Why don't we live in black boxes?

Why don’t we choose to live in black boxes? Why do care that our houses look cared for? Why do we feel calmer when its tidy? Why are we so concerned about making a house a home?

Black Room

Why do we spend money on cushions, nice mugs and lovely wallpaper? Why do we agonise between different shades of grey wall paint? Why does it all matter?

Grey or grey?

Luckily for all voracious shoppers, it's actually scientifically proven (by researchers at UCL in 2011) that looking at beautiful design can release dopamine in our brains. Lovely surroundings tangibly affect  our wellbeing. There’s a reason clever companies spend a fortune on making their offices nice places to be.

Google's Tel Aviv Office

Because our surroundings directly affect our mood. Let's zoom out a bit: standing on the edge of a slum in Mumbai makes us feel very different to sitting on a grassy hill in the sun, looking down over a beautiful valley.

Slum vs. Valley

Similarly, sitting on an itchy brown armchair in a dreary sitting room with terrible lighting and bare walls makes us feel very different to sinking into a comfy sofa, with your feet up on an upholstered ottoman, in a beautifully decorated, well-lit space, filled with good quality design:

Ugly vs Beautiful Room

It sounds obvious, but so often we make excuses as to why we don’t need things, or kick “sorting out the sitting room” down the list of priorities, because we rationalise that it’s not that important.

Of course, nobody is curing famine by creating a calm and comforting home, but in the interest of solving the simple things, if some new cushions improve our surroundings, and therefore our happiness, then let’s pick the low-hanging fruit of life’s joys.

Danish Interior

The Danes believe, almost constitutionally, that beautiful interiors make people happy. Even during deep recession in the 1920s, design was prioritised, and funding for carpentry was protected. They understand that functional, yet beautiful design is directly related to wellbeing, hence why Copenhagen, with its beautifully designed public spaces, tops the polls so often as the happiest place to bring up children.

Copenhagen's National History Museum

And beyond the simple promotion of wellbeing, there’s the metaphorical concept of home to bolster with your choice of kitchen cabinets.

Because home is home, and everything else is not-home. Not-home can be amazing – it’s travel, it’s new experiences and achievements, it’s out of your comfort zone, it’s throwing yourself from heights that used to scare you. For many of us it’s a massive part of the point of living.

But these things only come into focus if you have a home to go back to; the shoebox of your world. As a desperately homesick child, I know how sharp the boundary is between home and not-home. Therefore, my nest is everything, full of my favourite twigs, and carefully chosen soft feathers.


If you give your home the attention it needs, you both improve your wellbeing, and give yourself a fulcrum for life’s adventures. But be thoughtful about it. A bit like the much sought-after capsule wardrobe, when buying for your home, value good design, craft and quality over impulse buys.

Buy key items that you can use for years and pass down to your children. And buy things that are timeless enough that your children will actually want them. Go for natural materials like wood, leather, cotton and rattan. Finally, have plenty of plants dotted around, and throws and cushions on the sofa to please the Danes. 

Make your house a home, and your home a home full of stories. And remember at checkout that it’s scientifically proven to be good for you. Useful for all those husbands that think “we don’t need any more cushions”…

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