How to Make Your Home a Soothing Sanctuary

Give your home some love this Valentine’s Day (and beyond), and it will love you back.

Your home may never be a castle, but it can definitely be a haven — your own private refuge (at least after the kids are asleep) from the mayhem outside.

Creating a stress-free and soothing home environment can mean hiring a contractor to install serious soundproofing or a spa-worthy steam shower — pricey upgrades that are likely to add property value. But just as often, it’s about simple things you can do without laying out a cent.

Start by remembering to take advantage of features your home already has, suggests Gretchen Rubin, author of Happier at Home.

“Take time to light a fire in the fireplace, have coffee on the patio, take a bath,” says Rubin.

Ready to boost your home’s relaxation quotient? Here are some easy ways to do it:

Clear the Decks

One of Rubin’s “secrets of adulthood” is that outer order contributes to inner calm. She advises clearing open surfaces of extraneous stuff, cleaning out closets, and generally straightening up. “These may seem trivial,” says Rubin, “but this kind of orderliness really helps people feel more energetic and cheerful.”

Go on a TV Diet

Here’s a radical notion: Take the TV out of the main living space. There’s nothing tranquility-inducing about blaring commercials or the evening news. Consider eliminating all but one TV for the household. Put it out of the way, where flicking it on won’t be an automatic gesture, and feel your home’s peace vibe rise.

Listen to Music

Music soothes you. Of course, it depends on the music. Find a commercial-free radio station you like and keep it at low volume. You’ll be surprised at how the strains of cool jazz and classical music in the background soothe jangled nerves. A whole-house sound system costs as little as $400 for a wireless unit.

Muffle Irritating Noises

If you’re serious about blocking out noise — such as traffic noise — you can soundproof walls and ceilings by doubling up on drywall and caulking gaps where sound enters.

Carpets, drapes, and other soft materials help absorb sound. For walls, a quick, cheap, sound-muffling solution is Homasote, a recycled cardboard material that costs about $25 for a 4-by-8-ft. sheet. It doubles as a pinboard, making it especially suited for children’s rooms and home offices, and takes paint like a dream.

Soak Out the Stress

A prefab steam shower can run you $5,000 or more, but there are less pricey ways to take your bathroom in a spa-like direction. Hot baths have been used for frayed nerves and sore muscles since Cleopatra’s day. If your existing tub isn’t deep enough, a 30-inch-deep soaking tub starts at around $500 (plus installation, of course). Don’t forget the bath salts.

Color Yourself Calm

Blue is considered a restful paint color, which is why decorators often choose it for bedrooms. Followers of the Chinese art of feng shui believe pink calms a room, while green — because it symbolizes nature — is serene and refreshing. As luck would have it, emerald is the color for 2013.

Light it Right

Overhead lighting can be glary and unflattering, whereas light at lower levels creates warmth and intimacy. Balance an overhead fixture with wall sconces and table lamps — and be sure to put that ceiling fixture on a dimmer, especially over a dining table.

Flickering Flames

Sitting by a crackling fire has nurtured souls from time immemorial. If you’re lucky enough to have a fireplace, use it to create relaxing ambience.

No fireplace? Make the most of candlelight for a mid-winter mood boost. Plain, long-burning candles from the supermarket are so inexpensive ($7 for a box of 72), you’ll feel free to use them in abundance.

Flower Power

Freshly cut flowers provide measurable uplift, a new behavioral research study shows.

“People who live with flowers report fewer episodes of anxiety and depressed feeings,” says Nancy Etcoff, Ph.D., a psychologist who conducted the study.

Chrysanthemums last longest; they can go up to three weeks in a vase, with alstroemeria, roses, and lilies a close second.


By: Cara Greenberg


Published: February 4, 2013