Your Happy Habitat

Author has some tips on how to decorate and furnish your home to make it just feel good.

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Think about it: How does your house make you feel? We’re not talking "proud of my granite countertops" here; instead, think about the emotions you experience when you walk through the door. Happy? Calm? Tired? Overwhelmed?

The answer to that question could also be the answer to decorating dilemmas for most homeowners, says Winifred Gallagher, author of House Thinking: A Room-by-Room Look at How We Live (HarperCollins, 2006). "For many people there’s a big gap between our obsession with home and furnishings, and the much more basic concept of thinking about what you and your family need from your house," says Gallagher. "It boils down to: ‘Is this space, this closet, this window, this patio, improving my life or not?’" In her own living room, for example, Gallagher has a group of four Morris chairs set in conversational circle. One day she pulled one of the chairs away from the social group and set it next to a sunny window in another part of the room. She spends time now using that space to read or to enjoy the view. "My living room is working for me in a way it didn’t before," she says. "I’m getting more for my money."

Often a "psychological renovation" will go much further than an expensive remodel in really affecting the way you feel about living in your home, Gallagher says. And a psychological renovation is much easier, not to mention much less expensive, than a physical one. Here, some of Gallagher’s ideas for re-thinking key rooms in your home:

The entry: This is the space that should welcome you after a hard day. "Your entry should say, ‘You’ve left the wild and woolly world behind and you’re entering a refuge,’" says Gallagher. All too often, though, we enter our homes from the garage into a laundry room, or through a back door cluttered with shoes, sports equipment and the week’s recycling. If you typically enter your house from the garage, organize the garage so you’re not walking through an obstacle course to get to the door. If your garage has a window, add a plant to the space. For any entry, even a small one, put a table against a wall with a mirror or plant, "something that says, you’re in a special place. Now things are going to look up."

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