What is a "Soothing" Space? And How Do You Get one?

Ah. The elusive "soothing" space. We all talk about it. Usually when referencing the ideal bedroom, but sometimes another space in the house. And it is usually characterized by the color blue...maybe green...or, most likely, "neutrals." Or even white. We like our soothing spaces to be clean, uncluttered, not fussy. We don't want bold colors and we don't want it "too dark". We want to feel calm and relaxed in the space, hence the descriptor "soothing". 

Sometimes, however, in an effort to create soothing we end up with boring. We often have the tendency to strip everything out of a space that makes it interesting in an effort to make it calm. We become so entrapped by the idea that a soothing space needs to be completely unstimulating that we can easily end up with a room that causes a sense of unease...because it's not stimulating enough. How's that for ironic design? As humans we need a certain level of stimulation in our environments. We thrive off it. Some of us can handle more stimulation that others - we don't all want a home designed to Liberace standards -  but most of us would benefit by more stimulation than what we think we need when we are aiming to create a soothing space. 

So what does this all mean? Is it really possible to create a space that is both stimulating and soothing at the same time? Yes, it is. And not only is it possible, it's necessary to create a space you love. But how, exactly, do you find the balance? How do you know what works for you?

The answer is not quick and it's not easy. It takes a little work and a little trial and error. The design journey involved in creating a space that is soothing to you may at times even feel overwhelming. How do you know where to start? And how do you know when enough is enough? Or when it's not enough at all?

I'm not going to give you the all the "right" answers here.  I could tell you that you always need three decorative pillows on your bed, and that you should always have an area rug under your bed that covers approximately 2/3 of the floor. But that would be arbitrary design advice and I don't think that helps you at all.

What I do think helps is asking the right questions. So let's start there:

  • How do you define the word "soothing"?

  • Are there any other words you can use to define your ideal space?

  • What don't you want in your space and why?

  • Are there any fears coming up around decorating your space? Are you afraid it will be "too dark", "too trendy" or "too busy"?

  • What don't you like about your current space? What do you like?

  • Why is "soothing" so important to you? Are you trying to escape from anything in your life?

The last question is a big one. Maybe you aren't trying to escape anything. But maybe you are. There is a reason many of us are drawn to soothing spaces. We want a place to unwind from all the crazy. And sometimes crazy is inevitable. But sometimes our need for soothing can be indicative of what's going on in the rest of our lives. It can be a clue that something else needs to change. Just something the chew on...

Regarding the physical design of your "soothing" space, there are a few guidelines to follow:

  • Do not, under any circumstances, have anything in your space that you don't love. If you don't love it, it won't soothe you. I don't care if it was a gift or it used to belong to your grandmother. Get. It. Out.

  • Fix anything that's broken. Broken things are not soothing. They create stress because they are a reminder of just "one more thing" you have to do.

  • Bring in your favorite colors. Not the ones everyone else is using - the colors that you love. Don't worry about if they are "in" or not.

  • Keep it tidy. Not necessarily Konmari tidy, but put your stuff away and organize it. Have a place for everything.

  • Leave some of the good stuff out. Like a pile of favorite books on the coffee table. Or a coaster for your teacup. Things that make you feel good or allow you to use the space with ease.

  • Keep it clean. Duh.

  • Make room to do what makes you happy. If it's playing the guitar, make a space to sit or stand and play comfortably and room for your instrument and music. If it's reading, have a proper reading light and a comfy chair.

  • Have at least one thing in the space that makes you smile. Maybe it's a goofy figurine...of Goofy. Maybe a quirky piece of artwork. Something that doesn't take itself too seriously.

And last but not least...

  • Bring in your authentic self. When you are in the space, you will feel most soothed if it truly lives and breathes your essence. In fact, isn't this is the very definition of a soothing space? A space that is so "you" that you are one with it? And you, my friend, are a very interesting being. For you to be one with your space means that your space needs to be interesting, too.

So, go ahead. Get to work on your soothing space. You might very well end up painting it blue. And that's ok. As long as blue is a color you love.