Delving deeper than decor to explore the power of home as a path to wellbeing #happyinside

March 2, 2020

Happy Inside

I wrote this book because I want to change the way that we think about home-making. Because people frequently ask me the wrong questions in pursuit of a harmonious home.  And because, if you want positive personal change of any sort, I firmly believe that you must first address your environment. I also wanted to completely debunk any ideas of home-making as something frivolous. It isn’t, it’s fundamental, and empowering, for a supportive home can be your secret super power in today’s profoundly unpredictable world.

The purpose of life — to be happy inside
The purpose of home — to be happy inside

HappyInside: How to harness the power of home for health and happiness. Published 30 April 2020. Ebury Press.

Happy Inside: How to harness the power of home for health and happiness. Published 30 April 2020. Ebury Press.

In short, a home that makes you feel fantastic – the point of any level of home decoration, to my mind – not one that just looks good, can be the ultimate foundation for the life you dare to dream of having, and the nurturing relationships that you need to believe you deserve. From such a space you can achieve a sense of emotional balance that will assist you in finding your true purpose and fulfilling your potential. It can be the launch pad from which to achieve a sense of flow in your work, and most importantly, it will be your place of retreat and recovery when the winds of change and the inevitable curveballs of life attempt to knock you, or your loved ones, off course.

It is not about creating showspaces for the adulation of others. It is not about following the latest trends. It is not about it being perfect. Instead, more than ever before, we need homes that support our wellbeing. And yet, so often, they inadvertently sabotage heartfelt desires by dampening our emotions and causing undue stress and strife. Your home also acts as a mirror to the current state of your emotions: whether you’re happy or stressed, tired or relaxed, your home will reflect, and magnify, it all.

But the good news is, we can all get happier inside! It’s not dependent on how much money you have, or whether your current home is large or small, rented or owned. You already have at your fingertips the most enormous potential, you just need to harness that power and use it accordingly.

And that’s what Happy Inside is all about: nine steps to a home that helps you to become your best self. Combining my knowlege of Buddhist pholosopy, mindfulness, colour psychology and good design, not to forget 20 years of interior magazine editing, Happy Inside is your one-stop essential handbook to living well. Here’s a summary of those steps…

Chapter 1. Intention

The best homes begin with their inherent bone structure, whether glorious or flawed, and end with the careful placement of possessions. I walk you through how to enhance, tweak and colour the former, and curate, choose and arrange the latter. This chapter is like the first module of an intensive foundation course (Chapters 1-4) and one of the most important chapters in the entire book. It underpins everything that follows.

Illustration by Nicola Rew for Chapter One, Intention, of my Happy Inside book

Chapter 2 Balance

Now that you’ve edited your belongings down to the things you truly love, the things you need, the things that work well, and are the best you can afford, before you buy anything new, you must turn your attention to the treatment to give to every wall, floor and ceiling – the envelope of your home – as well as the fabrics and finishes to be used for any furniture or fittings. I refer to this as ‘defining your palette’. Because, while reducing your possessions will certainly give you a sense of order and control over what you own, this simply creates a neatly organised and tidy home, not necessarily a happy one.

Chapter 3 Energy

When we understand the home as a holistic organic entity that both reflects and responds to those living inside it, it becomes obvious that we need to avoid energetic stagnancy at all costs – a state in which the home feels gloomy and we feel sluggish. We also need to recognise that every single thing within the home has an energy level of its own, thus everything must make a positive contribution. Here then, we explore the energy boosters to bring inside, and highlight the energy sappers that need to go.

Chapter 4 Action

Ultimately, all of the clutter-clearing, palette composing and thinking about energy and flow is about getting yourself organised to decorate and furnish your home in a way that continually lifts your spirits. But before we can get into the exciting specifics of individual home zones, in this, the final module of your foundation course, a word or two on home maintenance and management, plus getting to grips with cleaning.

Another side of my HappyInside living room. The vintage Ercol dining chairs were dipped to remove their shiny yellowed 1950s varnish and re-stained, with a satin finish, to match the floors.

A detail of my HappyInside living room. The vintage Ercol dining chairs were dipped to remove their shiny yellowed 1950s varnish and re-stained, with a satin finish, to match the floors. Photograph Emma Harris

Chapter 5 Welcome

Mood breaker or mood maker, the entrance to your home is a space of great subliminal power. Why? Because the creation of a truly supportive environment involves harnessing every possible opportunity to give yourself an energy boost. And this begins the minute you cross your threshold. It is therefore the first home zone that I consider in detail. As the saying goes, ‘Home is not a place, it is a feeling’, so how do you want to feel when you first come home?

