As life gets increasingly chaotic, it’s crucial to create a space for yourself that allows you to escape and decompress. While your home is the ideal place for you to unwind after a long day, you may find that your décor just doesn’t fill you with warm and fuzzy feelings when you get home.
Without an eye for design, it may be challenging to figure out exactly how to achieve that cozy feeling. Whether you’re currently suffering from a barren, impersonal living space or just want a few tips to help you warm up certain rooms, we have 10 ideas to help you spruce up your home with simple touches that won’t break the bank.
What Does It Mean For A Home To Feel Cozy?
Your most soothing experiences may have come on lazy mornings surrounded by family, idle afternoons basking in the sun or chilly evenings in front of the fire. But, determining how to design your home to reflect your coziest memories can be tricky. So how do you translate these experiences into your home design?
A cozy home is “a place that both invites and prompts you to relax and stay awhile through an unspoken dialogue with your senses,” says Wendy Gonzalez, an interior designer and owner of home boutique Modern Ornament.
She adds, “In our own homes, coziness is best achieved when it’s evoked by a combination of the different senses — what we see, feel, touch, taste and smell are all factors that evoke coziness. Whether through the warmth of natural sunlight permeating our homes during the day and the soft, artificial lighting we live by at night, to the comfort we feel through the mix of the soft textures we touch, and the intimacy sensed when we introduce elements that maintain a personable scale in a room, the way a space connects with you through the senses is really at the root of the feeling of a cozy home.”
But, turning your home into an oasis depends on more than what you add to it. If you want to be able to connect to your home in a sensory way, you must remove anything that distracts from your feelings of warmth and intimacy.
As Jake Lizarraga, writer for Interior Charm, a design and decorating blog,explains, “A cozy home feels lived in, with touches of the owner reflecting everywhere. However, a good use of space is important so that it doesn’t feel like a hoarder’s nest. Things should be functional, but with a touch of whimsy or sweetness to them.”
That means it’s time to go through all of the stuff you’ve accumulated over the years and figure out what’s most important to you.
Declutter Your Surfaces
At the end of the day, when you step through your front door, you want to be able to relax. However, you may discover that it’s difficult to untangle yourself from life’s endless series of chores because there are constant reminders of all your unfinished tasks scattered throughout your home. If you have documents piled on your desk, bills spread across your kitchen counter, or toys strewn about your living room floor, your home will never feel cozy.
“Decluttering opens up a space to make it feel bigger while also creating a clean and peaceful environment that is welcoming to others,” says Cathy Lorenz, an interior designer and owner of Cathy Lorenz Designs in New York City.
Although cleaning out and organizing your home is crucial for making it a place you and your guests will want to spend time, determining how to begin can be overwhelming. Lorenz suggests you go room by room and set deadlines to ensure that you stay on top of the work. But, once you’ve gone through your belongings, how do you ensure that the piles don’t creep back into your world?
Kathryn Nelson, interior designer and principal of Kathryn Nelson Design, believes it’s all about storage. Staying organized means “utilizing your closets, built-ins or storage furniture like bookshelves. Have storage baskets and decorative totes to hold items, decorative tabletop boxes to house remotes and don't forget under your bed for oddball or off-season storage,” she says.
Life is hectic, and cluttered homes can be a perpetual source of anxiety, which is why making your home feel inviting requires a certain level of order. If your house is organized so that surfaces are clear and every item has its own home, you’ll find that you already feel more at ease in your surroundings.
Make Spaces Reflect Your Personality
Stark interiors don’t make for cozy environments. We know a home must feel lived in order to be inviting. But, to make your home your own personal refuge, you need to ensure that the simple touches you add to your rooms reflect your individuality.
Gonzalez suggests,“When on the quest to reflect your personality through your home interior, it's good to start by considering what kinds of spaces draw your attention and help you feel like yourself. Is it the small, airy and quiet coffee house from down the street, or the more vibrant, busy restaurant with lots of patterns and colors where you take in some of your best meals?”
