how your home can make you happy

homeI mentioned previously that I’ve never been much of a homemaker but lately I’ve discovered the benefits of making an effort when it comes to home decor.

And it seems there’s some research that also reveals that making a house a home is more than just pretty-ing things up.

What designers and architects have known for years, science is now confirming – a comfortable and ‘homely’ home can make you happy.

Neuroarchitecture is the hybrid child of neuroscience and architecture that studies the human response to the built environment and it’s design.

By observing in people things like hormone levels and brain chemicals, scientists have found that certain design elements within a building can be either beneficial or detrimental to a person’s wellbeing. The application was originally for places like hospitals and prisons, but it also applies to the home.

Our home, they have found, can affect our mood. By applying certain design elements, we can actually improve our mood.

While designing your house according to cutting edge neuroscience may be out of the question, there are a few easy and inexpensive things you can do to maximise the good mood you get from our home.

Let there be light

Large windows that let lots of light are better for your mood than dark houses with tiny windows. But we don’t all have large windows, so what do you do?

Open curtains as wide as they will go during the day (particularly during winter) and use tie backs to let in the most light from your windows as you can. Clean windows regularly -  it’s surprising what a difference this can make! Open doors as well for extra light.

If you can, install sky lights in key places like over the kitchen to increase the natural daylight within the house.

At night time, the reverse is true. Soft light from lamps and candles are better for the mood than harsh lights from above and of course, as well as being romantic, a low wattage lamp will use less electricity and save you money.

clear the clutter…

A cluttered home can not only put you in a bad mood (particularly if you’re stepping on Lego all the time), it can stifle creativity and productivity. Improve your mood by first tidying and putting things away if necessary and then giving your home a good declutter.

Once you declutter create simple organisation systems to make tidying up quicker and easier in the future and help keep your home tidy.

…but avoid minimalism

While an uncluttered home is good for the mood, going too far can make it stark and uninviting. It’s the little personal touches that make a house homely. A little bit of ‘mess’ is healthy – the ideal amount of mess actually depends on your individual personality.

Photos of family and friends give us a sense of belonging, while original art, crafts and, dare I say it, favourite nick-knacks emphasise our individuality. Neither have to cost the earth. Here are some ideas for taking and displaying family photos and creating your own unique art work.

colour your world

The decor you choose for your home can also affect your mood. Curved and flowing lines are preferable to sharp corners.

Colour is also important. Warm tones like red and orange increase energy while cool tones like blue and green are relaxing. Too much colour can be overwhelming – it’s better to use colour in decor items placed against a neutral background. This way you can change the mood of a room by just changing the cushions.

Now I hope DH doesn’t read this, but the cheapest way to get a new look in the home is to rearrange the furniture (I like to find THE BEST position for furniture and leave it there. Forever). Rearranging the furniture prevents things from getting stale and a fresh new look can give you a fresh new outlook too.

the green, green grass of home

Despite our increasing disassociation from nature, humans are hard-wired to be in the great outdoors. We are happier and healthier when we spend time in nature.

It isn’t surprising then that our garden is just as important for our happiness (if not more so) than anything we do inside the house.

A view of a garden, courtyard, distant greenery or even just the sky so that you can see the weather can improve your mood. So if your courtyard is a mess of weeds, cleaning it up and potting some flowers will improve your health and mood.

Bringing nature inside is also beneficial. Grow some indoor pot plants and fill your home with natural materials – wooden furniture, wicker baskets, woollen throws.

a room to gather and…

The kitchen is the heart of the home and the perfect place for the family to gather. If you can, place a table and or chairs in the kitchen so that it is a communal area as well as a functional one. The best place is one where you can see and talk to people while you prepare, cook and clean up after a meal.

Alternatively, island benches on which you have room to prepare food and that face into the living room are also conducive to the communal feel of the kitchen.

Of course, this isn’t always possible, so a frugal alternative is to cook together or to bring in a chair or a stool so that you can talk with your partner or child while you cook.

…a room of one’s own

Just as important as family spaces is a private space that each member of the family can retreat to.

All the fru-fru in the world can’t replace having somewhere private to escape to and just be yourself. A bedroom. A shed. A craft-room, A man-cave. A quiet corner. A special chair. A bathroom with a lock. Everyone in a household should have a space that they can call their own.


It’s interesting that the American architect Frank Lloyd Wright designed houses with large windows, open spaces and fireplaces (another important feature in neuroarchitecture) and this design has had a lasting influence on modern design while subtly reflecting ancient cave dwelling with its fire pit and view over the plains. And even our ancient ancestors decorated the walls of their caves.

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  1. Liz says

    Thanks for the post; so very true. Adding personal, artistic and natural touches makes all the difference. I find just putting some flowers on the table (however humble the bouquet), or even fresh herbs or vegies sitting in water on the kitchen bench (like silverbeet leaves, parsely…) make a beautiful impression. Spending time making it home is important too. That’s one of the benefits of being a stay at home mum – having some time to put into those little touches.
    Thanks for your blog, its always an interesting read.

  2. says

    Your comments about private space are so very true. A lot of new display homes you look are so open plan that they have all the character of an airport waiting area.

    As well as Frank Lloyd Wright another old time architect worth looking at is Gustav Stickley whose Craftsman style homes came to Australia as California Bungalows

    • says

      Thanks Brian, I’ll look him up. The Californian Bungalow is so ubiquitous in the parts of Sydney where my father grew up. But I remember my nan’s being dark inside all the time.

  3. narf7 says

    A lovely and informative post. We renovated our inherited home and made it our own including natural light, space maximisation and we all got a room to ourselves. Looking out my kitchen window over the water gives me an inner peace that can’t be quantified. If you have nothing else, your home IS your castle and ours gives us a simple pleasure whenever the world goes nuts around us.

  4. says

    Love this post! I agree that changing the furniture and decor around is a great and frugal way to ‘redecorate’. Our brains thrive on novelty, so it’s refreshing to see a domestic space set up differently.

    Another suggestion is to give your place a big spring clean. I did this recently and afterwards felt much more appreciative of where I live.

  5. says

    Very true about the minimalism being lifeless and cold. I am always so jealous when I see the photos in magazines of those super cool inner city apartments that have the minimalistic fell down to a t, but then I wonder “could I live in there?”.

    So I am all for classic traditional furniture that has its own personality, or using modern furniture and livening it up with some little things to breath some of your own personality to it.

    House to home. Journey complete.