Chapter 6 Harmony

In an era when Fear of Missing Out has its own universally understood acronym, recuperative rest and relaxation are not always regarded as the intensely worthwhile pursuits that they are. Therefore the focus of this chapter is on your main lounge spaces, but from the perspective of their private as opposed to public use. After all, it’s only when we have our homes to ourselves that we can take maximum advantage of them as an aid to relaxation. And this, more than anything, is the primary purpose of the happyinside home.

Chapter 7 Gratitude

The kitchen is popularly referred to as the heart of the home, which has resulted in an increasingly trend-led drive for ever larger and more ostentatious cooking spaces flowing unbounded into our living areas. The dining room has become all but obsolete and an enormous kitchen island is the status symbol du jour. While it’s great that kitchens are receiving as much attention to aesthetic detail as other areas of the home, do we really need any of this? No. And I also challenge its pole position at the centre of the home. Instead, let’s talk essential cupboard ingredients and why a dining table is your most important piece of furniture.

Illustration by Nicola Rew for Chapter Six, Harmony, of my Happy Inside book

Chapter 8 Retreat

The importance of a good night’s sleep cannot be overstated; without it our memory and immune function are impaired, our mood, metabolism and hormones become unsettled, and we cannot be effective or efficient, let alone energetic, in the way we live our lives. Thus, the spaces in which we retire to bathe and sleep are grouped together as the fourth and final zone of the happyinside home.

Chapter 9 Nurture

This final chapter covers the finishing touches that should be layered over everything that we have discussed already. These are the details which ensure that your home works for you on every level. For while we tend to make first impressions based largely on what we see, it has to be confirmed by our other senses. From the sounds you wake up to, to the scents that surround you, your connection to a space involves much more than what it looks like.

My HappyInside spare bedroom. A wall composed of marble offcuts, over-sized white tiles and the grey tiles used in an adjacent bathroom, currently serves as a wonderful bedhead.

My HappyInside spare bedroom. A wall composed of marble offcuts, over-sized white tiles and the grey tiles used in an adjacent bathroom, currently serves as a wonderful bedhead. Photograph by Emma Harris


Basically, with room to breathe and room to think, we can live a more meaningful life. But this type of ‘room’ is not necessarily physical space; rather, it is the absence of all that is extraneous alongside the sweet feeling of liberation that comes with realising that you have enough, and that you are enough, just as you are. To put it another way, that you can become spacious in yourself as your home becomes your place to be fearless, completely at ease and splendid in your imperfections and obsessions.

My deepest hope, though, is that the repercussions of this journey will ripple out far beyond your personal threshold. That as you become more balanced and contented, instead of reacting in times of stress, you are able to approach life with a more considered and thoughtful outlook. After all, we can only ever gain mastery over ourselves as individuals, but the impact of that can be far-reaching. And it is my sincere opinion that taking charge of the space in which you live is a very good place to start. Right here and now you have within your grasp everything that you need. So onwards and upwards, my friends; it is the only way to go!

Welcome to the healthy home revolution!

Happy Inside: How to Harness the power of home for health and happiness is officially released on 30 April, but you can pre-order it ahead of time to ensure you are one of the very first people to receive it! Check out all the links here.

PS Thank you for reading this, I hope you enjoyed it. And if so, why not subscribe so you get notified when I post again… I don’t do it too often so I promise you won’t be deluged! Sign up here

3 replies »

  1. Oh dear, I have to choose the colours to paint my newly bought and fully-renovated home and I haven’t read your book yet. And what I’m struggling with most is the colour palette. I absolutely know the colours I like, but I don’t know how to spread them around my home. I love your philosophy and style, Michelle. Congrats for the book!

    • This is somethign that so many people struggle with, and quite rightly, it can be complicated! Hopefully, if you can hang on until 30 April, Chapter 2 will have that palette sorted for you!

  2. Excellent! In a world of overwhelming design choices this is a subject that really needed a rethink. Thank you!

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Writer, Author, Brand Consultant & TV Presenter

Michelle Ogundehin is internationally renowned as an authority on interiors, trends and style. She is an influencer with expertise and the multi award-winning former Editor-in-Chief of ELLE Decoration UK.