After you identify the environments that you find warm and inviting, try to pinpoint what it is that draws you to them. “Use the concepts and design elements found in the spaces that make you feel at home to start to give shape to what your ideal space should look like,” she suggests.
When choosing which items and colors to introduce into your home, Gonzalez believes you should put trends aside and focus on what makes you happy. The homes that feel sterile and uninviting are the ones that look like everyone else’s. So before you go into major home makeover mode, think about what you already have that reflects who you are and what makes you smile. Those items will be the building blocks you need to make your home feel cozy.
Touch Up Your Color Palette
If you’ve gone to any open houses recently, you may have noticed that stagers favor neutral, monochromatic colors. As a result, you may think that decorating your home in beige will help you give your rooms that finished look. Think again. Stagers work to neutralize and depersonalize, turning homes into blank canvases that enable potential buyers to envision how spaces can work for them. If you want your home to feel cozy, you don’t want it to feel impersonal.
“Monochromatic rooms can sometimes have a sterile feel because they are all one color or shade, which can make them lack any depth and sometimes creativity,” says Stephanie Hearn Purcell, interior designer and owner of Redesigned Classics. “To transform a space to feel cozier, I suggest adding in more color. Even if you want to stay within a certain color scheme, you can use different hues and shades of the same color.” .
Countless studies have shown that colors have a psychological effect on us. The color of a room can elicit certain emotions in us and determine our moods. So, if you want to ensure that your home doesn’t come across as drab, consider which colors make you feel cheery.
Purcell suggests choosing a warmer color palette for your walls. “Warmer colors are colors like reds, oranges and yellows – colors that remind you of things like fire and hot sunny days. They evoke a sense of warmth and make a place feel naturally cozier. Don't think you have to stick with bright reds and fiery oranges either, you can choose colors with warmer undertones like a creamy white, soft peach or reddish-brown,” she says.
Why do these warmer colors make homes more inviting? Cristina Miguelez, a remodeling specialist for Fixr, explains, “these colors contract when you view them. This makes them look closer to you, which in turn gives them a cozy feeling.”
Add Plenty Of Textures And Layers
Since coziness is primarily perceived through the senses, designers turn to texture and the layering of fabrics when they want to make a home more inviting. “Texture in a room gives the eye something to focus on by creating patterns and movement that are soothing and balanced in the space,” says Lorenz. “Most designers know that paint and lighting can only do so much; real texture comes from the combination of fabrics, rugs and accessories.”
Textures are critical for enhancing the coziness of your home because they are tactile as well as visual. As humans, we have an innate urge to explore things through our sense of touch, which is why adding variety to your rooms’ materials can help make the space more inviting.
“When searching for texture, I like to ask myself whether or not I enjoy touching the item I'm considering. If I like touching it, chances are it's got an interesting texture!” says Vivien Albrecht, creator of home décor blog Posh Pennies. “Cozy textures are going to be made up of things that are soft and plush that feel good against the skin: think chunky throws, velvets, creased linen and cushy throw pillows,” she adds.
Though, not everything in your home must be soft to be welcoming. Hard or coarse materials, like wood, brass and stone, create balance within the space. While adding a rug to a carpeted floor may, at times, achieve an interesting layered effect, it’s not nearly as pleasing as when a rug is added to wood flooring. It’s the mixing of textures here – the softness of the rug combined with the hardness of the wood – that attracts us.
“In a room, added layers of warmth help create an overall feeling of wellbeing, and the floor is no exception. If we look beyond the aesthetics of rugs, essentially, a rug's function is to insulate one's feet from a chilly floor, dampen sound and provide comfort,” explains Albrecht.
Our desire for insulation and consolation is also satisfied through layering, especially when it comes to the bedroom. The bedding you use can cause your entire bedroom to feel more or less inviting. The beds we love to snuggle up in tend to be the ones that are layered: they have sheets folded over quilts, blankets rested on the top of duvets and pillows of various shapes and sizes rested against headboards. This layering of fabrics communicates comfort and warmth to us, which is exactly what coziness is all about.
