Use Design Theory to Create a Harmonious & Happy Home

When you think about how you want your home to look and feel, what comes to mind?  Organized, functional, inspiring, stress-free? Perhaps all of the above?! As organizers, we work hard to meet these needs for our clients, which is truly satisfying. 

However, we must not forget a crucial element – creating more harmony.  

Harmony, “the quality of forming a pleasing and consistent whole” is likely not a new concept for most people, and in the context of organizing, it has the power to truly change how you, and your brain, feel about your space. 

In her fascinating book Joyful – The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things To Create Extraordinary Happiness, designer Ingrid Fetell Lee shares her findings on what makes people happier at home through their choices of objects, colours, patterns, and placement.

As a professional organizer and educator, I was struck by the stories she shares about the impact creating harmony can have on our senses, moods, wellbeing, and overall happiness. 

Often our goal is to “lighten our load”, let go of things that no longer serve us, and enjoy our space more. We have an internal sense of the order we crave, but are not always sure how to create it. We do know what disorder does to us – often bringing up feelings of powerlessness, loss of control and anxiety. 

“Harmony offers visible evidence that someone cares enough about a place to invest in it. says Fetell Lee.

In one story, Fetell Lee describes the behaviour change that occurred among inmates at a women’s prison once broken white shower tiles were replaced with brightly coloured ones. Once new tiles were in place, inmates used the showers more often and reports of “unlawful behaviour” (broken tiles) were reduced. 

According to the “Broken Windows Theory”, if something looks damaged, broken, or unkept, people won’t respect it and, in turn, may make bad decisions.  Adding a touch of colour, pattern or grouped objects, adds to a more harmonious feel, which in turn, encourages people to respond positively and make good decisions. 

Furthermore, the Gestalt principle of Similarity indicates that the brain perceives objects with similar characteristics (colour, shape, size, material) as a group, which makes it more pleasing to our senses. These brain connections make us feel more balanced, calm and grounded, rather than disorganized, overwhelmed, and frustrated. 

So, how can we create more harmony and happiness?

  1. Add potted plants to both sides of objects such as mirrors and tables
  2. Group similar objects together: photo wall displaying photos is varying frame sizes 
  3. Showcase strong repeating patterns: geometric and checkerboard 
  4. Arrange objects in a grid: candles of various sizes lined up on a mantle
  5. Coordinate colours: arrange all blue objects, textiles, and décor in one area
  6. Match hangers: use identical hangers facing the same way (easy on the eyes & brain) 
  7. Hang mobiles: look upwards to appreciate a vertical diversion
  8. Add horizontal stripes: opens up space to create structure for our brain 
  9. Colour code books: eyes move from one section to another easily
  10. Add circles: they represent motion, possibilities & joy 

If our outward space is a symbol of our inner being, incorporating more harmonious elements makes sense. Our brain processes patterns, colours and rhythms naturally, as they are easy on the eye. Easier often translates to a more relaxed, calm and happier disposition, and who doesn’t want more of that?