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5 Elements of a Calm Space

After a year of staying put, many of us have a new appreciation for our homes. They've proven to be sanctuaries that ground and center. Is it any wonder, then, that calm and serene have emerged as a favorite look for interiors? Here are five elements to help create a calm space.

1. Quiet Colors

The colors you choose for walls, furniture, rugs, and fabrics set the stage for a soothing space. Neutrals such as white, beige, and gray are shoo-ins, but they aren't the only options. Blues and greens are calming, especially soft shades or those found in nature—sky, water, leaves. And don't discount dark colors. They may be dramatic, but they also make a room seem like a cocoon. Too much contrast can be jarring, so use caution when putting bright white with a dark color.

2. Nods to Nature

Spending time outdoors is a proven de-stresser, so bring some of those straight-from-nature elements inside. Green up rooms with plants. Add natural textures, such as anything wood or woven. (Touchable textures, like a fluffy pillow or soft rug can also put you at ease.) To max out natural light, pull up the shades. With curtains, hang them as wide as possible so you're not covering too much glass; your windows will look bigger, too. It may seem obvious, but keep your windows clean. A sparkly clean window lets the natural light shine in, and also gives you a better view of nature. Tip: Cloudy days are best for washing windows. There's less chance of streaks caused by heat from sunlight evaporating the cleaner before you can wipe it off.

3. Serene Artwork

When calm is the goal, what you hang on walls is almost as important as the wall color itself. A large piece of art—such as a landscape painting or an abstract where the colors blend into one another—can be a Zen focal point or take you away to your happy place. If seeing family relaxes you, a gallery wall of photos may be the way to go. Black-and-white prints look artsy, and also ensure the grouping isn't a riot of color. For the calmest look, keep matting and frames all the same color.

4. Filled Out, Not Cluttered

Clutter is as much mental as it is visual. Having too much stuff makes a room crowded and your mind feel overloaded. That's not to say you need to be a minimalist. Just find your comfort level. Give a room a quick assessment. Are there areas that make your eyes stop—in a bad way? Try removing a few items. Bookcases, which can often be overloaded, are a good starting point. Give displayed items some breathing room, and they'll become more impactful. Stack books to use as pedestals to elevate small items. Baskets are good filler, and also handy for tossing toys, remotes, and other items in them. To keep the calm vibe going, get in the habit of taking something out whenever you bring in something new.

5. Inviting Ambience

Move beyond what you see to what you feel—and even what you smell. Add a plant or two and, on nice days, open the windows to let in fresh air and hear the birds chirp. Set, or change, the mood with lighting. Dimmer switches allow you to easily create a cozy mood. The soft glow of candles has a similar effect. And remember to put down—or put away—the tech. Having laptops, cell phones, and other devices in constant view is a reminder of work that needs to be done or emails waiting for answers.

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