Home Ec

Home Ec: My Top 6 Tips for a Happy, Healthy Home

by Grace Bonney

For the past 20 weeks, we’ve been celebrating Home Ec on Design*Sponge. From tips about cleaning and saving money to tutorials on fixing broken things (or dying plants) at home, we’ve gathered a great collection of trusted home ideas that will help you get through everyday bumps and breaks at home.

We started our first week of photoshoots for our new book, so this will be our last Home Ec post for a while. I thought a lot about what would be a nice way to close this column, and I kept coming back to the way I’ve learned to live at home and what makes me happiest and calmest when I’m here. So today I thought I’d share my happy home “tips” that I live by to get me through stressful moments, and quick-fixes around the house that I believe in fully when it comes to decorating. Hopefully they’ll come in handy if you ever need a little pick-me-up at home. xo, grace


This post and the Home Ec section are brought to you by Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day. Visit the Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day Home-Grown Inspiration section featuring 20 DIYs, including seven from Design*Sponge!

6 Tips for a Healthy, Happy Home, Design*Sponge
Nothing Is Too Precious To Use: I don't own a lot of fancy things. I own a lot of old, meaningful things, but nothing that I feel too scared to use on a regular basis. Both Julia and I come from families that used their "fancy" antiques on a daily basis and it's instilled in both of us the idea that beautiful things (especially things you invest in) should be USED and LOVED. Things will break, stain and wear, but that's the character and patina people love about antiques. I believe embracing that leads to a happier home. So if something falls, chips or dents, remember that no object is as important or precious as the person that (probably accidentally) damaged it. [Image From Amy Merrick's Plate Wall How-To]
6 Tips for a Healthy, Happy Home, Design*Sponge
Adding Living Things Breathes Life Into Your Home: Beyond the humans living in a house, adding living things makes a noticeable difference in any space. Whether you add an abundance of house plants or adopt a shelter pet, adding to the LIFE in your home is more valuable than any piece of furniture you could ever buy. Not only is the act of taking care of something else therapeutic and de-stressing, but it helps put all "decorating emergencies" in perspective. [Image from Alea Joy's home tour on DS]
6 Tips for a Healthy, Happy Home, Design*Sponge
Fresh Flowers Can Solve A Multitude of Problems: Whether they're fancy flowers from a florist or fresh-cut branches and stems from your backyard, flowers are my answer to many a design dilemma. If a room feels like it needs some life, I add fresh flowers. If the space smells stale, I open a window and add fresh flowers. When in doubt, even a few garden booms (like these) add so much color and freshness to a space. (Even backyard weeds are pretty in a few low vases!) [Image from Lotta Nieminen's home tour on DS]
6 Tips for a Healthy, Happy Home, Design*Sponge
Treat Yourself Like A Guest: You know how you prep your home when a guest is coming? You power-clean like no one's business, put out little details like tiny flowers by the bed, a carafe of water and transfer Q-tips to a pretty jelly jar? All those details make your guests feel special, but they can make you feel special, too. So rather than saving all the special details for the few times a year someone is staying with you, embrace treating yourself and your family like "company" whenever you can. Whether it means spritzing the room with a nice room spray, adding flowers by the bed or just putting everyday basics like tissues and toothbrushes into nicer decorative containers - treating you and your "permanent" guests like they're special goes a long way toward being happy at home. [Image from Amy and Erich's home tour on DS]
6 Tips for a Healthy, Happy Home, Design*Sponge
Surround Yourself with Things That Mean Something To You: I've found that with almost every home tour we've run on DS, people love and gravitate toward the objects/details that have a rich background or history. These are the pieces that mean something to homeowners and they're the pieces that will make almost everyone happier at home. Finding clever ways to display and surround yourself with the things that mean most to you (whether those are paintings, baseball cards or old pots and pans) will always result in a more meaningful interior. [Image from Maira Kalman's home tour on DS]
6 Tips for a Healthy, Happy Home, Design*Sponge
Invest In Things That Tug At Your Heart: Sometimes investments, splurges and purchases of any type don't make a lot of "practical" sense. But those are sometimes the things that inspire you and make you the happiest. Obviously they aren't something most of us can (or maybe should) do on a regular basis, but if something grabs your heart or makes you feel inspired and creative, those are the times to trust your gut and bring them home. Abigail Edwards' "Seascape" wallpaper had been in my head for years and when we finally had a space of our own to decorate, it was the first thing I bought. This tiny bathroom is now my favorite (and most finished) room in the house. [Image from our bathroom makeover on DS]

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  • This has been a fun column and a great final post. I love the realities mentioned which are incredibly refreshing (the reminder to use the special things is always helpful). Thank you!

  • This is such a great post. I especially love the idea of treating yourself like a guest. I tend to put off things like buying flowers, tidying up, and hanging pictures until I know guests will be coming over. But this week I bought flowers just because, and they brighten my day every time I walk in the door!

  • All of these tips are just darling, and so true. I’m a big believe of bringing living things into a house. Once we brought in plants and a pup it felt like our house became a home. I’m also a big fan of using ‘fancy’ things for normal occasions. Great post :)

  • Oh I love these tips – we’ve always used the nice things, though a few are having a little rest while the children are small, and it makes such a subtle but wonderful difference; supper just looks nicer served up in the pretty dishes!

  • I agree with all these. Great article. What i’d also say is see the things you buy for your home as an investment. You wouldn’t buy a pair of cheap shoes and expect them to last a lifetime so you should think the same with your furniture. Spend a little more and get the best :)

  • I love Mrs. Meyers cleaner. It initially seems like it is more expensive, but what I do is go by the directions on the label, and dilute it into a gallon of water. I refill the spray bottle many times on just 1/2 cup of the cleaner. I love how it smells too. I can’t take chemical based cleaners anymore – they are awful.

  • Thank you for this : “no object is as important or precious as the person that (probably accidentally) damaged it.” I will mentally file this for the next time a family member breaks/chips a whatever.

  • This is a wonderful post, Grace.

    I’m in the midst of renovating, and stressing about budget, moving, deadlines and even stressing itself (I’m so lucky to be doing this, why aren’t I enjoying it, I should embrace this chance to be creative, etc). It’s too easy to lose sight of what actually makes a place welcoming when you walk in the door. Thanks for this eloquent reminder.