Recap: Colorful + Chic Harlem Digs

Hey Folks! How have you been? I'm still juggling my day job with my business and hoping to cross over soon to full-time business (*fingers crossed*, *hands clasped*). I've also been busy creating an undergraduate class, The Social Psychology of Clothing, and am excited about the prospects of teaching it. Hopefully, more on that soon. But today, I wanted to feed your senses with some serious home eye candy. Last month, I had the opportunity to tour the home of interior decorator, Minetta Archer, for Houzz. Minetta has a way of mixing color, patterns, and texture in such a wonderfully refreshing way. I don't doubt that she is on her way to becoming a powerhouse in the world of colorful interiors.

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And her home is not the only thing that stood out during the tour. Her colorful outfit was a perfect complement to her home, and it made me think about how our wardrobes and interiors can really enhance the other. Minetta's outfit is classic bohemian chic with a fabulous yellow top and ethnic patterned head-wrap. I couldn't help but notice that she looks exactly like where she lives. If I just saw her on the street, I'd imagine she was going home to an global chic decor with lots of color and texture, just like her outfit.

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I've been really interested in ways to use interiors and clothes as a catalyst to the life you desire, and I see such great benefits in using your clothes and home to positively reinforce the other. I mean, shouldn't we look like where we live? Shouldn't our home look like us? At it's best, both our home and wardrobe provide us with opportunities to express our creative selves and reveal a lot about our emotional lives.

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So if your home was exactly the way you wanted it to be, what would your wardrobe look like as an extension of that aesthetic? I love classic furniture pieces mixed with the unexpected and pops of color; and that is how I'd describe my wardrobe as well. But if you haven't thought much about this, it may be good to consider, particularly if you think your home is doing way better than your wardrobe, or vice versa. You can look for clues in your home to build the wardrobe you want. If you like color, neutrals, and/or pastels in your home, you may like those colors for your clothes too.

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And the reverse is also true. If you have a fanciful or a modern wardrobe, maybe you'd like a similar aesthetic for your interior. In essence, use the confidence you have in one to build confidence in the other. Agree? Let me know what you think in the comments below.

See the full tour here.



Newsworthy: Teaching Design Psychology on Skillshare

Hey Guys! I want to share some important news with you-- I am now officially a teacher on Skillshare! It's been a really long process to get to this point, as I have been trying to put together a Skillshare class since forever. What held me back the most is the technology. Filming and editing is definitely not as easy as they make it look, but now that I got my first class out, I'm looking forward to it getting a bit easier. For my debut class, I'm teaching on how to use design psychology to create a coherent mood for your bedroom. The mood of the room is so important because it sets the tone for the rest of the design process. Check out my class and let me know what you think. I'd also like to know what other topics you'd be interested in learning about.

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Four Good Reasons to Organize Your Space Now

What better time to spruce up your space than the spring? With all its new blooms and airy freshness, it’s hard not to catch the wave of inspiration, especially with all the cool organizing gadgets out there. Still, just because we want to organize our stuff or even need to, doesn’t mean we do it.

While the idea of spring cleaning sounds lovely, sifting through months or even years of clutter can be a challenge. Oftentimes the stress of a busy life causes us to live in a state of disorganization longer than we’d like to be. I know I've let things pile up during stressful periods with no effective organizing system in place.

Some of us bounce back relatively quickly, and can put together a nicely, organized space showing no trace of the disaster that was there only a day before. Others have a harder time, and disorganization may be reflective of deeper, emotional conflicts that create a feeling of being stuck both inside and out. Since organizing is as much an emotional activity as a physical one, the process of decluttering, throwing away, and organizing can be an important initial step in alleviating emotional distress. So whether it’s pretty easy to get organized once you put your mind to it, or you need more of a push to make it happen, here are 4 good reasons to get yourself in gear and start organizing now.

1. Clutter is Disrupting Your Life.

The Problem: Each morning you raid through every nook and cranny of your home trying to find the keys you last dumped…somewhere. They’re never in the same place twice and can usually be found amidst other stuff you’ll soon be searching for. Maybe you turn over every bin in your home office looking for the stapler or other supplies you were just using five minutes ago. How about your closet has, shall we say, “expanded” to other parts of the room, and now you choose your outfits from a pile on the floor where your shoes should be. Your disorganization is becoming less tolerable each day— it’s affecting your daily routine, makes you feel lousy about your space, and intensifies every other negative feeling you have.

The Why: When you’re disorganized in one area of life, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll find that level of disorganization elsewhere. Be aware of patterns in your life. The clutter may mirror the chaos you’ve been experiencing in your career, relationships, or other significant area.

The Fix: Once you recognize those areas that are just as topsy-turvy as your things, begin to deal by creating an organized, functional space that is more reflective of the way you’d like to approach life. As much as clutter can negatively affect how we proceed through the day, an organized space can have a similar, opposite effect giving us a positive, renewed outlook and more clarity to tackle other challenges.

