30 July 2010

a home that energizes or a home that soothes?

Apartment Therapy recently ran this great piece, adapted from Maxwell's book, about "warm people," and "cool people," and what their homes say about them.

Image from BHG

Maxwell's basic thesis is: warm people care a lot about their homes, tend to have too much stuff because they love stuff, and are social by nature (home bloggers, he's talking about us); cool people have more spartan homes, aren't as attached to stuff and thus don't have as much of it, and are less social. And his whole thesis is that warm people should focus on weeding things out while cool people should focus on allowing things in ("planting"). In general, I totally buy this idea.

(Note: this isn't about warm or cool colors necessarily. More like warm and cool attitudes.)

But I think there's another way to think about what your home says about you and also, more importantly, what it does for you: Do you want a home that energizes you, or a home that soothes and relaxes you?

I think if you answer that question honestly, it's much easier to design the home that's right for you. But turning that answer into the home of your dreams is about more than just color palette and contents.

Take all of these rooms, for example (from Room Remix blog)...

They're all done in pretty neutral color palettes, which should read as "soothing," right? But the effect in each is actually more energizing. Why is that? Answer: the letters, numbers and words.

My theory: Letters, numbers, words, maps, etc. are all stimulating to the mind, and are therefore energizing. Spaces without any of those allow the brain to avoid thinking (within reason, of course), and are therefore more relaxing. You can have a totally relaxing home done in warm colors, or a chaotic, energizing home done in cool colors. It's all about the other mental stimuli.

Any guess what our home is designed to do for us???

(UPDATE: You can see our latest home pictures, including some more vibrant colors, here.)

I recently had a bunch of vintage-style travel posters framed, with the intention of hanging them in the bedroom, but with this new realization, I'm thinking that perhaps they belong elsewhere in the house, and not in our uber-comfy, super-soothing bedroom.

Some of the framed prints

The inspiration, from Apartment Therapy and BHG

So as far as the bedroom goes, it may be back to the drawing board. But at least I know that I won't accidentally spoil our peaceful sanctuary.

What about you? Do you prefer your rooms to wake you up or settle you down? Or do you prefer a mix throughout your home?

Better yet, think my theory is total hogwash? Do share! 


  1. Interesting way of dividing people; I'm definitely warm in caring deeply about my home, but am not especially social.
    Generally, I think I look to my home to soothe me, although I am drawn to very bright colors for accessories...

  2. I bet that lots of people would fall into your camp, Struggler, and prefer a soothing home with warm colors. I think I forgot to say this part in the post, but the correlation is not meant to be about warm and cool COLORS, more attitudes.

    By their definition, I'm a "warm" person who prefers cool colors. By my definition, I'm a soothing home person, rather than an energizing home person.

  3. Hi Tanja,

    Saw your comment on AT and I think you ask a really interesting question! I personally have a warm personality, but I am designing my new space to offer energizing zones (kitchen; living room / dining room) and relaxing zones (bedroom; bathroom). Accordingly the colors and "density of stuff" vary depending on the goal of each space.

    Speaking of which - I am looking at the glass table of yours from CB2 - it's something I am considering for my dining area. Does anyone ever bump their knees on the glass support? I have long legs and I am worried about bruises :)

    Re: words and numbers - I think it's a function of visual noise that is symbol agnostic. If you have any collection of pattern in the size of numbers and letters, it will visually jar. However, you may be on to something that this effect is amplified when it's coming our brain can actually process (such as a word).

    That said, all of that pales in comparison with a large TV blaring or using a laptop after, say, 9 p.m. I fear most of our fellow Americans have bigger problems to solve when it comes to creating a soothing space than simply eliminating words =)

  4. Welcome Anittah! Such a great point about TV, laptop and other technology being the real source of cacophony and clutter in our lives. If only Mark would let me hide the TV away entirely, as I would prefer to do... alas, marriage requires compromise!

    The CB2 Silverado table has never given us any trouble (or bruises). You have total control over where you place the supports, so you can adjust them to stay out of your way. Or you can get a round table top and flip them around to make a round table. I love the potential for future versatility. My only complaint is that dust gets on the metal under the glass, and then it's virtually impossible to remove. But that's life, I suppose.


  5. Love it on all counts -- thanks Tanja!!


Thanks for taking a moment to leave a note! I would love if you would leave your email address so I can write you back! But no pressure. :-) (No anonymous posts, please.) xoxo, tanja

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