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Bringing the Outside In: How to De-stress Your Home

By on March 19, 2014

By: Kelly Soderlund

The start of a new year is often a time to reflect on one’s experiences of the past 12 months. During stressful periods of life, one’s home should serve as a peaceful sanctuary that fosters feelings of hope and happiness. Whether you live in a sprawling estate or a cramped apartment, it’s necessary to open up your immediate living surroundings to calm your senses and free up your mind. Additionally, bringing nature into your home can actually reduce stress. We asked Sherrie Swass, of Swass Interior Design, to offer her tips on the best ways to de-stress your interior by bringing the exterior world back indoors.


Everyone needs a special place to relax in his or her home. When redecorating your home, consider places that encourage relaxation. For a great many, this usually means a place outdoors– especially when one has a beautiful view of a forest of trees, an ocean, lake, or a river, which promotes a sense of unity with nature. However, Swass says that same feeling can be re-created by simply adding a water feature to a redesign in your yard. Yet the ability to bring that outdoor sense of space and tranquility to the inside of one’s house is often where missteps occur in design.

“The point I am trying to make is to connect your front or back yard view with the interior of your home. You will feel much more relaxed when the connection is not separated by harsh color contrasts or overly decorated window coverings. The transition between the two areas should be soft and engaging,” says Swass. Essentially, she says it’s the same concept that recognizes the mind/body connection in relation to health issues. There needs to be a sense of unity.

Where should one begin when desirous of creating a balanced, natural environment in their home? Swass suggests designing at least one room in your home that compliments and connects to the outside of your home, using nature as the inspiration. In most cases, this would be the family room or great room. The design will flow gracefully within the confines of both areas, keeping the overall feeling and appearance harmonious.

“I continuously use the word “feeling” in my design because that is where it starts. I ask “you” how you want your home to “feel”. Then I begin to start the design process, which includes color scheme, furnishings and accessories, which contribute to the entire total feel and look of your home,” says Swass.

You shouldn’t buy furnishings until you really discuss how the room will work for you. Unfortunately, most people don’t realize how their purchases can make or break the feeling of their home. Most people spend a lot of time in their homes these days– be aware of how it is affecting your health.

Again, the more that you are connected to nature, the more relaxed you will feel. And, by feeling more relaxed, you will enjoy better health, wealth and creativity.


I have always been aware of the positive influence of “nature” in the home. Several years ago, I was introduced to the meaning of feng shui. It suddenly dawned on me that this theory had been around for thousands of years. Frank Lloyd Wright died over 50 years ago, but designed homes that are timeless. His designs, from “open-plan living” to “bringing the outside in”, can be seen in our homes today.

We purchased our home 15 years ago. At that time, the home was 20 years old and the design statement included the huge rock fireplaces that were placed as the focal points in the room. Most people would have remodeled and removed the dated look, but being sensitive to the original bones of the home, I realized that the fireplace in the great room connected to the large Tahoe rocks that surrounded the kidney-shaped pool in front of the home. Since glass windows separated the entire wall between the great room and outdoor patio/pool area, it was essential to keep that connection. (See Actual Photos) By the way, this would never pass code today.

Long story short, I have always been challenged by this room. All the furnishings needed to be oversized because the large rock fireplace set the scale for all the furnishings in the room. The sofas are larger than twin size beds. We kept purchasing larger and larger televisions because the fireplace dwarfed every furnishing we brought in the home.

The silk bird of paradise plants had to be raised in height by using large rustic baskets to give them proper stature since they are placed in close proximity to the fireplace.


Plants. Plants are a great way to make any room peaceful. Better yet, place trees in your most visible corners to round out those visible hard edges that pop out when you enter a room. While we all love real trees and plants, quality, keep in mind that natural-looking silk trees are much better looking than dead ones.

home2In rooms such as bathrooms, kitchens and bedrooms, add real plants, which are smaller and much easier to care for. They also add a living element to your environment. Cut flowers also add so much to a room. A little zest of color can totally transform the feel in a space.

De-clutter your space. Clutter is the enemy of calm. Sometimes we feel totally overwhelmed with all our… stuff. “I have been there,” says Swass. “That is also one of my attractions to feng shui. A quick tip for eliminating clutter: spend just a few minutes each day controlling your clutter. Keep, throw out and ‘relocate'”. Throw out the unnecessary pile and relocate items to their proper places in the house.

Let the light in. Sunlight is nature’s aspirin– it impacts your physical and mental health in a very positive way. Pull those shades up or back off the window. Mirrors can also be used to brighten up a room if you are lacking natural lighting due to lack of windows. Try it– the energy change in a room is incredible. This also is a feng shui tip for relaxation.

Dim lighting. Since light boosts energy, it is reasonable to understand that turning down the lighting at the end of the day helps the transition to wind down and prepare you for sleep.

Reminders of memories. Remember that amazing vacay you had in Hawaii with your friends? Reliving good memories gives you a relaxed and happy outlook. Use framed photos to surround yourself with people, places and events that make you happy. Chances are, these are same things that make you feel loved– reliving joyful memories is like giving yourself a hug everyday.

Power it down. Electronics can drain more than electricity in our lives. We surround ourselves with TV’s, computers, tablets, etc., on a daily basis. They can take a toll on our sleeping habits. Try to turn everything off an hour before bedtime. The blue light emitted from electronics can actually affect your REM cycle—and you know how you feel the next day without a prior good night’s sleep.

Relaxation is what most of us are desirous of in our daily lives. We are all capable of making our own homes the sanctuary we need to unwind in at the end of the day, and yet most people don’t actually know how to create it. Look out the window; nature is our guide.


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