11 ways to “happy-fy” your home

Guest post by Sarah Von Bargen

Remember when we featured Sarah’s colorful and thrifty home tour? Let’s talk about how and why she made that place so colorful!

color © by 3oheme, used under Creative Commons license.


A few months ago I went through A Very Bad Breakup.

And though I have very much turned the corner on what was one of the hardest periods in my life, there is still the occasional moment when I stare into the middle distance, sigh discontentedly, and feel the need to eat a lot of fake bacon.

When my three-year relationship ended, I moved into an adorable little shoe box of an apartment and decided that this little place was going to be a bastion of joy and silliness and positivity, and that anyone who crossed the threshold would want to play Pictionary, talk to the cat, and feel happy and peaceful.

So I’ve been slowly en-happy-ing my apartment, making it impossible to feel anything other than glee while hanging there. Here’s what has worked for me:

1. Put up pictures of you and your friends being hilarious, adorable, amazing

Too often my walls are decorated with Etsy finds or tastefully abstract art. But isn’t it much more fun to cover the fridge and cork board with the photos of you and your friends voguing at a party? Or climbing mountains together? Or with Jesus tape over your mouths?

2. Make it smell happy

Aromatherapy is for real, yo. The people who know about these things advocate for scents like tangerine, grapefruit, lemongrass and rosemary. Yummo!

3. Paint an accent wall a color you love

Colors make a huge difference in how you feel about a space. When I moved into my apartment, it featured awful flesh-toned satin-finish paint on every blessed wall. No one wants to live inside a skin ball. But! Now it’s white with accent walls in a color best described as mermaid. And I feel so much better. It’s enough to make a girl want to comb her hair with a fork and sing about being part of your world.

4. Stock your fridge and pantry with food that you lovelovelove

Things that are depressing: opening your fridge to discover you have a bag of moldy radishes, one Coors Light, and a slice of leftover pizza. Grocery shopping is the one avenue where I allow myself to spend indiscriminately and I love stocking my kitchen with food that thrills me: strawberries, wine, baguettes, fake bacon, tiny fingerling bananas. It’s lovely to open those doors and feel happy about what you find.

5. Consider the Non-cheesy Inspirational Poster

Yes, such a thing exists. And no, I’m not talking about those awful black-edged numbers with someone standing on a mountain top. The Poster List has some excellent choices that will work with your decor and won’t embarrass you in front of your friends.

6. Add a Bit O’ Greenery

Plants are our friends. I am absolutely in love with my balcony garden of tiny vegetables and herbs and I hope to increase my herbiary family to include a Venus fly trap and one of those fantastic tiny pepper plants. Plants seem to make a space feel friendlier, don’t you think?

7. Incorporate Favorite Things into Your Decor

This might not be an issue for non-Virgos, but I get very hung up on the matchymatchy and Decor with a capitol D. But you guys? Imagonna get over that. Let’s find a place for our high school dancing trophies. And our Pound Puppies from third grade. And that plaque in Swedish from our grandma.

8. Get a pet

If you’re living alone or just going through a rough patch, few things make you feel better faster than an animal friend. I spend an embarrassing amount of time chatting with my cat, lecturing him on his attitude and attempting to give him a lion cut. Even if the most pet you can muster is a just a betta fish or Robo-dog, I promise you, it’ll help.

9. Stock up on engaging, funny books and movies

If you’re trying to get over a break up/lay off/grad school rejection, put away the Dostoevsky and Dancer in the Dark. I can never get enough of Bill Bryson, David Sedaris or, as of late, Harry Potter. And few things can lift my spirits like Babe, Billy Elliot or American Teen.

10. Paint the inside of your closets or cupboards a crazy color

Such a lovely surprise when you open those doors every morning! How cute is this? I’m pretty sure even your sweaters will be happier, nestled in a place that colorful.

11. Incorporate the whimsical and ridiculous into your space

I am all over this, friends. How about a door painted with chalkboard paint? Tiny animal cut outs peeking between your books? Crazy science posters? A fighter jet that your cat can hang out in? All valid options, all really fun.

What do you do to make your living space more happy?

Comments on 11 ways to “happy-fy” your home

  1. Love this! In addition to filling your home with things you love, I’d add try to get rid of things you DON’T love. Or those that make you feel guilty for doing / not doing something. Your home should be your sanctuary and thus as unstressful as you can make it.

  2. Such great advice! I especially love your suggestions to incorporate plants and pets. Having to be responsible for nurturing a living thing, even a houseplant, is really grounding. In stressful times I find a lot of peace from diddling around in my garden for a few minutes. In fact, I think I have a garden more for its psychological benefits than for the veggies!

    Also: embrace light, especially sunlight. Use light window treatments, and add mirrors to multiply the light if it’s a little lacking.

  3. My mom painted the inside of her cabinets a color she and a friend called Menopause Pink. It’s sort of a dark salmon. Mom’s friend painted her house this color when she went through menopause because it made her happy. They were the only other people they’d met who loved that color besides themselves, and now that Mom’s friend passed away last year she has a playful reminder of her friend every time she opens her cabinets.