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2. You're Tired of Dreaming About It:

The Problem: You want the dream life, the dream job, and of course, the dream home. Maybe you’ve fantasized over well kempt homes you see on blogs or in mags, or you’ve visualized down to the last detail how you'd organize our home. You have a habit of buying organizing accessories that up until now have only collected dust, adding to the clutter.

The Why: While dreams can certainly propel us to action, the relationship between dreams and action is complicated. Studies show positive fantasies can actually hinder people from taking action. This is because dreaming relaxes us, making it more difficult to feel the need to do something. It’s kind of like we substitute the fantasy for the doing, and the good vibes we get from it makes us less attuned to cues that might otherwise help us interpret our situation in a more realistic way. So if you spend your time dreaming about a well laid out closet, you may be missing out on real-life opportunities that could help you get the closet you want.

The Fix:When dreams are combined with a realistic assessment of our situation, we are more likely to turn them into action. Think about the resources you don’t or do have to get organized. (Maybe you have limited storage and feel overwhelmed, but have a very organized friend who can help.) Then make a plan of action to deal with what is standing in the way of you and organizing. This way your fantasy can be grounded in reality; and when you resolve to make the sacrifice (whatever that may be for you) needed to take action, you are in a better position to see your organized space take shape.  

3. You’re Ready for a More Fulfilling Life.

The Problem: Disorganization is negatively affecting other areas of your life, and you’re not living life as fully as you’d like to. You have a cluttered space that is confining and prevents you from expanding, and this may signal difficulties with expanding and growing in other areas.   

The Why: Many times we’re stuck in a clutter rut with a lack of clarity on what our clutter means about us. It can mean different things for different people. Maybe it symbolizes remnants of your past you’re committed to holding on to. Or maybe you buy a bunch of stuff that reflects the life you plan on living but haven’t gotten to yet. Sometimes clutter is adaptive such as when you’ve experienced a significant loss or trauma and can’t focus on organizing anything at the moment because you’re just trying to survive. But if your disorganization has long outlasted the event and you can’t seem to take action, avoidance can make it worse.

The Fix: Get clear on what your clutter means for you and address it. If your stuff is a reminder of people or things you don’t want to forget, think of other ways you can keep memories alive like limiting keepsakes to one box (it may be a very large box, but it’s one box), or transferring photographs to the computer. If  you’ve bought tons of stuff for the life you’ll have someday, say business exec, identify what changes you need to make in your life to achieve that lifestyle. Then use the stuff you have to support the change, like a display shelf with self-help books to help bring out your inner bossdom. Although you may still feel not quite like yourself, cleaning up after you’ve been dealing with a significant loss is a good sign you are adjusting to your new normal. The more stuff you clear out and organize, the more room you make for new and rewarding things both physically and emotionally.  

4. You Want to See That More Fulfilling Life by the End of the Year.

The Problem: If you promised yourself that you were going to organize your home this year, and you haven’t started yet, chances are it’s not happening any time soon. Most of us have gone through a major life transition that makes it difficult to focus on organizing. And before we realize it, we’re six months in with no sign that this cycle of “meaning to” is coming to an end.

The Why: The condition of your space is a pretty accurate indicator of how you think and feel,. When you keep pushing off organizing, you become more comfortable with the discomfort of the clutter, and the life you are looking for continues to feel out of reach. If you take the time to organize it even though you don’t feel like it, it sends a message that you are working through those things that are holding you back. Usually just deciding to do it is all it takes to get your wheels turning in the right direction. It’s much like working-out-- you may not want to but you always feel better afterward.

The Fix: If you think of your space as a catalyst to the life shift you envision, you can begin to see it differently and get the much needed boost to work on it now. Maybe you want to start a home business but haven’t started working towards it, still organize a workspace to help you run one efficiently. It doesn’t matter if nothing much in your life says business owner right now. It will. If you want to be more social this year but haven’t had time to reach out, create a sitting area to entertain friends even with no specific plans to entertain in the near future. You might have plans sooner than you think after exerting the effort of putting together a little gathering space. There’s something about behaving as if things are the way you want them (even if they aren’t yet) that puts things in motion. You don’t have to wait to make these first small steps. If you feel you need some help to start, considering hiring someone like a professional organizer, an interior stylist or designer, or even a design psychologist who can help you create a space that promotes the growth and change you are seeking.


