World got you down? A hit of “dopamine decor” might lift the spirits.
The biggest trend in home decorating this fall is an emphasis on happiness, self-expression, color and creativity. Does orange make you smile? Dress your kitchen in the happy hue. Love a variety of styles? Do a mashup.
The look goes by many names. Fashion writer Dawnn Karen referenced the feel-good brain chemical in her book “Dress Your Best Life,” holding that “dopamine dressing” — wearing clothes in your own, individual style — gives you positive feelings.
Decorators and influencers say the same thing happens when we throw out old decor rules and step into a space adorned with personal touches. We’re more relaxed. More creative.
People are asking themselves what colors and patterns they really love, “and then bringing those features into their spaces — even if it goes against conventional decorating advice or what they might have seen online 10 years ago,” says Lauren Phillips, associate director of special projects at Better Homes & Gardens.
“Unused guest rooms are home offices. Formal dining rooms become craft spaces. And ‘barkitecture’ is having a moment — installing dog baths and other pet-specific features," she says.
“But I don’t take it to mean we’re bouncing from trend to trend super quickly. To me, it means people are defining their own style, and really getting to the root of the designs they love, even if that’s a little more colorful, kitschy or funky," says Phillips.
There's lots of inspiration on the internet. “If, 15 years ago, we all wanted the picture-perfect kitchen we saw online, today it’s all about taking a trend or beautiful interior that you see on TikTok or Instagram and pulling out the details you love," says Phillips.
“Gen Z is on the cusp of becoming our new homeowner," says Amanda Kruse of Upspring PR, a New York-based marketing firm for real estate, design and interiors.
And they're more likely to mix styles for a personal spin, she says.
Emilie Munroe began designing a San Francisco family’s Victorian home by leafing through a sheaf of torn-out magazine images from the client.
“We knew immediately our design should exude happiness and inspire curiosity,” says Munroe.
A tiny powder room got an exuberant pink-and-black, animal-print wallpaper. In a tight hallway next to a window, there’s a kaleidoscopic wallpaper, an abstract rug and a Basquiat-patterned chair.
London-based design editor Cara Gibbs, meanwhile, has noticed the free-wheeling use of paint.
“I feel like it used to be wacky to paint a room pink from top to bottom, but now the application of these bright, poppy palettes is chic, interesting and most importantly very livable. I’m here for it!” she says.
So is Massachusetts designer Nicole Hirsch. She’s put a zingy green — she calls it “alligator” — on a bathroom ceiling. Tangerine on a playroom ceiling. Cobalt blue, lipstick pink and chrome yellow add lively punches on furnishings.
In her own California home, designer Alison Pickart has the kind of roomy closet that storage-challenged homeowners would envy. But she saw value in a different use.
“It was a hall closet, but with its generous size and great natural light from a back window, I just felt like the space could be ‘more,’" she says.
So she turned it into a little “phone room” for herself. “It seemed like the perfect size and place to escape, with some privacy to make a call."
Clara Jung of Banner Day Interiors worked with clients on a San Francisco ranch house that's full of big, airy spaces. But nudge the secret panel in the living room bookcase and you’ll find a cozy, color-saturated, album-lined music den. There’s a vintage wood bar and a sprawl-worthy crimson rug.
“The homeowners are avid LP collectors,” she says, “and the husband’s a musician.”
Jung was ready to install a door when the clients suggested creating the secret entrance instead. “We loved the idea!" she says. "It’s the perfect escape for an audiophile.”
Maybe that’s the new decorating rule: Create your own “perfect escape.”
New York-based writer Kim Cook covers design and decor topics regularly for The Associated Press. Follow her on Instagram at @kimcookhome.
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