A Mental Health Advocate Transformed Her Small Rental into a Safe Place for Healing

published May 3, 2024

A Mental Health Advocate Transformed Her Small Rental into a Safe Place for Healing

published May 3, 2024
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It’s often said that our homes reflect our state of mind, and for Emily, this is a sentiment that holds truth. Having moved into the one-bedroom Brighton, England, apartment almost a year ago, she’s spent this time making it into the safe and welcoming home she’s always needed.

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Credit: Zoë Schulz
If your home had a zodiac sign, what would it be and why? "Virgo — same as me! As a Virgo I’m quite particular about how my space is looking at all times — whether it’s how the cushions line up or the small details on the coffee table. So, I would say me and my flat are the same in that sense."

“It’s my first time living alone, and although it’s a rental so I can’t do everything I want, the adventure of decorating and exploring what it is I want from a home has been exciting,” Emily explains. “This has made it my own space and it feels sacred as it has allowed me to explore myself, too.”

Credit: Zoë Schulz

It hasn’t been the easiest space to decorate, she admits, with its typical British-rental-quirkiness. For example, the bedroom didn’t have a functioning wardrobe, so she played around with what would work before deciding on creating a space with a curtain behind the bed.

Credit: Zoë Schulz
What’s the one thing in your home that people always ask about? "Otis! The sweet pup I dog sit for a friend. He is often here and it’s lovely to have the company. Anytime I post photos of Otis in my home people want to know about him."

The living and kitchen space is also small and oddly shaped. Emily knew she wanted a kitchen table, but a traditional one wouldn’t fit. The round bar table she chose, however, works perfectly, adding a new dimension with the change in height.

Credit: Zoë Schulz
What’s the BEST purchase you’ve made? "The mirror in the lounge! It’s actually a traffic mirror that I’ve repurposed, and I love how the fisheye means you can see the whole room in the reflection. It adds a different perspective, and it wasn’t expensive — I just searched for a traffic mirror online."

When it comes to design, Emily is drawn to pops of color and doesn’t usually have a specific style in mind — instead, she goes by what elements she is drawn to, following what naturally feels as though it works together.

Credit: Zoë Schulz

The past year, Emily has spent making the flat a home, whilst simultaneously trying to stay afloat with her mental health. “It’s been a really hard year for me,” she shares. Facing the grief of losing her nan, the parent figure who brought her up, her home became her safe place and was crucial to her healing process.

Credit: Zoë Schulz

“Without a home that I feel safe in, I don’t know what I would have done. It’s one of the key elements to my mental health feeling okay. I have PTSD and OCD, which means sometimes the outside world can feel unsafe, so to have this space that is my own means a lot. I also have ADHD, so sensory experiences are important and something I’ve thought about while piecing my home together.”

Credit: Zoë Schulz
How do you spend time in your home? "I’ve recently been doing yoga in my lounge. It’s such a tiny space but I can just about fit a yoga mat in the corner, and it works for me. Sensory experience is also really important to me as someone with ADHD — so I’ll light a candle and change the color of the lights to help me get into a calm headspace."

When it comes to sensory experiences that make the home feel safer for people who have ADHD, Emily hails her electric blanket, which she will often retreat under when feeling overstimulated. Plus, smart lights, as she appreciates being able to change their color, depending on her mood and what she needs from the space.

Credit: Zoë Schulz
The silver plant pots were "gifted from my nan and I spray-painted them silver," Emily writes.

“I always have a space where I can calm down with positive sensory inputs to help me recharge my batteries and feel more stable.”

Credit: Zoë Schulz

Reflecting, Emily realizes part of the importance of creating this has been because she didn’t have a safe home growing up until her nan took her in. Her therapist has explained this as “nesting” — the process of piecing together the elements that make a home. 

“I feel I’ve created a space that can hold me while I’m in this phase of my life. Looking at my home interior, it reflects who I am as a person, and that acts as a reminder to me in those moments that I don’t feel as sure of myself.”

Credit: Zoë Schulz

Through trial and creativity, Emily has curated a space that reflects her identity and self-explorative nature. Her small but warm space is a reminder that homes are not merely a collection of furniture and decor, but a mirror of our inner selves, and with that often a mirror to our inner challenges, too.


Credit: Zoë Schulz


  • Blue plant pot on table — HomeSense, then I painted it blue
  • Sofa and coffee table — Got them for free from Facebook marketplace
  • Sofa cover — Dunelm
  • Bar chairs/stools — Jollies Commercial furniture
  • Bar table — Dunelm
  • Cushions on sofa — Dunelm
  • Toaster and kettle — Amazon
  • Lamp — Wayfair
  • Round mirror — Traffic mirror from Amazon
  • Chair — Thrifted
  • Pink and red plant pot — Small business on Etsy
  • Silver plant pots — Gifted from my nan and I spray-painted them silver
Credit: Zoë Schulz


  • Desk — IKEA and then I added peel-and-stick wallpaper that I got from Amazon
  • Small white chest of drawers — also IKEA with added peel-and-stick wallpaper
  • Sofa — From eBay a long time ago
  • Circle mirror — Thrifted
  • Silver vase — Thrifted vase and spray-painted silver
  • Blue plant pot on desk — Between two thorns and then painted the pot blue myself
  • Canopy — Fly net from Amazon I turned into a canopy
  • Blue plant pot next to sofa — Oliver Bonas
  • Wooden chair next to bed — Given to me from my nan, who recently passed away so is extra special
  • Amalfi orange cushion — Dunelm
  • Salt lamp — eBay
  • Big mirror — IKEA
  • Guitar — Gifted by a work friend
  • Rug — Thrifted from Vinted

Thanks Emily!

This tour’s responses and photos were edited for length/size and clarity.