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How interior-design experts bring self-care home

Sophie Ashby’s book-filled home

As the place we now spend most of our time, how do we weave self-care into the fabric of our homes? From the room that you should upgrade first to the small changes that make the biggest differences, these are the ways to give your space a self-care update. By KATIE BERRINGTON


First, establish what makes you feel relaxed

“In order to create a home that caters to your wellbeing, it’s important to consider how you like to relax,” says Sophie Ashby, founder of London-based interior-design company Studio Ashby. “Is it by cooking, taking a long bath, reading on the sofa or entertaining friends? Once you’ve established that, design your space around it.” For Ashby, a key element within her home is “to be surrounded by lots of beautiful books so I can deep-dive into another world to help disconnect and engage my imagination in a way other than with work.”

It’s unlikely that the entirety of your home can be taken over by your relaxing pursuits, but all you really need is one dedicated place. “Carve out a relaxation spot,” suggests Courtney McLeod of New York design studio Right Meets Left. “For me, it’s a comfy chair where I like to curl up with a book and a glass of wine. I never work or do anything stressful in that spot… It can be anywhere in your home – perhaps baking relaxes you, so it’s a spot in the kitchen with all your supplies and recipe books; or it’s the place where you love to knit and listen to music.”

Sophie Ashby recommends upgrading small details to improve your space – for example, by always keeping fresh flowers around

Consider the small touches

It’s easy to assume that a total overhaul is necessary to elevate the level of tranquillity in your home, but there are plenty of quick ways to make a difference. “As you’d expect, my state of mind is quite dramatically affected by my surroundings,” shares Ashby. “I’ve found that certain things – little changes to upgrade the ordinary – are important to me: treating myself to fresh, seasonal flowers on the kitchen table, enjoying but also taking care of lots of plants, sleeping in crisp linens and making sure my daily rituals, like the morning cup of coffee, are done right.”

She suggests that a really simple solution is to replace bedsheets with white, high-thread-count ones for an “instantly rejuvenating” update. For those with the time, resources and inclination, Ashby advises “making all lighting dimmable; this changes the mood of a space and can create a more relaxing and inviting home”.

Focus on adding joy

“My goal as an interior designer is to create spaces that convey one emotion above all others: joy,” says McLeod. “There is an inherent aspect of self-care with living in a space that is beautifully designed, unique to one’s interests and that feels warm and inviting.”

Carter thinks the best way to do this is to “bring in the things that make you feel at ease, at peace and, above all, full of life”, while Ashby concurs: “Anything that makes you smile is a good idea.”

Stay true to your style

The only trend you should consider when designing your home? Fully customizing the interiors to your taste. “Avoid trying to fit into a lifestyle or aesthetic that isn’t authentic to you,” says McLeod. Instead, put as much of your personality into the space as possible. For McLeod, this takes the form of a vibrantly hued apartment, with shades of orange, pink, green and red woven throughout. “It is riotous and fun, chic and personal – it makes me happy every time I enter it.”

Minimize mess and elevate your storage

“The main thing I avoid, because I find it stressful, is mess and clutter,” says Ashby. “I am a big advocate of not wasting space by housing superfluous things I don’t really need. I am not a minimalist, but I do only keep things that have significant meaning for me. Clever storage solutions are also vital to keeping the house and myself feeling harmonious.”

Courtney McLeod’s colorful interiors aim to inspire joy
Hilton Carter describes his leafy approach to interior styling as embodying “full-on jungle tranquillity”

Bring the outside in

Plants always make a positive addition to your space, “not just because the vibrant greenery and inherent ‘aliveness’ make you in turn feel alive, but because they give you that all-important connection to nature,” Ashby believes. “At any given moment I can tell you how many leaves there are on my rubber plant. I’ve had it for six years and it’s a simple pleasure to water it, dust it, take care of it and watch it grow.”

Hilton Carter – plant and interior stylist, and author of Wild at Home – is a talented “creator of green interiors”. “My aesthetic is full-on jungle tranquillity,” he says. “I have green life wherever there is light, and wherever there is green life is where you can find me.” However, it is important to ensure that this doesn’t end up feeling like an extra chore. “The only thing to avoid in my case is bringing in too many plants and [therefore] making it hard for yourself to care for them. The joys of having plants in the home could quickly turn into the stresses of having plants,” he says.

Begin in the bedroom

It may not be the room you spend the majority of your waking hours in, but the place you lay your head is the space that the designers believe holds the most restorative potential. Carter has created a space in his bedroom that is covered in plants, “to make me feel as if I’m out in the wild, camping. Being at one with nature while you’re sleeping is complete peace.”

Ashby says she finds her bedroom very calming, which is “the most important thing a bedroom can be”, because she’s filled it “with all my favorite things, special trinkets, sentimental things from my mother and pieces that take me back to a memory or moment in time.”