It’s hard to get excited about 2022.
Many of us hoped that COVID-19 would be in the rearview mirror by now and we’d be getting back to some sort of normalcy. But with the omicron variant blazing through the country, holiday parties canceled, and a delayed return to school and the office, it feels like we’re stuck in an endless loop with no end to the pandemic in sight.
If you’re feeling stagnant and aimless, you’re not alone. People around the world are experiencing what psychologists describe as languishing. This is particularly glaring at the start of a new year, which we like to see as an opportunity for a fresh start. This year, many of us simply don’t have the motivation to think about self-improvement.
Justina Blakeney—an interior designer and best-selling author known for her colorful, bohemian aesthetic—believes that good design can help us feel less “blah” about our lives. By adding a dash of color to our homes or moving the furniture around, we can help ourselves see the world a little differently, which has the cascading effect of infusing our lives with a bit of optimism and joy. “Our homes impact our overall mental state,” Blakeney says. “It’s so important to create an environment where you invite the kind of energy into the home that you want—whether that’s vibrant or peaceful—so your home can support you in your health, happiness, creativity, and connection with family.”
Over the past two years, we’ve all spent more time at home than ever before. Even if we’ve redecorated our spaces already, Blakeney says it’s not a bad idea to make a few additional tweaks as we kick off the new year. Try one—or all—of these three simple tips.
COLOR CAN CHANGE EVERYTHING
While minimalism and white walls are still de rigueur in the world of interior design, Blakeney loves saturating her interiors with color. She frequently changes the colors of her walls and repaints floors and furniture, and she isn’t afraid to use bold, vibrant colors like bright orange or teal blue. “With a few hours and a few hundred dollars, you can change the entire vibe,” she says.
Blakeney points out that different people respond differently to colors. Before you pick a new color palette for your home, she recommends taking some time to think about which colors make you feel most alive. The best way to do this, she says, is to go out into nature. “Think about what environment makes you feel most at home,” she says. “We’re all built differently. Do you feel most alive when you see the changing colors of the ocean? Do you love trees and jungle-like environments? Are you attracted to the colors of the desert?”
This exercise might prompt you to paint a wall of your room bright orange, or paint your bathroom blue. It might feel like a bold move, but Blakeney says color is never permanent; you can always change it. “I like to think of a home as a living, breathing organism that changes over time, rather than something that is static,” she says. “And in the midst of a pandemic, when we’re spending so much time at home, we should feel free to change our homes regularly, to keep things fresh.”
MOVE ALL YOUR FURNITURE
One of the most impactful—and entirely free—ways to change the atmosphere of your home is to rearrange your furniture. Some people feel intimidated about moving their furniture around because they aren’t sure where it would look best. But here’s a secret: Even experts like Blakeney don’t know right away where everything should go. “The best thing to do is just move the furniture around,” she says. “You’ll feel almost instantly when it is in the right place, even if you can’t always articulate why it works well there.”
She recommends enlisting a friend or family member, then spending one weekend systematically moving furniture around a room. This will allow you to see how the pieces feel across the space—and it will also give you the chance to do a deep clean under the furniture. “Even if you decide that the furniture looked best exactly as it was, the whole vibe of the room could feel different to you,” she says. “But you might also discover that you love how the room feels in a different configuration.”
In her experience, many people feel most comfortable putting their furniture against walls. But letting a desk, chair, or sofa float in the middle of the room might actually feel wonderful, changing the flow of the space or how you interact with it. She also recommends paying attention to how furniture interacts with the light in the room. You might move the bed and love how the light in your bedroom feels first thing in the morning. Or you might like the afternoon shadows that play on your wall when you move your sofa across from a window.
REMEMBER YOU’RE PART OF NATURE
In the thick of the winter months, many of us spend a lot of time trapped indoors, without much sunlight. It’s depressing, and it can affect our health, Blakeney says. She believes it’s worth remembering that we’re also part of the natural world, and we should bring as much of nature indoors as we can.
Blakeney is a huge proponent of indoor plants, and often styles her clients’ houses with lush greenery. Nurturing life and watching it flourish is good for your mental health, so even if you don’t consider yourself a plant person, it’s worth trying to bring some greenery into your home. If you’re a novice, she recommends trying something low maintenance, like a ZZ plant or a pothos.
As she was researching her recent book, Jungalow: Decorate Wild, Blakeney discovered that people don’t just respond positively to real plants. They also feel happier when they see images of nature. Keep this in mind as you’re decorating, and consider buying a large print of a natural landscape like a jungle or a prairie. Or you might invest in textiles, wallpaper, or throw pillows that are full of natural imagery.