How To Zen Out Your Space For The New Year

We left 2014 covered in confetti, saying goodbye to the stresses of the year with a Champagne-themed farewell toast. As our glasses clinked, we also said hello to a blank slate for 2015: resolutions we may or may not keep, work goals that make our jobs more exciting and meaningful, and the possibilities of so much more to come for the year ahead.

Cheers to a fresh start! January is kind of like the first crisp page in a Moleskine planner — what you fill it with now sets the tone for what’s to come. Looking for calmness and relaxation in the new year? Set that in motion by creating good energy in your home right now. Whether a small change like a different light bulb, or a bigger one that involves some major redecorating, we’ve got plenty of tips to help you Zen out your space — and ultimately your life — this year.

Illustrated by Mary Galloway.
“When you want to create a calm interior in your home, go with cool blues and greens,” says Maxwell Ryan, CEO and founder of Apartment Therapy. “These low-stimulation, watery colors will ground any room. The blue side of the spectrum, along with cool browns, grays, and off-whites, helps calm our emotions and focus our thoughts,” he adds. “While our hearts may crave warmth, our heads crave coolness to do their best work.”
Illustrated by Mary Galloway.
In choosing calming furniture and objects to decorate rooms, Ryan looks for natural, unfinished textures (wood, cork, stone) and fabrics (cotton, wool). “For a Zen vibe, you really want to highlight the natural imperfections of the material or fiber,” he says. “It’s not just about feeling closer to nature, but also accepting the imperfection of nature.” (This is actually a Japanese art, “wabi-sabi,” where students learn to find the most basic, natural objects fascinating and beautiful.)
Illustrated by Mary Galloway.
Ditch the overhead and keep lighting low to the floor, Ryan suggests. Aim to have three sources in every room, and make sure lamps are dimmable so you can adjust the light output for different times of the day. “Use only incandescent or the newer, warm LED bulbs for electric light, and switch to candles when you don't need as much,” he adds. “Light is, by nature, a stimulating agent, and the brighter it is, the more stimulating it will be. The lower the light, the calmer you’ll be.”
Illustrated by Mary Galloway.
Not only is furniture arrangement important to the functionality of a room, but healthy flow also promotes relaxation and serenity, one of the key principles of feng shui. Laura Benko, feng shui interior design expert and founder of The Holistic Home Company, recommends making sure "your headboard is up against a wall” and that the sides of your bed aren’t pushed against the wall. “It's important that energy circulates under and around the sides of your bed, or over time you yourself will feel ‘up against a wall,’ confined or limited in your opportunities in life." (Click here for more tips.)
Illustrated by Mary Galloway.
One of the biggest impacts you can make on a space without spending any money is decluttering. Start by going through your home and getting rid of the things you don’t use anymore. Once everything is clean, always make it a point to keep your immediate surfaces clear. “If your home is in chaos and you need to ground yourself and gain clarity, start with your nearest surface — countertops, coffee table, desk, or kitchen table,” says Benko. “These places often become dumping grounds, and tackling them first gives you the visual motivation to declutter elsewhere even more.”
Illustrated by Mary Galloway.
Sometimes, the smallest things can have a big impact. An instant trick for creating serenity in a space, Benko says, is to “examine the hidden symbolism in your home and make sure it’s supporting you.” Is your bedroom filled with pictures of crashing waves? Perhaps that’s why you’re having trouble sleeping. Are your mirrors hung too high? That may make you feel you can’t measure up. “Take a deeper look at what your home is showing you, because right now it’s telling your story,” Benko says. (See more hidden-symbolism tips on fear and self-confidence.)
Illustrated by Mary Galloway.
Just as smelling something from your past can bring you back to that moment, different fragrances can stir up different emotions. Make your space feel calm and relaxing by infusing it with scents that trigger those feelings. Benko suggests burning some sage or using aromatherapy oils to Zen out the room.
Illustrated by Mary Galloway.
It’s pretty much impossible to be in a Zen state of mind when your phone is buzzing with texts and Insta notifications. The same holds true with distractions from computers, televisions, and tablets. Catherine Brophy, a.k.a. The Feng Shui Detective, recommends keeping electronics out of the rooms you’re looking to find peace in, especially the bedroom. “[All of these devices] are too active and can disturb sleep,” she says. “Items that pertain to work should not be in a bedroom. The bedroom is very important in feng shui. It represents replenishment, rejuvenation, and rest.”
Illustrated by Mary Galloway.
While you do want to declutter your space, it is also important that you have on hand a few things whose only purpose is to be beautiful. Brophy suggests bringing in fresh flowers, art, and photos of happy times with friends and family. “Add anything that makes your heart sing, makes you smile, or brings you joy, peace, and relaxation,” she says.
Illustrated by Mary Galloway.
“In order for a space to feel good, it needs to feel balanced,” says Brophy. That doesn’t mean both sides of the room need to be mirror images of each other. She recommends using light, and location of doors and windows, as balancing tools.

As a general rule, the more natural light, the better, but of course not every space has floor-to-ceiling windows. If you only have one window and it’s in the corner of the room, you could concentrate more lighting in the dark areas, Brophy says, to balance out the natural light.

If you have one very tall doorway while another is at a shorter seven or eight feet of height, the room may feel lopsided. Brophy suggests creating elevation on the lower side of the room with art or decorative wallpaper, or placing a mirror above the smaller doorway to open it up. And, be sure to keep doors open and operational. “Spaces that are closed off physically are also closed off energetically," she says. Of course, the one exception is the bathroom, where “it’s best to keep doors closed as they are considered drains for the energy, or ‘chi’ (the vital breath or energy).”