In a decorating rut? This could be the solution for you.
Consider this a lesson that’s easy to remember in theory, but hard to recall in practice: The way your home looks should make you happy. It seems sensible enough to follow as you stare at the spaces you call your own, but when given the chance to design them with intention, things tend to get complicated.
There’s usually old furniture to contend with, and budgets to nail down. There’s conversations to be had if you live with others, and discussions to start if professionals are hired. And then, in the midst of all that decision making, there’s the seemingly ever-present pressure to land on a look that’s somehow timeless but also on-trend. It’s no wonder so many of us throw up our hands and stick with the classic IKEA furnishings we found as twenty-somethings.
But what if the opportunity to surround yourself with happiness wasn’t a renovation or a complete overhaul of your space—what if it was something called “dopamine decorating”? Thinking about it this way allows you to choose the colors and styles that suit your mood, eventually designing a home that makes you smile. “Color has a profound impact on people’s moods in their homes,” says design expert and artist Annie Sloan, the inventor of chalk paint. “I believe that color should be used strategically to match the desired mood of a space.”
If you want to build a home that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy, follow these three designers’ advice for ways to decorate with dopamine in mind.
What Exactly Is Dopamine Decorating?
Think of dopamine as a messenger in your brain that lets it know whenever you feel good, whether that spark is regarding something momental or a detail of everyday routines. All decorating should follow this bliss, but there are so many external factors that make that tough to achieve: money, personalities, trends, resale, and so on. Perhaps the most unforeseen challenge around decorating with your happiness at the forefront, though, is deciphering what actually makes you feel good—not what may look good to someone else.
For instance, do you personally feel content on a beach, or would you rather be in the mountains? Are you more likely to grab a camel-toned leather bag, or do you prefer a bright red canvas tote? When you think of the movie settings you love, what do they look like? All of these answers can inspire the color palette that makes you happy, and can then inform your room’s design.
“Colors have the ability to soothe, calm, invigorate and inspire us,” says interior designer Alvin Wayne. “I would say my design style is ‘organic modern,’ because I like when spaces are nature-inspired, but have pops of color and vintage references.”
Certain hues could also cultivate a warm nostalgia, making your home feel tied to your inner circle and dear memories. “I encourage people to use color to remind them of special people and places,” says interior designer Dabito. “Whether that means bringing in a yellow sofa that reminds them of a cottage they saw in New Orleans, displaying a Le Creuset Dutch oven passed down from their parents in their kitchen, or hanging up artwork created by friends, when you select colors that correlate to your stories, you make memories a more tangible experience in your home.”
How to Use Color to Set a Mood
Once you’ve concluded which shades complement your personality best, then it’s time to find ways to incorporate them into your home.
Start with Easy Upgrades
While most of us dream of doing a full-scale renovation on these terms, we don’t even have to go that far—renter-friendly upgrades and accessories are also on the table, from peel-and-stick wallpaper to coffee table books. The possibilities are endless: Colorful planters, cozy throw blankets and pillows, and even funky clocks are easy elements to fold into a room. And don’t forget that if neutrals make you happy, that’s also part of dopamine decorating.
“It isn’t safe to play with color unless you’ve got some really good neutrals to serve as a backbone, and you only need little touches of color to enliven a space,” Sloan adds.
Decide on a Color Scheme
Sloan recommends narrowing a room’s palette down to three colors: a neutral, a soft shade, and a bold hue, depending on the space’s function. “If you want to create a cozy and relaxed atmosphere, consider using deep shades such as inky blue, emerald, and charcoal gray. On the other hand, for spaces that need to be cheerful and productive, go for bright and light colors that stimulate energy: hot pink, lipstick red, or sunshine yellow are great in kitchens or hallways.”
While some shades are famously neutral—like black, beige, and cream—others can also fit the bill. “Green is honestly such a neutral color and pairs well with many others,” Dabito notes. “I love pairing green with yellow, blush, orange, or even aubergine.”
Think About Pattern
But if you’re still unsure about which shades are complementary, follow Wayne’s advice: “Start with a pattern or wallpaper that you love, and pull one color as the neutral and the other as the lead. Use the other colors to accessorize,” he says.
Bottom line, all three designers agree that colors are personal and the feelings they cultivate can be very subjective. As long as your combination makes you feel good, that’s all that matters.
“Whether you’re repurposing furniture, painting walls, or choosing accessories, let color be your ally in crafting spaces that reflect your unique style and evoke the emotions you desire,” Sloan says. “Remember, design should be a joyful and personal journey.”
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