I was sitting down with a certain someone when they asked me where my happy place was. I was dumbfounded. Where was it? In a 1200 square foot house with 2 grown girls, 1 son and a husband, where could I possibly find any spot in my house that I could consider it my ‘happy place’. I can’t even take a bath without someone banging on the door to get in.
Surely someone might think, well what about your bedroom? That sure would seem a logical place, but between the pile of laundry in the corner, the fact that it needs to be vacuumed, the pile of magazines that haven’t been read and the burning desire you’ve had to redo that wall since the day you’ve moved in, the bedroom seems like a very unlikely happy place. Plus, there’s always the fact that you are always needed for something.
“Honey, where are my keys?”
“Hey Mom, can you watch the twins for two hours while I go get my hair done?”
“Mom, I’ve been super busy with finals this last week and I haven’t had any time to wash any of my clothes.”
So, the question is how can you bring a Zen environment to your entire living area? There are lots of books that give you rules and examples to live by. And we will go through all of them in this article. However, as I looked through the pictures of what someone considered Zen, I considered it sterile. I want a place that enveloped me in warmth. I always imagine what the inside of a Thomas Kincade house would look like and it never looked like what someone would consider Zen. In my mind it smelled of hot chocolate, burning logs on the fire, a cozy couch to lay on and good books to read. That is what feeds my soul. It is all about going with what brings you peace. You can go as large or as small as you wish. But we’ve put together a few ideas for what in the traditional sense is considered a Zen living space for your senses.
To create a Zen inspired design it starts with natural colors, in soft tones. Colors like white, grays and shades of beige or pink beige. These have the power to induce a sense of relaxation and calmness. Creating harmony between all the elements is very important, as well as creating a visual continuity between the walls, furniture, and floors. Be careful not to add an accent wall to an already small room because it will make it seem smaller.
If you want to add contour to a monochrome room, you can always choose to combine a dominant color with matching objects and textured textiles. If you want to create diversity combine matching colors or play with your favorite colors.
Fabrics need to stick to the same rule as everything else. Keep to the natural, light and comfortable range. One of the first things you’ll want to look at is your curtains. They will become one of the essential elements of your Zen décor and they will provide a sensation of intimacy while blocking air drafts and reducing noise. Spend a little extra time in this area and go for natural textiles, like wool, bunting wool, linen and make sure you match them with the rest of the room.
If you want more of an elaborate ambiance add blinds (cellular shades are great for this) that control light to obtain a different atmosphere. It is especially important to pay attention to the fixation systems because it would be awful to add an amazing blind and curtain system only to have the beauty ruined by a poor choice of curtain rods.
Remember the days where walls were filled with family pictures? Well if your goal is to have a Zen environment those pictures gotta go. There is one word to keep in mind when you are considering what to put up on those walls.
Avoid collections of paintings or photos and use only those that are especially dear to you. If you wish to have a fully harmonious and playful library you could try covering all your books in a monochrome paper.
Like we mentioned before a Zen environment involves your senses. Therefore, a homemade linen spray, beeswax or a fresh-scented soy candle and essential oils are all natural ways to enhance any room with fresh scents. These are not only calming when it is time to go to sleep, but they are also invigorating when it’s time to rise and shine.
Having a Zen environment doesn’t just apply to items at eye level. You have to think of all your senses. Looking great is only half the battle the room has to feel great too. What is the use of a great looking room if when you sit on the couch and the fabric is like sandpaper or the area rug feels like porcupine quills.
So, consider what you feel when you step into a room. Does the flooring speak to what the room is showing you? Do your feet feel what your eyes see?
Wooden flooring has become a favorite among designers and renovators over the past 20 years. It is easier to clean and is hypoallergenic. Parquet has become a favorite choice. White, grayish or any other light colored flooring really makes a room look refined. Just choose one that matches the rest of the room. If you have the money I suggest adding heated flooring but then again I live in Wisconsin so waking up in the middle of January and having a warm floor is a dream come true.