Mix And Match Different Styles
Just as combining and layering different textures makes a home feel cozy, so does mixing and matching different styles. While some people may feel a strong inclination towards a specific aesthetic, most of us are drawn to different aspects of a variety of styles. If you’re among the majority, you’ll find that the best way to make your home a reflection of your style is to mix and match.
Mixing and matching design styles is a powerful technique for making your home feel more intimate because it ensures that each room is a unique expression of your individuality. Eclectic décor can transform boring spaces into eye-candy – but only if done correctly. When mishandled, the combination of diverse styles can feel chaotic and distressing. So, how do you ensure that your design choices fill you with joy instead of anxiety?
Lorenz says, “Always start with a limited color palette when mixing design styles.” When you’re experimenting with the styles in your room, everything else within it must remain consistent.
By limiting yourself to one or two colors, you can ensure that each of the items in your room comes together to create a unified whole in spite of the aesthetic variety. If there are too many competing colors in one room, you’ll find that those interesting pieces stand out in a way that makes the space feel busy and disjointed.
Your goal is to create cohesion in your rooms. So if you’re experimenting with styles, everything else (be it color, pattern, shape or texture) within the room must remain consistent. This consistency creates balance. If you begin with a cohesive space and incorporate different styles into the accents of the room, you’ll find it far easier to bring the room together and make those eclectic pieces really pop.
Tweak Your Lighting
Ever notice how much happier and more active people seem to be in the sunshine? It’s no coincidence. Light is a large determinant of your mood and energy level, which is why the light you include in your home matters.
The type of lightbulbs you use to brighten your rooms is just as important as where you put them. Think about the lighting you find in commercial buildings, hospitals and classrooms. These sterile environments use fluorescent lights that emit a cold, blue-tinged light that’s not only depressing but unflattering.
The goal for your lighting should be to make you feel as happy (and attractive) in your home as you do in natural sunlight. So what should you use instead?
“Though this may seem obvious to some, it's really important to ensure your lightbulbs are of a warm color temperature,” says Albrecht. “Warmer orange- or yellow-hued lights will create a much cozier atmosphere rather than cool or neon lights. This is because we subconsciously associate warm lights with things like candlelight and more intimate environments.”
Good lighting is functional, but it’s also a significant way to make your home more visually appealing. Varied sources of light cause your eye to travel around the room, making the space feel more intimate.
Terra Link, designer and co-founder of The Savvy Heart, an interior design studio that focuses on design, décor and DIY, says, “Having different levels of light is key. You should have bright, overhead light for everyday tasks, but then layer in a couple of table and floor lamps to create mood lighting. If you want to go a step further, you can add lights above large picture frames and light some candles. It’s all about having options.”
Fill Your Walls With Smiling Faces
Many designers use artwork as a way to bring a room together; however, original work can come with hefty price tags. Posters are a cheaper option, but they often leave spaces feeling stale and impersonal.Since our coziest memories tend to occur in the places we enjoy, surrounded by the people we love, paying tribute to these memories is a fantastic way to fill the blank walls in your home (while also keeping an eye on your budget).
Emily Dubin, creative director for Artifact Uprising, an online provider of custom goods for digital photos, says, “When the everyday becomes routine, it’s important to have imagery in your home that transports you to those wanderlust moments and faces that bring you joy. Displaying photos of your travels or time spent with family or loved ones allows you to relive those experiences in a tangible way.”
As wonderful as this idea may seem, a quick scroll through the photos on your smartphone may have you bursting with anxiety. How do you choose the photos that will not only add a personal touch to your home but also be worthy of display?
Dubin explains that the photos you pick should be conversation starters that encourage your guests to experience the emotions of the moments you’ve frozen in time. But, what kind of pictures actually draw people in?
