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          Top Designers Reveal How to Create the Most Serene Home Ever

          Reducing anxiety, one room at a time.

          Nick Johnson

          If how we spend our days is how we spend our lives, then if we spend our days anxious, we'll spend our lives anxious, too. And yet, stress is a defining feature of contemporary life—this past year, 55% of Americans reported experiencing "a lot of stress" on a daily basis. Good design might not be able to intervene in a cultural existential crisis, but it can help build spaces that calm and restore us. Here, we talk with interior designers about how they create serene homes that counter the chaos of our lives.

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          1 Good Lighting is Everything
          Nick Johnson

          The value of natural light can't be overstated. A quality source of light makes a space glow and lends a sense of serenity difficult to achieve in its absence. David Mann, founder of MR Architecture + Decor, says, "I find that well-modulated, diffused northern light is a great starting point for laying out a relaxing room." In terms of artificial light, dimmers can "provide a soft light in the evening," says Matthew Caughy, a designer based in New York.

          2 Put Outdoor Views Front and Center
          Helynn Ospina

          Nature is known to have a calming effect on mood—and although we spend much of our lives indoors, exterior environments still affect our experience of being, and feeling, at home. For the project pictured above, Dawn Carlson of MAS Design found that the design didn't require much to imbue it with a sense of space. Rather, she had to step back, and avoid cluttering the home with unnecessary objects that felt designed, rather than natural to their setting: "we think it was successful because it simply paid homage to the environment surrounding it," Carlson says. "Nothing should compete with one's connection to nature in a home like this."

          3 Choose a Calming Color Palette
          Choose a Calming Color Palette

          Color helps create a mood that ties together a space. "Color may be one of the easiest tools for manipulating mood within a space," says Mann. He suggests that color can operate on mood in "obvious" ways; bright colors are energizing, while muted colors are calming. "We also use color to denote function, create a narrative, or to connect a space historically," he says. "Manipulating mood is important, but the more layered with meaning a space is, the more interesting it will be."

          4 Functional Spaces are Serene Spaces
          Suzanna Scott Photography

          One of the tenets of good design is to create a space that functions well for your client. However, as a functional design increases the ease of everyday living, it also promotes a sense of calm. As designer Regan Baker 500 Internal Server Error

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          5 Organize, Organize, Organize
          Geneviene Garuppo

          After the clutter has been cleaned out, it's time to organize. When everything has a place, we have fewer things to worry about. "When clutter is tempered, styled, organized, or decorated there becomes a flow," says says Melanie Charlton Fowler, owner of Clos-ette 500 Internal Server Error

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          6 Engage the Senses
          Michael Stavaridis

          Smell, touch, sound: all of these elements can promote calm, and are just as important as the visual design of a room. "I would argue that texture always helps to create a richer experience of a space–and I think it particularly helps create a relaxing space because it engages our sense of touch and requires our brains to slow down and engage at the scale of the fingertip," says Jennifer Bunsa, founder of Bunsa Studio in Miami. "The more you can engage the senses, the more you will impact mood."

          7 Create Unique, Designated Spaces
          Suzanna Scott Photography

          Mixed-use spaces are important, and hard to escape; however, designated spaces also make a design relaxing, whether the client requires a home office, craft space, or meditation zone. "We often talk about a work/life balance in the emotional/mental sense, but that applies to physical spaces as well," says Baker. "It’s much easier to put the stress and commitments of the work day on hold if you can close the door to your home office and join the family in the kitchen."

          8 Avoid Seeking Perfection
          Helynn Ospina

          When a space feels too designed, it isn't homey; at the same time, a "homey" space can also signify homely, or not beautiful. To find the balance between overdone and underdone, Carlson subscribes to the Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi, meaning "perfect imperfection." For the kitchen pictured above, Carlson used Himalayan water backpacks as pendant lights. "The organic, imperfect finish adds a nice history, but also a visual ease that we juxtaposed against a clean white modern countertop," she says. "Opposing strategies are balanced for just the right harmony and depth."

          9 Emphasize Spaciousness
          Eric Piasecki

          It's hard to read a cramped space as calming. Bounded spaces can create claustrophobia, while wide windows, an open-concept layout, and generous square footage seem to offer possibilities. Mann refers to this feeling of openness as a "sense of spaciousness"—each area flows into the next without inhibitions, and with common elements that tie the various rooms and areas together.

          10 Design Like a Film Director
          Matthew Williams

          With many designers and design lovers relying on Instagram for inspiration, it's easy to imagine design as a single, framed image, frozen in time and space. However, if we think of design as more of an immersive film rather than a square still life passing through our feed, it's easier to understand how various elements inspire different emotions, like peacefulness. Films are designed to inspire emotion. The color, sound, and frame associated with each image sparks a particular emotion, driving the viewer deeper into the feeling of the story the film is trying to tell.

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