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Make your home more bearable with these 5 tips from interior design maven Kelly Wearstler

We’re going to be homebound for months; better make your space as cozy as possible.

Make your home more bearable with these 5 tips from interior design maven Kelly Wearstler
[Photo: courtesy Kelly Wearstler]

This spring, the concept of home is going to take on a new meaning. Experts say we’re likely to be confined to our homes for at least a few months in order to curb the spread of the coronavirus. For many of us, this reality is just beginning to sink in. We’re not going out to restaurants and bars, so our eating and drinking will be happening in the kitchen and living room. Many of us aren’t going to work, so our desks and dining tables have become our offices.

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At first blush, you might worry it’s only a matter of time before you go stir crazy. But in the face of uncertainty, I propose that we take this time to beautify our living spaces and take pleasure in the comforts of home.

[Photo: courtesy Kelly Wearstler]

It’s probably worth investing some time to reorganize and redecorate in order to make the next few months as manageable as possible. And Kelly Wearstler—an award-winning decorator, product designer, and owner of a 50-person studio—is here to help.

Over the course of her decade-long career, Wearstler has worked on many kinds of spaces, from offices designed to enhance workers’ productivity to tiny hotel rooms that maximize space. She has a lot of ideas for how to make small changes that make your home more joyful and cozy. And the good news is that most of them are either free or inexpensive. “Good design has the ability to make somebody happier,” she says. “It can elevate everyday experience and also make you feel more efficient, because you feel more energized and organized.”

Here are some of her ideas to spruce up your home now and enjoy the benefits long after this crisis is over.

[Photo: courtesy Kelly Wearstler]

Move your furniture

Your furniture may not be optimized for long periods of time indoors, so now is a good time to think about moving it around. Even if you’re taking walks during the day, you can still feel cooped up at home since you’re not spending as much time in other public spaces such as the office, or coffee shops, or restaurants. One tip Wearstler has is to move sofas and other seating so they face the window. This will allow you to get as much sunlight as possible throughout the day and feel like you’re part of the world beyond your home. (It’s also nice to open the window to get some fresh air.)

It could also be a good time to think about the function of each piece of furniture in the house. If you notice an armchair in the living room that doesn’t get much use, you might think about putting it in the bedroom, so you can create a quiet corner to read before bed. If you’ve found that you don’t often use a lamp on your dresser table, perhaps you can use it to add extra light to the dining room, where you’re spending more time together as a family.

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[Photo: courtesy Kelly Wearstler]

Paint, then repaint

Painting your walls is a cheap way to transform your space, Wearstler says. You don’t need any particular skills to do it and it can be a fun, meditative activity during this stressful time. You can order paint and supplies online. “You’re never permanently committed to a paint color,” Wearstler says. “You can always just paint it back later.”

Wearstler recommends bright, uplifting colors to help improve your mood. But don’t limit yourself to yellows and oranges. Pick whatever will make you happiest. If you love pink, choose a shade that brings you joy. If you prefer gray or other industrial hues, go for those colors. The point is to create a space that you feel comfortable and calm in. “You don’t have to paint all the walls the same color,” she says. “You can colorblock, or create an accent wall that’s different from the other walls.”

[Photo: courtesy Kelly Wearstler]

Create multiple workspaces

When you’re working from home, don’t feel compelled to stay in one spot. If you’re lucky enough to have a dedicated desk or office at home, certainly spend some time making it as comfortable and organized as possible, since this will likely be your home base for the foreseeable future. But also, feel free to roam around the house. Work from the dining table one day, the living room the next. If you have a porch, balcony, or garden, consider setting up a table, armchair, or even a picnic blanket so you can work outside once in a while. The point is to give yourself some variety.

[Photo: courtesy Kelly Wearstler]

Rethink small spaces

If you live in an apartment or a small house, it might be worth rethinking how you use your square footage to give yourself as much open space as possible. “Space is the biggest luxury,” she says. “But you can create space, or the illusion of space, by moving things around.”

If there are pieces of furniture or household items that you don’t use and are taking up space, think about moving them out of the way. You could store them in an attic or garage, or put under your bed or in your closet. The same goes for items on countertops and tables—try to clear unnecessary stuff off so you feel like there’s more empty space.

[Photo: courtesy Kelly Wearstler]

And regardless of how big your home is, it’s always worth devoting some time to organization. Spending a few hours tidying up your desk, drawers, or cabinets can make you feel in control of your situation and more energized. And while it makes sense to throw out items that you haven’t used in a long time, consider how you might be able to reuse or repurpose items that you’ve neglected. If you’re home with a child, old notebooks or colorful papers could be the start of a craft project. If you haven’t used your spiralizer in a while, now might be a good time to rekindle your love of long strings of vegetables.

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[Photo: courtesy Kelly Wearstler]

Buy some art

If your budget allows, consider investing in a beautiful new piece of art, whether that’s a painting or a colorful rug. In this time of anxiety, think about investing in art that is soothing and that brings you joy, but that you will also be able to enjoy long after this crisis is over and life returns to normalcy.

As a recession looms ahead, artisans and artists are likely to suffer financially, so if you’re planning to buy something new, think about supporting independent creators and small galleries. Wearstler loves online sites like First Dibs, Chairish, and Site Unseen. “Many smaller artists don’t have galleries or shopfronts,” says Wearstler. “We need to support them right now.”

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About the author

Elizabeth Segran, Ph.D., is a staff writer at Fast Company. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts

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