5 Totally Easy Ways To Turn Your Home into a Calming Oasis, According to a Design Expert

updated Oct 13, 2022
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Wall Art in a Neutral Living Room
Credit: Pottery Barn

I’m a longtime fan of artist, author, and designer Rebecca Atwood and her collection of coastal-inspired textiles, wall papers, and bedding. So when I heard the news that she was dropping an exclusive collaboration with Pottery Barn today, it made me want to, at the very least, take a look at the offerings. One of the things I crave in my home is a sense of calm—maybe now more than ever, and in my bedroom in particular. Atwood’s delicate, hand-painted stripes, dots, and swirls, often awash in serene pastel shades, have always been very soothing to look at. Scrolling through a page of her product designs almost feels like a mini ASMR session, albeit much lower-tech.

If you’re after a calm, cool, and collected feeling in your space, these pieces are right on the money. Speaking of cost, prices start at just $24.50, which is definitely more affordable than her more bespoke items. And despite temporary store closures, Pottery Barn’s customer care team will work with you if you need to make a return of something you order online. I caught up with Atwood for some intel on her favorite pieces from the launch and a few of her best—and free!—tips for cultivating calm at home. And if you want even more calm feels, this Friday, April 10, at 4:30 pm ET, Atwood will be co-hosting an Instagram Live Watercolor Class on Pottery Barn’s Instagram, where views will get a chance to learn painting techniques and are encouraged to paint along.

Credit: Pottery Barn

Use Color to Create a Calming, Cocoon-Like Effect

You’ve heard it before, but that’s because it’s true: Color has an emotional charge. “We might not be able to put our finger on it, but color is often what makes us love something—or dislike it,” Atwood tells Apartment Therapy. That being said, “calm” may look different to different people. “It’s important to really think about the places you feel most comfortable when setting a palette for a space,” she adds. “I always recommend thinking about a landscape or some other physical space that you love and pulling the colors from that.”

Generally speaking, Atwood does think lighter colors feel calmer. “They are airier and lighter, whereas darker colors can provide a different kind of comfort,” she says. “I wanted that airiness and a cooler vibe, so that’s why we went for lots of blues, whites, and neutrals when creating my collection for Pottery Barn.” If blues aren’t your bag, think pink. “Blush has had a big moment, and it feels like a warm hug,” says Atwood. Or try mint, which Atwood says is rejuvenating.

Credit: Pottery Barn

Bring Outdoor Touches Inside

“I’m all about bringing nature into your space,” says Atwood. “I think it helps us feel more grounded.” For this collection in particular, she was thinking about the “soft rippling on the surface of a lake when it rains, a field of flowers, and sedimentary layers of rocks.” So if you get a piece like the Surf Shower Curtain, now you know what inspired its pattern—and hopefully, you’ll think of that natural feature every time you see it.

When you’re looking to add more natural touches to your home in general, Atwood suggests materials like clay, wood, stone, marble, metal, grass cloth, and rattan. But natural touches don’t have to be store-bought. In fact, it’s often better when they’re not! Maybe on your next short walk around the block, you can grab some greenery or a few branches to display. Or just take the heavy window coverings off of your windows so you can see more of what’s outside. Sometimes, less is more.

Buy: Rebecca Atwood x Pottery Barn Surf Shower Curtain, $49.00

Credit: Pottery Barn

Mix Patterns with a Light Hand

Atwood wrote a book on pattern mixing, so trust her when she says you don’t have to go all out here to make a decorative impact. In fact, that’s the thing I’ve responded to most about Atwood’s aesthetic—she’s big on pattern mixing, but they all feel somewhat quiet still, even collectively.

First, she recommends picking a palette with a few selected hues—whatever makes you feel zen is best. “Sticking with a limited number of colors will help unite different patterns by creating a common thread,” says Atwood. “By keeping it unified, it also will feel calmer because there’s less for your eyes to process.” Then in selecting pieces to put together, be sure to vary the scale of your patterns with an assortment of small, medium, and large repeats. “Similar-sized prints tend to look the same, so create a visual hierarchy that helps move the eye around the room,” says Atwood.

Buy: Rebecca Atwood x Pottery Barn Brushstroke Napkins, $32.00/Set of 4 and Rebecca Atwood x Pottery Barn Striped Table Runner, $69.00

Credit: Pottery Barn

Let Lighting Soothe Your Space

While Atwood admits she doesn’t have her lighting all figured out either, she has learned a few tricks for faking natural light while working on her books—the first being to brighten up with white. “It sounds basic, but white reflects light and can make a big difference,” says Atwood. “I know this first-hand from when we lived in a darker apartment. Our living room had no natural light, and I put a cream colored carpet on the floor. It bounced the light from our ceiling light right back up and brightened the space.”

Additionally, Atwood recommends having multiple light sources within the room at varying heights. “It’s important to have some that are lower down, not just overhead,” she says. And if all else fails, burning a candle can always help you enhance the ambiance in a space, whether it’s light and bright naturally or on the darker side.

Credit: Pottery Barn

Create Little Moments of Joy Around Your Home

Again, people don’t always respond to the same things. But for Atwood, small personal touches make a big difference in how her home makes her feel. “Fresh flowers on the table, produce in bowls on the counter, windows open when it’s warm enough,” says Atwood on her own list of calm and happy. “Also, artwork! It doesn’t have to be something expensive. It could be kid’s artwork on the fridge or something you’ve made yourself, family photos, or even interesting packaging pinned up.”

Her advice? Make a spot for a pin board and notice the things you are drawn to. “It’s about discovering and enjoying the process of creating your home,” she says.