Little Fixes to Brighten Up Your Space and Mood

Dina Gachman
·4 min read

A single scented candle might not change the world, but it might change the way you feel about being cooped up for the past year. And adding some bright yellow patterned throw pillows to your living room/home gym/office/day care space might not erase the fact that it’s freezing and dreary outside, but maybe you can trick your brain into thinking your home is a cozy and romantic oasis, instead of the same walls you’ve been staring at since last winter. Winter can be rough under the best of circumstances, but after a year of redesigning and rethinking our homes for efficiency, being stuck inside may feel like more of a bummer than usual. Now that you've got your home office all set, here are some expert suggestions on how to upgrade your home to improve your mood. 

“Paint is the first line of defense,” says Iantha Carley, a D.C.-based designer who mixes timeless pieces with a little bit of whimsy. Like many people, she moved her office home in 2020, so she had plenty of time to look around and notice what was, and wasn’t, working. “This is a good time to reevaluate how you’re living,” she says, recommending lighter wall colors that brighten the space, with furnishings or accents in autumnal colors. “I love rusts and oranges and greens,” she says. Bright walls don’t mean stark white. Ivory or bone or muted grays can be a softer way to elevate the mood of a room, and trick your mind into thinking it’s not 32 degrees outside.

Like Iantha, Los Angeles–based designer and Mass Studio owner Safura Salek got rid of her office in 2020 and brought everything home to her apartment. “I had to reconfigure my space to allow for a cleaner, more simplified office area,” she says. Her walls were already light and bright, but she added more mirrors to reflect that light and open things up. She also “detoxified the space,” getting rid of excess clutter, and created a “respite area” to contrast with her work area. “You can throw nice, colorful pillows on the floor or put a chair next to a window with a lamp for reading or listening to music or just looking outside and taking a break,” she says.

When you’re finished creating your nook for recharging, you can always switch up the art on your walls to give your eyes and your brain something new to stare at while you’re waiting for the next Zoom to begin. Iantha had several of her old design school projects framed, and Safura says that adding some colorful wallpaper is a simple way to inject whimsey into a room, plus it’s something you can do yourself. “Hints of bright colors make you feel less depressed to be locked down,” she says.

Besides decluttering and brightening the space, New York–based designer Charlie Ferrer suggests what he calls “seasonal intervention candles.” Splurging on some gorgeous scents is a solid way to bring some coziness and romance to a room without breaking the bank. After all, a nice candle is cheaper than a full-on reno. Charlie is partial to scents from brands like Mad et Len or Perfumer H. “You can mix scents to create complex smells that signal to your brain that you’re home,” he says. “The scent becomes a marker of home.”

Charlie also loves “a big vessel jam-packed with roses in the middle of winter,” and the older the roses get, the better. “I love it when roses are on their last legs, and they’re open and poetic and the petals are falling off. It makes me happy.” If roses aren’t your thing, he suggests bright peonies or ranunculus as a simple mood lifter, especially around Valentine’s Day. 

You can also add some softer lighting by changing out bulbs (Iantha likes Philips Hue bulbs and Safura recommends 2700-Kelvin LED lighting), or throw up sheer, diaphanous curtains for some winter romance. “The light play as the sun passes through is beautiful,” Charlie says. “It also creates beautiful textures at night.” Lighting is key when it comes to mood, and using floor or table lamps instead of harsher overhead lights is a good move. “If you have any fluorescent lighting, get it the hell out of your space,” Safura says. “It makes everything look ugly. Especially on Zoom; we can’t have that.”

Whether you purge your fluorescents or simply add some new art or an antique lamp, small changes can help shake that feeling that the winter days are endless, and short, and cold. “If you add personal and unique touches,” says Charlie, “You’re going to be a lot happier. One can never have enough candles or art, especially in a COVID winter.”

Originally Appeared on Architectural Digest