Design For Happiness

Find your happy place with the right design, whether it's a roomful of grandma's hand-me-downs or a minimal retreat.

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Hide CaptionShow CaptionThe lesson: set up your rooms so that you have beautiful spaces to do what you love and what totally absorbs you, whether it’s a nook with good light for reading or needlepoint, a space to sit and look out the window and dream, or the perfect spot for your grand piano.
The next question to ask yourself is what do you want to do in your room? The whole ambiance thing is great, but how happy can you truly be in a living room where there’s no light for reading or a bedroom where you have to squeeze by an oversized bureau to get into bed every night, even though it belonged to your Nana? "How can you really enjoy a rectangular glass dining table if your thighs hit it every time you rush through your dining room in the morning?" asks designer Pelosi. "Many of us surround ourselves with beauty while neglecting the more important aspects of furniture placement or the energy each piece carries," she says.

In Pelosi’s own home and business, she has turned to feng shui to help create spaces that lift spirits by truly working the way they’re supposed to (see The Feng Shui Way). As she learned about furniture placement and energy she was appalled to discover that she had placed an antique mahogany end table given to her by an ex-boyfriend right next to her husband’s side of the bed. The piece, while valuable, "carried the angry and resentful energy of an old difficult relationship." It’s been replaced and now the spirit of the space is much improved.

When you get a space set up so that it functions well (see The Art of Furniture Arrangement), you’re far more likely to get into that wonderful mental place called "flow," says designer Mark McCauley, ASID. He points to a University of Chicago study on "When are people happiest?" The results, he says, confirmed that people are happiest when they’re doing something and don’t notice the passage of time," he explains, whether it’s reading, writing, playing piano. "That’s flow."

In the Shelly Riehl David bedroom above, it’s all about the lamp. While the textures in the room are really pleasing, it’s the fixture with the yellow base and the inviting glow it sheds that tells me I could get into some serious snuggling and reading "flow" right here.

Photograph by Roy Quesada.