hot when you sleep. Figure out the textures that help you unwind and go wild.
3. Storage, storage, storage
If there’s one thing Marie Kondo taught me, it’s that having random clutter all over your living space will prove to be stressful. Letting each of your belongings have a home, per se, leads to a more calming space.
I find this to be particularly true as someone who works from home. I’m less likely to be productive if my desk is just covered in random papers, utensils, and chackis. Clutter is distracting.
Enter storage. Having designated bins, drawers, and shelves for your various items can help your home feel balanced. Of course it takes effort to put away things and maintain your organization, but there is no better feeling than walking into your space and knowing exactly where everything is without having to search through piles of stuff.
Take my current desk: I fully utilize the draws that are built into it and also have a storage bin and a utensil caddy on it. The top has some books and a single Funko Pop on it, but it is otherwise neat and there is plenty of surface space. My previous desks have all been disaster zones that were rarely used. With a little bit of storage efforts, I actually use my desk and that’s a lovely change.
Consider adding a few storage bins to your closet, floating wall shelves to clear up some of your surfaces, and drawer organizers to make it a little easier to find the tape in your junk drawer (don’t deny it, we all have a random junk drawer.)
4. Incorporate Positive Memories
I’m currently living pretty far away from the majority of my family and old friends. There are definitely times when I miss having them nearby, but having photos of them around my apartment is definitely a helpful remedy for a homesick heart. I have a few picture frames throughout my apartment, a few polaroids on my fridge, and a couple of photo albums.
Reminiscing and thinking about the good ole days can be heartwarming and relaxing. It can take our minds off of current stressors and transport us to better times. If you’re as nostalgic as I am, then you’ll want to include some memories in your decor.
Photographs are the obvious way to display memories, and they can be done so with the most basic picture frames or a funkier display. You could also consider decorating with physical objects that bring up good feelings from the past. Create a display of small keepsakes like maps, ticket stubs, or sea shells using a shadow box and add larger pieces like Grandma’s music box or your childhood teddy bear to your shelves or coffee table if they bring up good vibes.
5. Find the Right Light
Have you ever realized how annoying fluorescent lights can be when you’re under them for a while? Have you noticed that it is difficult to read when the lighting isn’t adequate? Lighting can really impact your vibe and your ability to be productive.
I feel like it is a bit obvious to say that natural light is beneficial, but it can’t be overstated. Exposure to sunlight can increase serotonin, so the more natural light in your space, the better. I like to keep my blinds up as often as possible and let it pour in during the day hours. I also happen to have a tiny deck that allows me to catch some rays, so my dog and I enjoy sitting on the patio furniture often.
I wish my apartment had a few more windows, but I only have them on one of my four sides. Enter the ever-important artificial lighting. My kitchen and bathroom are both entirely artificially lit, and while I wish that weren’t the case, the lighting I have does work for me. All of the light bulbs in my place produce lovely daytime tones, and I recently added a lamp to my living room that really helped brighten it up in the evening.
If the lighting in your space is too harsh, consider switching to light bulbs that produce softer tones. Add a lamp to your desk if you haven’t yet, like this one that has multiple brightness levels. Don’t let the sunrise ruin your shuteye by investing in room darkening curtains. There are many ways to alter the lighting in your space to better fit your needs.
6. Up the Aromas
While most of these ideas are visual, I think it’s just as important to include pleasing scents to create a relaxing habitat. Your olfactory senses can really affect your mood quickly, so let the diffuser puff and the candles burn!
I’m sure you know that lavender can be calming, but you can also try incorporating vanilla, valerian, pine, or jasmine for a change.
My favorite part about scents is that they can be delivered throughout your home in various ways. Try putting a few drops of essential oils in a diffuser, melting wax in a warmer, or even snuggling up with a scented stuffed animal. Just be sure check if certain scents are safe to use with pets if you have any!
7. Have a Designated Meditation Space
Meditation is one of the main ways I unwind. It helps me clear my headspace and deal with stress in a healthy way.
While it is certainly possible to meditate pretty much anywhere, I like having a designated meditation space in my apartment to come back to time and time again. My comfy living room chair was primarily purchased to add more seating for guests, but I personally use it to regularly meditate. I can sit in it and firmly plant my feet on the ground, and I have a plush pillow on it for extra postural support.
If you too like meditation, consider creating your own designated meditation space in your home. It can be permanently set up in the corner of your bedroom or the elements can be stored away in your closet until you want to use them. Buy a meditation floor pillow that can double as decor when not being used. Have a few objects, like palm stones or stress relief balls, to hold when you’re feeling fidgety. Set up a noise machine if your noisy neighbors make it difficult to concentrate.
8. Choose Calm Colors
One of the biggest decorating mistakes I made in my previous apartment were the harsh colors. My comforter was a rich maroon tone and my couch was a harsh black pleather. Both looked incredibly stark against the white walls. No wonder that place stressed me out!
Pick a soothing color palette that suits your personal style. Neutral tones and pastels will generally be more relaxing than anything highly pigmented or neon. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to solely stick with minimalist neutrals (unless that’s your preference).
Don’t be afraid to pick up a paint roller if you’re unhappy with your current wall color. If you like brighter colors like I do, add pops of it in your decor or as an accent wall – just keep an eye on the color balance and stay away from any tones that are headache inducing.
My new apartment is full of greys, blues, and blush pinks. The walls were already painted a light grey color that I loved, so I ended up letting that tone inspire my decor. I couldn’t love my new color scheme any more! The grey is tranquil, yet my personality still comes out through the accented colors.
Happy decorating! Share your relaxing decor ideas in the comments.