5 Ways To Create More Joy At Home

Can our furniture choices influence our happiness and health? That’s the question we posed to Ingrid Fetell Lee, the author of new book, Joyful.

We’re often taught that the objects in our homes are just incidental to our happiness. But as a designer who has spent the last ten years studying the relationship between our physical surroundings and our emotions, I know that our homes have a profound influence on our joy and wellbeing. Here I share 5 easy ways you can create more joy in your home through small yet powerful changes.

Add a Pop of Colour

Colour and emotion are deeply intertwined, so much so that we immediately understand when someone says “look on the bright side” or that they “have a dark cloud over them.” Brightness is universally associated with joy, so adding a pop of saturated color is one of the most immediate ways to bring a joyful energy to a space.

yellow-velvet-armchair and footstool

Yellow is often particularly associated with joy, perhaps because it is the lightest color in its pure state, so it appears to reflect more light than other colours. But any bright color will work, so feel free to choose your favourite.

Round the Edges

Neuroscientists have found that when they put people into fMRI machines and show them pictures of angular objects, it causes a part of the brain called the amygdala, associated in part with fear and anxiety, to light up. But this part of the brain stays quiet when they look at curved versions of the same objects. 


They speculate that because angular objects in nature are often associated with danger, such as jagged rocks or thorns, we evolved a heightened sense of caution around these shapes. You can create a more easeful and playful atmosphere in your home by adding circular or elliptical furniture and decorative objects.


Use Repeating Patterns

Repeating patterns, such as those with strong geometric elements, tap into our innate love of symmetry. The human eye can detect symmetrical objects at less than 100 milliseconds, and in studies people unconsciously associate symmetrical forms with words like paradise and heaven while asymmetrical forms are associated with words like disaster and death! 


This association may be due in part to the fact that most living things are symmetrical; in other words, symmetry may be an evolved cue to the presence of life. Symmetrical patterns bring a sense of cohesion and order that our minds find delightful.


Create abundance through layering

When looking at the kinds of habitats people prefer to live in, cross-cultural research shows that the most preferred biomes are lush grasslands and forests. One reason may be that we inherited this predilection from our ancestors, who gravitated toward these environments because of the likelihood that they offered bountiful sources of sustenance. But even though our survival no longer depends on our immediate surroundings, we still find joy in an array of rich sensations. 


Layering textiles of various textures and patterns can create a joyful sense of abundance in the home.

Unify disparate objects

Collections of different objects become more than the sum of their parts when they share a common property. This is because of a principle of Gestalt psychology that says that we view similar objects not as a group, but as a single object. For example, rather than looking out at a nature scene and seeing a million leaves, our brains naturally group those leaves into trees to help us make sense of what we’re seeing. 


By gathering together decorative objects that share a common color, size, or shape, our brains unify the objects and imbue the space with a subtle sense of harmony.


Joyful: The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness by Ingrid Fetell Lee is published by Rider, price £20 hardback

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