Sometimes we find that clients are surrounded by an excess of belongings linked to painful memories or a décor style that no longer reflects who they are. My client had gone through a significant personal loss. She hired me to do an extensive remodel on her entire house. Through the process I would also eliminate what I saw to be emotional clutter throughout which needed to be cleared away and replaced with a healing environment that would allow her to reconnect with her strengths and her ability to love herself again.
Relying on my training in the therapeutic aspects of interior design along with LEED and feng shui principles, I examined the way the light and air could move better throughout the space, how I could create a floorpan that would make her feel more embraced and come up with a design that would showcase the best sides of herself…..the aspects in her life that would make her happy as a counter point to the space she was living in which had the opposite effect.
My approach for this project would be more like interior therapy. It became a wonderful example of how the visual design concept combined with the intention to trigger a deeper sense of healing during a period of transition can have a great impact on the healing process and strengthening one’s inner fortitude.
I was once asked if the way a space is set up can contribute to one’s depression or if the depression was responsible for manifesting a cluttered space. It is an important distinction. If the home was the contributing factor, then we needed to change the sensibility of the home. However, if the depression was the promoting factor, then we would know the power of our sensibilities on our environment. In other words, if depression can change a room’s dynamics, other factors can reshape it also.
On the project shown, emotional clutter can be seen in an excess of belongings that define both painful memories and a home which had no relationship to our client’s sensibility. These aspects can have a profound effect on your mental state and quality of life. This is compounded when a decor style no longer reflects who you are.
My mission was to re-design this mid century home to be beautiful while stimulating my her ability to heal and connect with a deeper sense of self. This would give her a home that was more nurturing, healthy and joyful. Using feng shui, her relationship area (part of the original kitchen eating nook) was completely missing from the home and needed to be cured. The original kitchen had an aloof, unwelcoming layout caused by walking into the sides of the cabinets with nowhere specific for the eye to land. Nothing was there to draw you in or feel inviting. The layout was just not conducive to allowing the energy to flow, creating stagnation.
I began by exploring her personal goals, life patterns, and visceral responses to color, textures, and decor styles. What I found in going through the process of interior therapy was her love of the mix of rounded edges with the clean lines of contemporary and mid century modern designs. Applying design psychology, I was aware of how the space was triggering her. When she got how the space was triggering negative memories and insecurities, she began the first steps to empowerment and healing.
We re-designed her kitchen from a fussy, constricted, outdated space into a modern, open, welcoming hub where she loves to entertain. Her master bath, incorporating natural stone and custom marble tiles, became a decadent, grounding retreat. Throughout, I opened up the floorpan to allow for better air, light and overall flow.
I relied heavily on my upbringing in Feng shui as it became the underbelly to every major design decision, including pushing out the exterior wall to remedy her missing relationship area, replacing a wall of cabinets with sliding doors to allow a flood of natural light to come through and opening up the wall over the banquette to literally enhance the flow of air as well a dynamic visual and the feeling of expansion.
Designing a healing space starts with the awareness that you are like an interior therapist, looking for ways to increase inner and outward connectivity. I immediately noticed that the floor plan was working in the opposite direction. One example of how I shifted that was placing the stove top (not seen) so that she could cook while conversing with her guests at the banquette and using the seating to draw you into the space in a welcoming way from the kitchen entrance. This gave the feeling of comfort while putting her in a position to look over her domain from the chef position. Where as a feng shui room design brings a sense of harmony and warmth to one’s space, psychology and interior design creates a more dynamic environment that fully reflects her sensibility and supports her emotional life. The painful memories were removed and replaced by strategic items and visual areas that trigger a feeling of inspiration for her on a personal level.
I can report that my client has been in a happy relationship for years since the project was completed. She has come one of my lectures to talk about her experience of going through this process which helped her get past the trauma she had gone through before we began. The transformation of her space gave her a dwelling that supports her on a deeper level. Her old environment reflected what she thought she was suppose to be when they moved into the home in the late 1950’s and over time never allowed her to grow or reflect the nuances in her personality that make her special. Once she realized how her space had been triggering her on an emotional level, it was like watching a butterfly emerge. In the end she was able to live in a sanctuary for her deepest self to thrive. I am grateful to have been a part of her journey which became so much more than a typical interior design project.