Another great choice is resin floor finishing. It is extremely comfortable and appropriate for a modern or loft atmosphere. If you decide to go with wool carpeting it will provide a real sense of comfort. However, they do require a higher level of maintenance. If you do choose to go with a carpet you can try to refine your Zen décor and reinforce the cocooning sensation of the room by associating several carpets made of wool or pure cotton. Just make sure that you are paying attention to the carpets’ color and that it matches the floor or that it stays in the range of moleskin, khaki or gray.
Next you will want to address lighting. No matter how beautifully you decorate a room if you light it will harsh fluorescent light you will ruin your entire look. If you want a fully relaxing space use nature-inspired or candle light. Place different sources of light in different areas which will allow you to control the intensity in the room. Avoid the mistake of using a strong direct light from the ceiling or consider getting a dimmer adapter. Take advantage of using all types of lighting sources, like mixing a floor lamp, indirect light, and a lamp set.
If you ever wondered what Zen furniture is you are not alone. Zen furniture is furniture that has simple and clear lines. They don’t have complicated detail and excess ornamentation. It should be made of high quality and natural materials. These bring a sense of warmth. If you have storage pieces like closets, cupboards or a chest of drawers you can bring them back to life by painting them in colors that will match the rest of the room.
Special Recommendations for Your Bedroom
Since your bedroom is usually the most important room for a Zen type environment, here are some special recommendations for bedroom furniture.
For the bed area, wall-mounted reading lights are very practical as they can be oriented to emphasize the respective area, unlike bedside lamps which are rarely flexible. If you like diffused light, you may opt for some nice (scented) candles.
Place your bed close to a source the gives off natural light.
Avoid placing it in front of the door or a passage area
Pick a bed height that you feel comfortable with but beds that are more than 21.5 inches usually emphasizes the sensation of comfort. Go for upholstered, leather or patchwork headboards.
Don’t over decorate your bed. Keep them to a minimum. Use mohair, wool or fleeced covers or throws. Go for different sized pillows with different pillowcases.
Nightstands are still O.K.!!! In fact, they are very useful and are a nice feature of the bedroom décor. But you need to be careful to choose pieces that integrate well into your design.
I have a happy place and it is right beside my bedroom window during a summer day with the windows open, overlooking our backyard, sitting in a comfortable armchair listening to the church bells. If you would like your own reading nook in your bedroom, choose a simple armchair or chaise. Pay attention to the simple lines of the furniture.
Ok, this isn’t a new one. Electronic devices are often a source of distraction and they do not fit into a Zen environment. However, how many of us really take the recommendation that we shouldn’t have a TV in the bedroom? Nah, me neither. Don’t worry I’m not going to preach to you about how you are ruining your Zen environment, because with five people in the house we regularly go hide in our room to watch ‘The Blacklist’ or other favorite show nobody else wants to see. You can still have a Zen bedroom and keep your TV. Just place it in a discrete area or hide it in a specially designed cupboard and while you are at it hide all those wires and cables. Nothing will ruin your serene atmosphere more than hanging wires.
Have you ever felt calmer walking into a nursery, floral shop or botanical garden? There is a reason why. Plants have a calming effect on people with their soothing colors and by providing oxygen. It is recommended that you avoid flowers, which need special maintenance or may put out disturbing scents. Hanging terrariums and bonsai trees are good examples of plants that are often included Zen décor. If having to many plants feels daunting then mix some real in with faux plants to give the appearance but half the maintenance.
People often say it’s the personal touches that make a house a home. However, too many accessories and “tchotchkes” can clutter and inhibit relaxation. Clear your room of as many non-essentials items as possible. But feel free to add whatever brings you extra comfort.
In the end, these are all just guidelines.
Who determines what is considered Zen anyway? It is what makes you feel at home, comfortable and relaxed then that is your Zen.
Follow your own rules and blaze your own path.
By Alisa Bashaw for the 50 Plus Report