  4. Back in college my roommates and I all went down to Staples to have posters made from pictures we found online. I had an XKCD comic made into one and, four years later, it is proudly displayed in my living room.

  5. If you live in a place that doesn’t allow for the painting of walls and/or you can’t be arsed to paint it back when you move, go to Wal-Mart, get one of those really cheap but colourful quilts, and hang that baby up! That’s what I did in my bedroom. It brings a whole bunch of colour into the room, it’s over a window (I like my bedrooms dark at night, and the streetlights are obnoxious) so the light filters through it and it looks glowy, and it’s just kinda charming! It’s a cheap crappy quilt, but it makes for a nice wall furnishing.

    • Or, as my college roomie and I found out last year, cheap colored butcher paper cut into organic shapes and taped to the wall can make a fun color splash. It also creates a game of “what shape is that” when guests are over. (Never the same thing twice.) God bless cheap crappy quilts though 😀

  6. I actually did a very similar thing when i broke up with my ex (many years ago now). It wasn’t so much a concious decision for me, but i just couldn’t stand to look at dull colours anymore. All of a sudden i was wearing bright jewel-tone cardigans, i had an almost flourecnt orange sheet set, and a quilt cover with large brightly-coloured spots on it, and bright green and purple towels in my bathroom. And all the doors and windows were open the second I got up in the morning! (i usually can’t stand any sort of light for at least and hour after i first wake up…)

  7. This is what happened after my last room mate moved out and my new one moved in. 8 was sick of the dormitory look of the apartment so we went and printed out a TON of pictures and put them up on the wall by the tv and brought in old, interesting pieces of furniture to liven things up. Our next project is to tye die some curtains to put over the dull, dreary white blinds in our living room. I can say these personal touches really went a long way in making our apartment feel more like home. Now its a place I enjoy coming back to.

  8. Pretty lights have to be on the list, surely? I have some star shaped fairy lights around my book case all year and some accross the wall in my spare room/study/sewing room.

  9. Love this post! I’m all for en-happy-ing my space. When I moved into a very dark, old, basement flat, I took to using white board marker on all the white tiled surfaces. My bathroom ended up a massive collage of silly quotes, art and comments from my friends. Best part, I could just wipe it all off in a minute and start again 🙂

  10. Great tips–wish I’d had this to read when I divorced a few years back. Like others, I found myself drawn to colors. I put in a red kitchen floor, and I had lots of orange, green, and blue in my house. It really worked, and it was a happy space. Felt great to come back to life.

  11. This is awesome! Our apartment was looking kind of sad after we moved in and I just got around to hanging up art and next stop will be printing out some photographs, because you’re right: everyone needs a laugh!

    Our cat definitely livens up the space. It’s hilarious finding that he’s made a hammock from the under-hanging of our box spring, or that he’s assumed a statue pose on my bedside table.

  12. Oh, this makes me so happy just to read it! Not only smells, but sounds! I am always surprised at how quickly music (no matter what kind) makes bad days brighter. I recommend having a good way to play your music throughout the home. Headphones don’t quite cut it, imo. And often make it hard to dance! 🙂

    Great post!

  13. So much yes to the color! My horrible bland shoebox is SO MUCH BETTER now that there are purple diagonal stripes in the bathroom, a pollen-yellow wall (the light is so much better too), and turquoise accents. And if you can’t paint, contact paper is a really easy way of getting PATTERN on your walls.

  14. My husband and I have been doing this with our house! Our living room now has a “mad scientist’s hunting cabin retreat in the country” theme and the dining room is a nice blend of Asian scroll paintings, Medieval swords, tree and leaf themed things, and anything shiny or made of colored glass theme. Yep, anything we love gets put on display, making for some really random rooms! And everything is getting painted bright colors and covered with plants!

  15. Our house is a rainbow. The master bedroom is red, the kitchen will soon be orange, the guest room yellow, the living room/dining room pale green, the study medium blue, the guest bathroom turquoise, and the master bath purple. I love standing in the middle of the house with the doors to all the rooms open and seeing all the color.

    Most of the art in our house are souvenirs from places my husband and I have traveled together: lots of Japanese things, since we met while teaching English over there. A Buddhist calligraphy painting of horses from a temple in Korea. Maori wood carvings and a didjeridoo from our honeymoon. They all bring back happy memories.

    I’ve always been a postcard collector. I love museums, and I’d buy postcards of my favorite art. One entire wall of my childhood bedroom was covered in postcards that made me smile. I had some in my first adult apartment, too. I’m still thinking of ways to incorporate them into my current place. (Because really, if my husband gets to take up prime wall space with his four swords, I should get my postcard wall.)

  16. I have what I call a “Twat Wall”. It’s pictures of me and anyone I care about, acting like twats, basically. The more idiotic you look in the picture, the greater your chance of making it to the Twat Wall. It’s amazing how competitive people get even when it’s a case of competing to make the biggest fool of themselves!

    I’m a big fan of collages in general, and what I really like is adding objects to collages where possible, including anything fabric that can be tacked up in the same way as paper, coins and other small souvenirs. And of course all items can be on rotation so there’s always something new or that I haven’t seen for a while.

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