Using Psychology to Decorate Infant Spaces

Hey all! This week I'd thought I would talk about some of the key elements to consider when putting together an infant room. If you've read my posts, you know I am in the process of decorating my new home with a number of rooms left to complete. And since my new baby, I've been thinking a lot about how to design a space that facilitates an infant's early development. As a psychologist I've taught child development, and know all about attachment and the psychobiology of emotion. But I've only recently considered applying it to infant design. Infants thrive with familiarity and secure base from which to explore their world. When they feel comfortable and safe, it frees them up to learn and develop. So it's important to design a space that promotes optimal development by ensuring that it is most comfortable and cozy for growing babies. With that said, babies learn and develop when their senses are stimulated like with a mobile or rattle. They also respond positively to certain amounts of novelty and surprise like rotating or changing pictures or quilts. This creates interest and varied experiences that facilitate neuronal connections in the brain necessary for development and enhanced problem-solving. Ideally, we want children to be in an environment that allows their great qualities and characteristics to be realized.

And let's not forget catering to mom or as we say in psych, the "primary caretaker." A study conducted by the design psychologist, Susan Painter, showed that the best predictor of how securely attached a mother is to her baby is her estimate of her competence as a caregiver. In order to promote a sense of competence in mom, the nursery should make her feel capable, confident, and secure.  So a nursery that is efficient and organized goes a long way in supporting mom which in turn, benefits baby. Like they say, happy mama, happy baby! Here are some pieces that I've collated with child development in mind. infant-spaces Of course, there are many more items that would fit into these categories. If you come across them, feel free to share them here. I'm always on the look out for cool nursery furniture or toys.

1. Sheepskin rug via Serena & Lily 2. Lilbow Pillow Doll via Roxymarj 3. Harper Rug via Pottery Barn Kids 4.Golden Pineapple Swaddle via Littlewoof 5. Musical Rabbit Angel Playmat via Smallable 6. Felt Camera Baby Rattle via Emy and Annie 7. Wool Felt Nursery Mobile via Dundryhill 8. Woodland Silhouettes via Brimful 9. Coral Jubilee Wallpaper via Spoonflower 10. Interactive Weather Map via Four Monkeys 11. Lake Glider via Serena & Lily 12. Pink Herringbone Hamper via Land of Nod 13. Vintage Pink Wall Tidy Pouch via Smallable

Creating Healing Spaces

Some months back I participated in an online workshop Healing by Design Psychology, with environmental psychologist, Toby Israel. If you don't know what design psychology is, you can read all about it here. But in a nut shell, it's a discipline that combines interior design with psychology to help people create spaces that they connect with on an emotional level.  I love the cross-pollination of design and psychology (so much that I created a blog about it!), and as someone who has worked in a hospital setting, I see how useful design is to help create what Toby refers to as "spaces that sustain, inspire, and help us heal." window viewNot a whole lot is known about the relationship between physical health and healing spaces, but research shows that the quality of the environment supports well-being. This probably doesn't come as a surprise as it isn't a stretch to see how a supportive and welcoming environment, one that makes people feel comfortable and uplifted, can lead to better physical health. You may have heard it referred to as  the mind-body-spirit connection, and many with a strong faith and spiritual life have experienced healing that cannot be explained by science alone.

warm and cool colorsDuring the workshop, Toby talked about the keys to creating healing spaces in healthcare facilities including hospitals, nursing homes, and assisted living. Of utmost importance is designing elements that helps patients feel in control, and loved and supported. Patients should be engaged in the creative process (such as through focus groups) and elements should reflect an emphasis on the future and moving forward.

home-like assisted living spaceThere are many design psychology exercises that can be utilized to achieve healing spaces. I've mentioned some of them here, but you can read more about them in Toby's book, Some Place Like Home. She conducted one exercise with us during the workshop, a guided visualization exercise, and it goes something like this: write down a timeline of all the spaces you've been in from childhood until now. Which one did you enjoy the most-- the one that made you feel most comfortable and refreshed. Now close your eyes and visualize yourself in the space and the way you felt there. What words come to mind as you envision it. With eyes open, write down all the words that you thought of. Now pick your five favorite words and use them to write a sentence or two that describes your ideal healing oasis.

healthcare- children's colors12Not too hard, right? My five words were "inspirational," "bright," "refreshing," "greenery," and "liberated." And my idea healing oasis statement read as follows: it's a space that is refreshing and inspirational with bright colors, and a lot of references to greenery and nature. It's makes me feel safe, strong, and liberated.

What words described your ideal healing oasis? Use it to create a room in your home, and let us know if it impacted your emotional connection to your space.

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Let's Talk Design Psychology

Yes, it really does exist. I stumbled upon this area of psychology not too long ago as I was searching the web. Simply put, design psychology is  using psychology as a tool to design spaces that are emotionally gratifying. It's a fairly new discipline, and was introduced at the 1999 American Psychological Association's annual conference (which is a very big deal). I had the opportunity to interview one of the founders of design psychology, Dr. Constance Forrest, for an article I wrote in the NJ Psychologist (sorry, there's no link to the journal). I was truly captivated and inspired by her story. She's both a clinical psychologist and a design psychologist. And runs two separate practices, a therapy practice and a design practice, ForrestPainter Design—I just love that.

