If you’ve ever felt stressed out by clutter, relaxed in a cozy bedroom, or inspired by a beautiful place, you know just how much your surroundings can affect your mood, emotions, and sense of wellbeing. It’s exactly why many of us try to design our living spaces with comfort, beauty, and function in mind. But I find another factor — wellness — to be an important but often overlooked element in home design.
After my mother was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2006, my family invested in learning about different wellness practices to help improve our overall health and wellbeing. We started to eat a vegan diet, practiced meditation and yoga, and experimented with holistic wellness practices like aromatherapy, crystal healing, and sound therapy. We all felt that many of these practices really made an impact on our spiritual and emotional wellbeing and made us feel we were living more balanced, healthier lives.
My mother passed away a few years after her diagnosis. In her honor, my father and I launched Ariana Ost in 2016, a home décor and jewelry studio that focuses on elevating our clients’ everyday experience with beautiful decorative items that promote feelings of calm, healing, and wellness.
I can’t think of a more important time to be in an environment that makes you feel good than when you’re going through treatment for cancer. Of course, redesigning your home is probably the last thing you’ll have time and energy for at a time like this. But I believe it’s important to do what you can to create a calming, soothing space that will support your recovery. Here are some small steps you and your loved ones can take to give your home a wellness mini-makeover before you start treatment.
First things first: Clean and organize
A cluttered or unclean home can cause stress and anxiety, which you’ll want to keep to a minimum during treatment and recovery. The simplest thing you can do to make sure you can relax and feel good in your living space is to clean and organize it. Even a quick vacuum and straightening up can do wonders for your sense of peace and calm. If you’re not feeling up to it, enlist some help from your family or friends, or consider hiring a cleaning service. You may also want to talk to your family or housemates about making the extra effort to keep the house tidy while you’re going through treatment.
You can also set yourself up for easy maintenance by purchasing some smart storage solutions. Woven storage baskets, for example, are affordable, they look great, and they’re perfect for organizing odds and ends that you can tuck away out of sight in a corner or under an end table. If you live in a small space and need some creative storage ideas, consider creating a Pinterest account — it’s a great resource for other creative home organization tips.
Low-maintenance houseplants and fresh flowers
Investing in some indoor plants is an easy and affordable way to add visual interest to a room while boosting your mood and creating a sense of wellness.
Unless you’ve got a green thumb and enjoy taking care of plants, you’ll probably want to stick to low maintenance options. Succulents are a good choice as they don’t require frequent watering, but they do need a lot of sunlight, so you’ll want to put them near a bright window. Spider plants, jade plants, peace lilies, snake plants, and indoor palms are also beautiful, easy to find, resilient, and low maintenance. But if you have dogs or cats, make sure whatever you buy is either safe for pets or out of their reach.
Also, many edible herbs — such as parsley, basil, cilantro, thyme, oregano, and mint — are beautiful, relatively easy to grow indoors, and may encourage you to eat healthier home-made meals. There are lots of indoor herb growing starter kits you can buy that can make this a hassle-free addition to your kitchen.
Fresh flowers are, of course, the lowest maintenance option for incorporating the benefits of plant life into your living space and are readily available at grocery stores and farmers markets.
Comfort and coziness
Comfort is key when you’re not feeling your best, so incorporating comfortable fabrics into your home as well as items that provide emotional comfort are both equally important for improving your wellbeing during treatment for cancer.
You can easily increase the coziness of your living room by adding soft throw pillows and blankets to the sofa. For emotional comfort, place photo albums with fond memories on the coffee table, frame and hang your favorite art or vacation photos, or decorate shelves and mantels with beautiful or sentimental items that bring you joy.
As a good night’s sleep is so important for your health and wellbeing, you’ll also want to make sure you have comfortable pillows and bedding. In the warmer seasons you’ll want sheets, quilts, and comforters in natural fabrics like cotton, satin, or linen, but in the colder months, opt for flannel or jersey.
Aromatherapy diffusers are another easy and affordable way to promote a sense of comfort and coziness in your home. There’s even some research that shows aromatherapy (when administered by a professional) can improve symptoms like anxiety and nausea in people undergoing treatment for cancer, and some people have reported that aromatherapy using peppermint and ginger are particularly beneficial for relieving the nausea sometimes caused by chemotherapy and radiation.
Don’t underestimate the impact of color and lighting
Color and lighting are some of the most integral elements of interior design. While repainting your house is likely not something you’ll want to be taking on at this moment in your life, there are simple things you can do to adjust the color schemes and lighting in the living spaces you’ll be spending the most time in during your treatment and recovery.
In general, I recommend bringing soothing, cool colors like neutral blues, greens, and purples into your home design to promote feelings of peace, calm, and healing. You can achieve this by adding art, decorative items, pillows, blankets, and other items in the colors you choose.
You may also opt for bright, cheerful, and energizing colors like yellows, or more vivid blues and lime greens if you prefer. Whites, grays, crystals, and metallics, on the other hand, can provide a sense of richness and spirituality. Of course, if you have a strong preference for a favorite color that brings you joy, go for it — just make sure whatever you choose works with each room’s current color scheme.
As far as lighting goes, warm, directional, and ideally dimmable lighting will be best to create a soothing, relaxed mood in your living spaces. This is easily achievable with standing lamps and low-watt bulbs. Avoid depending on overhead lighting unless you have a dimmer installed, and fluorescent lighting can be especially harsh.
Create a spiritual place
I recommend designating a special, personal, and spiritual place in your home where you can be alone to meditate, journal, or pray. Spirituality is an important aspect of wellness for many people, especially when going through something as difficult as treatment for cancer. Make sure you prioritize this part of your life if it’s important to you. Not all of us have extra rooms in our homes to call our own, so get creative if you must — repurpose an office space, a guest bedroom, or even a small corner in a common area to create a quiet, comfortable space where you can reflect and be at peace. A comfortable pillow for meditating and a small surface to place beautiful, spiritual items or a vision board are all you’ll need to achieve this. And talk to your family about respecting your need for some occasional quiet time alone in this special place during your treatment.
Elevate the everyday
Having gone through this experience with my mother, I know first-hand that after a cancer diagnosis, it can seem daunting to focus on other aspects of your holistic wellbeing beyond treatment. But I can’t emphasize enough that this doesn’t need to be daunting — even simple and affordable changes to your living space can make a remarkable impact on your mood and overall wellness. You don’t need to spend a lot of money on this. Find beautiful items in unexpected areas — bring out old heirlooms or photos that bring back positive memories, look for interesting items at thrift stores or antique shops, or even repurpose simple things you find in nature, like beautiful stones, autumn leaves, or wildflowers. You can find so much beauty in the everyday — and by doing so, you can achieve your home wellness mini-makeover without breaking the bank.
Ariana Ost is a design atelier based in New York City whose mission is to elevate the everyday by creating decorative objects infused with soul, conviction, and healing energy. Ariana loves working with her father Jack and her Maltipoo dog named London at their Flatiron studio in NYC. In addition to being a female entrepreneur, Ariana is also a wife to her husband Eric and mother to her daughter Aurelie and son Julian.