“We’re often tempted to either print photos that align with that ‘perfect’ Instagram aesthetic or display those big moments (weddings, graduations, school portraits), but it’s usually the photos that celebrate life’s everyday, candid moments that bring intimacy to a space. Whether that’s your camera-out-the-window road-trip shot, a photo that captures grandpa’s raucous laughter or the kids ripping through a sprinkler on a summer day – those genuine moments come alive and make a space engaging,” says Dubin.
If a photo triggers an emotional response in you, that’s a good indication that it’s the right image to hang on your bare wall. But what if you have an empty wall that’s too large for just one photo?
“Though you may be tempted to maximize the moments you display, sometimes curating two or three photos from the same day or event on one wall can really tell a cohesive story and create visual interest,” says Dubin. That said, if you’d prefer to hang photos of different experiences on the same wall, Dubin recommends focusing on images that have a complementary color scheme. So look for photos that have the same one or two focal colors.
Work In Accessories
Coziness is tied to the familiar, which is why adding accessories that fill us with nostalgia or complement our lifestyles and routines does wonders for making our homes feel more intimate.
According to Purcell, accessories are a great way to make a home more approachable and convenient. “You want items in your home that are unique to you – this makes a home more personal and less formal,” she says. “Also, consider having items and pieces out that make life easier and more readily available for relaxing. Think a basket of blankets in the living room, drink coasters on the end tables, a bar cart stocked with your favorite drinks, extra pillows in the bedroom or easily reachable books on shelves.”
If the accessories you include encourage you to kick back and reminisce, your home will become a place that inspires happiness and enables you to recharge. So, when you leave the comfort of your home, you’ll feel energized enough to tackle any challenges you face.
Yet, Link warns, “Make sure the accessories you add match the color and style of something already in the room. If your space is modern, then your accessories should either be modern or something to complement a modern style.” While accessories are great for adding personal, unique details to your home, anything that clashes with the other elements of the room can leave your home feeling tacky and cluttered.
Bring The Outdoors In
Sometimes the best accessories are natural ones. For those of you who feel most at home in the outdoors, you know that nature stimulates our minds and bodies in a way that is often difficult to articulate. As Albrecht puts it, “Plants and flowers have a unique way of breathing life into a space.”
Rooms that include carefully placed plants and flowers tend to feel brighter and more spacious. These natural touches perk us up physically and emotionally, enhancing the air quality in our homes and adding smiles to our faces.
Adding greenery to a home may seem like an easy way to transform a barren space into an oasis, but not all of us were born with a green thumb. Even if you’re the type of person who struggles to keep mother nature alive, you can still find ways to liven up rooms with plants that are lower maintenance.
If your thumb is more brown than green, Albrecht suggests that you choose peace lilies, cacti, spider plants or money trees for your home. These plants are easy to care for and interesting to look at.
Bring Out Inviting Scents
Smell is one of the senses we use most frequently. Our sense of smell tells us when to avoid places, but it also communicates a feeling of comfort and safety when we come across an aroma we find pleasing.
Scents trigger our memories and our emotions, which is why it’s important to think about how our homes smell to us and our guests. When determining which scents to choose for your home, reflect on the environments that you find to be the coziest and the fragrances they produce. Is it smell of pine trees in the forest, wood burning in a campfire or laundry fresh out of the dryer that tickles your fancy?
Whatever the natural scent you prefer is, try to re-create it in your home, but don’t overdo it. Nelson advises: “Consider the seasons and pick appropriately. There are a lot of BAD candles and scented room products out there. I say avoid cinnamon, apple, vanilla, cherry and other overpowering scents. I suggest black fig, sandalwood, fresh rain and clean linen scents – these are subtle and fresh feeling.”
Coziness is a state of mind just as much as it’s a palpable experience, which is why each of us has a slightly different view of what it means to be cozy. So, before you start making changes to your home, decide what it means to you. Close your eyes and picture where you’ve felt the most comfortable and at ease — be it a chalet off the mountain, warm sand on a crystal clear beach, a local coffee shop with a cappuccino in hand — figure out what makes you happy and re-create that atmosphere in your home.