During my interview with Dr. Forrest, she said many fascinating things about how she uses psychology to create what she calls a "peak experience of place." Armed with a number of tools, she identifies the physical details of a space that trigger high positive emotions for people. She coined the phrase "Getting to 'Yes!'" It's that overwhelming feeling you get when you instinctively know a place is right for you.

As part of her interview process, Dr. Forrest gathers a developmental history of place. This is where clients are asked to describe  the places they've lived and the important things that happened there. I was so intrigued by this process that I decided to think about my own developmental history of place, and its connection to my current design aesthetics. So I searched for a number of interiors that "Got me to 'Yes!'" and attempted to explain possible reasons why. Check it out...


{image: Ty Larkins showhouse}

I have an affinity for black and white floors. It doesn't matter if it's stripes, squares, or zig-zags. The obvious explanation is that there was a black and white kitchen floor in my home growing up. And of course, there's a sense of familiarity and comfort there. But I also think that I associate black and white floors, particularly in an entry way, with a sense of grandeur that I've admired in homes since my childhood days.

{image: Lonny Mag}

This is what I call the collected look. A bunch of different styles all living together in one room. I'm one who could never live in a home with just one type of style. It would feel too... one-style-ish. I like the vivaciousness and energy of style-mixing. I'm pretty certain this has something to do with the fact that my childhood home was  shall we say, an "eclectic mix" of 1960's Louis XVI reproduction furniture, 1970's gold kitchen appliances and vinyl floors, and a 1980's brown, tweed sectional sleeper sofa. And this is before eclectic was the "it" thing. (To my mother's credit, the 1970's appliances were switched out by the '90s but I remember it nonetheless.)

Even though I choose to decorate differently, I enjoy the organic way with which my mother put different styles together. She didn't necessarily know brand names or designers, she just displayed what she thought was pretty.  This is how this room feels to me. At the risk of sounding cliché, there's a sense that objects and furniture were collected over time. I like that kind of easy-goingness in a home.

{image: 1st dibs}

There's a lot going on here. Some may call it cluttered even. I like to call it a full house. As much as I love modern, spare decor, it doesn't quite hit the spot in the way a busier decor does. My childhood home was rather busy, and very colorful. Much of that was cultural. (My parents are Jamaican.) I'm sure just being in such a space influenced by design aesthetic. I was also somewhat of an only child (my siblings were much older), and had a lot of alone time. Perhaps being in a busy space may have provided me with  some comfort during those times I spent by myself.

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It goes without saying that wallpaper is all the rage these days. And I'm a big fan. I was drawn to this graphic, floral wallpaper because it's both vintage and modern. I'm a vintage girl at heart, and thoroughly enjoy looking at the decor in old movies. My love of vintage may partly reflect my experience with having older parents. There was a large generational and cultural gap between myself and my parents. At times, it felt like I was being raised in the 1950's.

But having older parents also exposed me to ideas and practices that are long gone. It was kind of like living with a piece of history (not to make them sound that old). I was always captivated by how  things were done "way back when," and loved (still do) rummaging through my mother's old clothes and things. But of course, I'm very much a modern girl, and decor which merges both vintage and modern is captivating to me.

{image: the everygirl}

I like this space because  it's both understated and glamorous. Kind of like my mom who dressed modestly, but with a hint a glamour. She loved being a lady, and no doubt this influenced my aesthetic. My parents had a headboard very similar to this one in cream when I was growing up. They had the entire matching set, and it was très chic when my mother bought it.  She has since disposed of it; and needless to say, I was highly upset. (I wanted it for myself  and was going to paint it white.)

{image: atlanta homes & lifestyles mag}

I like what's happening here in this bohemian luxe space, as they call it.  This is a true boudoir, and speaks directly to my love of vintage and glamour, as I mentioned above.

{image: houzz}

I gasped too.  This is an undeniably full-fledged, luxurious dressing room. No, there was no room like this in my home growing up. If there was, I'd still be there.  It's more of an aspirational room. I blame it on all those nights as a child watching Dynasty when I was supposed to be sleeping.  There's nothing like the glamour of the 80's, and it definitely has made a comeback. Alexis Carrington would certainly be in her element here.

{image: apartment therapy}

I find this bedroom hilarious. I think it's important to inject some humor into a decor—not take it so seriously. I don't recall my childhood home having objects or things that were intentionally humorous. Decorating was considered to be a serious matter. Perhaps that's why I get a kick out of a little irreverence.

I think it's safe to say we are all influenced by culture and trends, but we also have our own unique social-emotional experience that impact the way we connect to spaces and places. What's your developmental history of place? Maybe you have a similar or different emotional attachment to a certain decor that gets you to "yes!" Feel free to share it.