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

March 2, 2020

Happy Inside: the book!

I wrote Happy Inside because I want to change the way we think about home-making. Because, if you want positive personal change of any sort, you must first address your environment. And because, with escalating rates of chronic disease and mental health disorder around the world (even before the current pandemic), I want to completely debunk any ideas of home-making as something frivolous. It’s not. It’s absolutely fundamental to good health and happiness. A home that actively supports and sustains your wellbeing can be a game-changer — your secret super power in today’s profoundly unprediable world.

And yet, many homes actively sabotage their owners attempts to live well, and many people ask the wrong questions in pursuit of this goal.  However, right here and now you already have within your grasp everything that you need. You just need to harness that power and apply it accordingly. And that’s what Happy Inside is all about. Nine steps to a home to help you to become your best self, regardless of how much money you have, the size of your home, or whether you own or rent. It doesn’t matter. Welcome to the healthy home revolution!

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

For an overview of those steps, please continue reading…

Or you could skip to read Awakening, my introduction, posted in full.

And if you already know that you want to order a copy, then I’ve listed mutiple quick shopping links here.

Happy Inside book cover

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

Awakening: the Happy Inside Introduction

Posted in full, here. Explaining why you need to understand what your home needs to do for you, and who you are, before you try to decide how your home should look.

happy inside Chapter 1. Intention

The solution to a home that no longer seems to meet our needs is almost always thought to lie in an upgrade of some sort: more rooms, a larger garden, an extended kitchen. But believing more is always the answer only reflects the pervasive conviction that a newer, bigger, faster, updated whatever must be better. It’s not true. Instead, lean into what you have, not what you lack. The path to peace is not lined with posessions. This chapter is one of the most important chapters in the entire book. It underpins everything that follows.

Illustration by Nicola Rew for Chapter One of Happy Inside

happy inside Chapter 2 Balance

Now that you’ve edited down your belongings, before you buy anything new, you must turn your attention to the treatment to give to every wall, floor and ceiling. I call this the envelope of your home. You must also consider 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. Marie Kondo take note.

happy inside 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 must make a positive contribution. Here then, we explore the energy boosters to bring inside. And highlight the energy sappers that must go.

happy inside Chapter 4 Action

Ultimately, all of the clutter-clearing, palette composing and thinking about energy is about getting yourself organised to enjoy your home in a way that continually lifts your spirits. But before we can get into the exciting specifics of individual home zones, a word or two on home maintenance and management. Plus getting to grips with cleaning. And how that too can be joyful!

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

happy inside 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, which begins the minute you cross your threshold. It’s therefore the first home zone that I discuss 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?

happy inside 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.

happy inside Chapter 7 Gratitude

There’s been an increasingly trend-led drive for ever larger and more ostentatious kitchens 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 our cook spaces are receiving this much attention to aesthetic detail, do we really need any of this? No. And I also challenge its position at the heart of the home. Instead, let’s talk about kitchens as engines, the importance of the bowl, the best ingredients to stock your cupboards with, and making our cooking and eating spaces as pleasurable as possible in order to enjoy the preparation and consumption of healthy food alone.

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

happy inside 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. Never forget, nice decor won’t make one jot of difference to your sleep, if you don’t address what you do before you go to bed.

happy 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 Happy Inside 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. And your home becomes your place to be fearless, completely at ease and splendid in your imperfections and obsessions.

Happy Inside: How to Harness the power of home for health and happiness, published Thursday 30 April. Check out all the purchase options here.

Book design: Alex Hunting
Illustrations: Nicola Rew
Photography: Emma Harris

PS Thank you for reading this, and if you’d like to know when I next post something, you can subscribe 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.