living room
Tria Giovan

Corners of Calm

As the world grows more hectic, we’ve come to think of our homes as sanctuaries. Yet many of us have opened up the interiors of our houses, combining kitchen, dining, and living room in a “great room.” An open house means more freedom and togetherness, but it may also mean more noise and commotion.

One antidote is to create a private space where you can go to meditate, read, knit, write, pursue a craft, play a musical instrument, or simply unwind. Your “corner of calm” might be an entire room, such as an unused bedroom, or a sectioned-off corner of a larger room. The idea is to put psychological distance between your retreat and the rest of the house, even if the physical distance is not great.

White sofa with red pillows
Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn

Select the Space

Choose an area where others won’t be walking through. Ideally, it will have plenty of natural light and a window with a view.

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Find an Object

Define your personal area with an object that means something to you -- a loom, a writing desk, an easel, a workbench, a good reading chair. Or find a beautiful rug, and let that be the foundation of a relaxation space.

Bamboo and wicker desk in the master suite
Antoine Bootz

Create Coziness

Make your space cozy. If space is at a premium, choose diminutive furnishings -- a small writing desk, a basic extension table, an armless side chair. Hang fabric to lower the apparent height of the ceiling. You can also hang drapes at the window -- thick velvet if you want a deep, dark hideaway; gossamer muslin if you want filtered, soft light.

lamp head
Tria Giovan

The Right Accents

Avoid clutter, which can be distracting, by editing your treasures to just a few carefully chosen things. You can always change them out with the seasons.

blue living room with toile curtains
Tria Giovan

Silence Is Golden

Cushion your space with accessories that will absorb sound: an upholstered chair, a plush carpet, and pillows.

An upholstered screen divides a room.
 Jeff McNamara

Establish Set Privacy

You can set the boundaries of your space with a movable screen -- something solid, like bamboo, or a shoji screen with rice-paper panels that lets light filter through.

chairs in linen slipcovers
Tim Street-Porter

Smart Layout

For storage, position tall bookcases to partition off one end of a room, or arrange them in an L shape to define a corner area. Angle the shelves toward you if you want storage or display space for books, plants, yarn and fabric, art supplies, or the tools of your craft. Turn them out if you want solid walls within, which you can paint or pad with soft fabric.

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Fresh Air

Include plants that will freshen the air and brighten your mood, or use them to screen your area.

Add flowing water
Thomas J. Story

Set a Mood

Consider the ambient sound track. Enliven your area with the sound of a tabletop water fountain or with music from a small audio system.

Posy Bouquet arrangement
Charles Walton IV

Mixing It Up

Switch your things around every now and then. Choose a shelf, the top of a chest, or even a simple tray to display a new painting, craft objects, or a bouquet of flowers.

White slipcovered sofa flanked by mirrors
Tria Giovan

Color Choices

If the point of your space is relaxation, opt for neutral tones, clean lines, and one or two focal points. If you’re looking to be energized, select vibrant colors, massed patterns, and layered details.

For tips for choosing the right color for you, see Color.

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Lighting Is Key

Light your space dramatically. Spotlight a painting, or wash a wall with colored light. If your pursuit requires plenty of light, such as sewing or woodworking, aim a spotlight just where you need it.

Furniture Around a Fireplace


Select items that have contrasting textures because in a small space, everything is within touching distance. Choose natural materials like wood and stone, and use fabrics made with natural fibers. For a counterpoint, mix rough fibers, such as sea grass, with colorful silks.

Salon-style wall above a sofa
Tria Giovan

Be Inspired

Display inspiring quotes, photos, your own work in progress -- anything that will spark creativity or help you relax and unwind.

Fave Cottages: Bridgehampton

No Rules

Finally, remember that your decorative choices in this space don’t have to work with any other decor in the house. The point is to satisfy yourself.

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