Happy by Design // How to create a happy home

Published this week, Happy by Design by Victoria Harrison is a beautiful and accessible guide filled with tips, tricks and fascinating research. With a wealth of information and easy-to-implement suggestions, Victoria highlights how we can all create a home that promotes both health and happiness. From the powers of the ever-popular houseplant and the importance of colour and scent, to how wishing happiness for others can actually do wonders for boosting your own happiness and mindset.

Happy by Design by Victoria Harrison, published by Aster on 7th June 2018 at £12.99 in hardback (octopusbooks.co.uk)

Tell us a little bit about yourself – what were you doing before you started on the Happy Home Programme journey?

I feel very lucky to have worked as a homes and gardens writer for the past 14 years. I’m currently the UK Editor of Houzz (www.houzz.co.uk) and an interiors columnist for the Metro. Over the years I’ve worked across many of the leading interior design magazines such as Ideal Home, House Beautiful, The English Home and Real Homes.

Your book, Happy by Design, is out this week. Tell us about the concept behind it – why did you choose this subject? How did you decide on which chapters to include?

Over the past few years I’ve become increasingly fascinated by the role our homes and gardens play in our lives and the impact they can have on our health, happiness and wellbeing. I wanted to know if our homes could make us happy and this was the question I set out to answer when writing the book. I did all my research first then found that it naturally fell into quite clear chapters, such as colour, scent, decluttering, light etc. I could have written 10 books on the topic though, there is so much amazing research being done, and I spoke to so many interesting people it was hard to know where to stop!

Victoria Harrison

How did you find the process of writing a book and how long did it take you to research? Where did this research take you?

The research was the best bit! I’m inherently nosey and I absolutely love asking people questions; I found that when you’re writing a book, most people are incredibly kind and generous with their time, so that was wonderful. My research took me from the forests of Japan to the research labs of NASA (not literally, just via the wonders of Skype and email). Pulling all the threads together, finding patterns and shaping it into a clear, practical book was the trickier part though, and that was when I did most of my head scratching.

You chat with some fascinating experts throughout – including Farrow & Ball’s International Colour Consultant, Joa Studholme and NASA scientist, Dr Bill Wolverton – what was the most interesting piece of advice you learnt?

So many! I was lucky to talk to some of the leading experts in their fields and took the opportunity to ask all the questions I wanted to know the answers to. One of my favourite discoveries was the amazing impact of wishing happiness for others. Apparently, wanting others to be happy is one of the most effective ways of boosting your own happiness. Being nice to other people is like creating an infinity circle of happiness! What a wonderful thing.

Happy by Design is filled with tips, tricks and advice on how to live our happiest lives – and how our homes can influence this – if you had to choose, what are your top three tips for creating a happy home?

  • Connect indoors and out; whether it’s maximising a beautiful view, pulling more natural light in, or filling your home with leafy house plants. Try to stay connected to the great outdoors and you’ll feel more rooted and hopefully, happier, as a result.

  • Choose colours that lift your mood and create a sense of wellness and peace, when decorating your home. Ignore trends or fads, and think instead about how a design choice makes you feel.

  • Share your home with friends and family and sprinkle small kindnesses around whenever you can; happiness shared is happiness doubled.

What was the main lesson you learnt from writing this book that you now implement in your daily life? What one change would you encourage others to make?

The power of houseplants! It’s incredible how much of a positive impact these leafy little powerhouses can have on our health and happiness levels. I’ve filled my home with them since writing the book, and they bring me happiness (and clean air) every day. 

Throughout the writing process, did you find yourself wanting to make any drastic changes to your own home?

Yes! I always do, it’s an occupational hazard of being a homes and garden writer. But I believe in testing my own advice, so I tried to implement all of the advice in my own home before recommending it to others. I’ve filled my home with plants, try to declutter as regularly as possible and have designed my rooms around the direction of natural light as it rises and falls throughout the day. My home is not perfect though; it’s a work in progress! And I was really keen to write a book that acknowledges this; we are all busy, we are all just doing the best we can, so the aim of this book was to offer small, easy tips that are fun to implement, aren’t too prescriptive, and will bring a little joy.

In Happy by Design, you speak about creating a reading nook and having somewhere cosy to relax – where is your favourite cosy corner in your home? What tips would you give for creating one?

Reading nooks are magical! Every home should have one. I’d love a window seat, but for now my favourite spot is the old but comfy armchair tucked into the corner in my living room. In the mornings, that corner is bathed in bright, fresh sunlight and with a little table pulled up close with a cup of coffee and a pile of books in easy reach it’s heaven. The key to finding your own cosy corner is just to find somewhere quiet, warm and ideally with a good source of natural light, then give yourself permission to just sit, relax and recharge, even just for 5 minutes. Blankets, cushions and slippers are all essential too!

The perfect reading nook // Bampton Armchair

You touch on the importance of simple pleasures and the joy that comes from reconnecting with these. If you had to choose, what are your simple pleasures?

Throwing open all the windows on a sunny day and listening to the whispering of the trees and the singing of the birds in the garden beyond. A vase full of bright, happy flowers on the dining table, and sunshine streaming through a window onto my favourite armchair.

‘The secret to deciding on any kind of décor for your home is just to ask yourself if you really love it – don’t worry about what others will think’ Do you find yourself following interior trends or prefer a look that is more traditional? Which current trends do you see standing the test of time?

In writing this book I’ve tried to remove myself from trends and focus instead on timeless design ideas that will help to create a soothing and nurturing home environment to look after you and your family. Having said that, I do fervently hope that the current craze for house plants will stand the test of time. They are little tiny miracles in leafy form!

In recognising the busy lives we all lead, Victoria offers a cornucopia of advice on how best to create a happy and healthy atmosphere within our homes. Filled with fascinating insight from leading experts and beautiful photography throughout, keep an eye on our Instagram page to win your very own copy of Happy by Design, or treat yourself to a copy to read over the weekend!

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