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Improving Your Space and Mental Health

As more people are working from home under the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, InspireDesign spoke with Ashley Michaels, global design manager at Hilton, who offered some tips on refreshing your home and refreshing your space.

“I always find myself looking at the positive side of things and gravitating to my creativity, especially in difficult times,” Michaels told InspireDesign. “During the first few weeks of quarantine, I felt inspired to do more and apply what I do professionally for our hotels at Hilton at my own home. I wanted to share my tips with others going through the same thing as me. I am a huge advocate for sustainable design and these simple hacks can make a big difference for the environment, from upcycling to incorporating more greenery in your home. The DIY projects are also a great way to keep your mind focused and improve your mental health.”

Here are her DIY (do-it-yourself) projects and tips that anyone can take on while quarantined and keep your mind clear during your extra down time:

Aim for optimal feng shui (a practice that aims to balance the flow of energy in a space).
Although you may not be inviting guests to your home, that doesn’t mean your front entryway or living room can’t be as welcoming as a hotel lobby. Focusing on these areas of your house can easily create a happier and healthier space.

  • Declutter and make your rooms more open or well-lit. Studies have shown a link exists between clutter and the stress hormone cortisol. Reducing clutter can make a huge difference in your mood. “This is a popular concept for the reception and common areas at our hotels,” she said. “You can make a room more spacious by simply removing items or more inviting by adding a bit of natural sunlight. This also allows more positive energy to enter your home—a key element of feng shui.”
  • Play around with your existing furniture and decor. “When designing for our hotels and brands, having flexible furniture, fixtures and equipment (FF&E) means you can reconfigure your room setups quickly,” said Michaels. This also applies at home; moving around some interchangeable items, including accent pillows or rugs, can completely change the look of a room, as can updating your current “shelfie” situation with a different decor arrangement. For example, consider changing up some longtime photos and frames. Or rearranging your books by spine color rather than size. The options are endless and makes for a fun weekend project.

Upcycling: Repurpose items you already have. A big focus area for Hilton’s design team is sustainability. “From incorporating reclaimed wood elements to eco-friendly textiles, the team is always thinking of innovative ways for our guests to Travel with Purpose at our properties,” she said.

  • Give existing household items a new life. Too many towels? Does your kitchen utensil drawer overflow? In normal times, you might want to donate surplus items. But maybe now they can serve a new design-inspired purpose. “Many of the donation centers are currently closed and yard sales or other marketplaces may feel a little too risky right now,” said Michaels. “What should you do with the items that you want to get rid of in the meantime? Making a hand-braided bathmat or tie-dying old towels can be your next creative at-home project.”
  • Liven up your video conference backgrounds. Why use a fake background when you can make the real thing look better? Try adding a fresh coat of paint to an old art frame or a piece of furniture, and think about creating an accent wall. Studies have shown that paint colors and decor can affect your mental health and overall wellness. Pro tip: If you’re looking to rearrange an existing gallery wall, many small businesses on Etsy also offer digital prints, so you can print yourself and use an existing frame.

Bring the outdoors indoors. The inclusion of plants and greenery into a space has been proven to improve air quality and the mood of the people in a space. “Our design teams have been incorporating this biophilia trend for years,” she said. “Our living wall made from moss at the Hilton Downtown Cleveland is a great example of this.”

  • Create your own herb garden. “An easy way to incorporate this into your home is to salvage some of your vegetable scraps, grab a shallow bowl of water, potting soil and find a sunny window,” said Michaels. “No green thumb required—you’ll be cutting down on food waste and the need to go grocery shopping.” This can create a small activity to keep you (or even your kids) busy.
  • Incorporate more greenery. Adding more flowers and easy-maintenance plants like succulents can add more color to your living space and provide you air purifying benefits for many months to come.