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5 Ways to Make Your Home a Sanctuary

We love when a client comes to us saying they want a calming home that lets them feel nurtured and restored. Since we’ve been creating sanctuary-like spaces for over two decades, we know that crafting such a soulful environment starts with the overall design concept and then comes to beautiful life in the details.

While there are endless ways to incorporate rest and relaxation into your home’s design, time and again we find our designs favor five distinct elements, and we are thrilled to share them with you today.

Read on to discover our favorite ways to prioritize comfort and rejuvenation in your home. With these features, you just might find your Zen.

1. Water Features

There is a reason why commercial lobbies and waiting rooms often contain a trickling pond or waterfall. They are visually pleasing, to be sure. But more importantly, they intrinsically evoke a sense of calm. The water’s motion and sound, not to mention its reflective qualities, soothe the senses in ways usually found only in the natural world. A water feature, no matter the style, is a wonderful way to bring a feeling of restfulness to your spaces. Whether placed indoors via a desktop fountain, or incorporated into your outdoor landscape, there’s no denying the calming effects a water feature can bring to your home’s design.

A view of a strategically - landscaped backyard features comfortable Adirondack chairs, overhead shades, a privacy fence, and a pool with a stone waterfall feature.
Our client’s backyard oasis pairs an inviting firepit seating area with the backdrop of a pool waterfall feature for a welcoming and relaxing experience through and through.

2. Layered Lighting

Although it may be possible to sufficiently illuminate a space with only one fixture, to create a space that’s lit to not only meet your every need but also to create a soothing mood, layering your lighting is essential.

Overhead light fixtures provide both an opportunity to add style and a way to keep a space as bright as possible. Add a lamp or two, however, and you have focused light for reading as well as an overall warmer glow within the space. Bringing in this second layer of light instantly changes a room’s aesthetic, making it look and feel calmer and more soothing. Pendants and wall sconces, too, can work to shift the mood within a space. While they provide concentrated task lighting for a kitchen island or breakfast nook, like lamps, they warm the space by bringing light closer to where the people are. In a hallway, library, or other public living space, they can bring a special, hushed focus to a featured piece of art. No matter their purpose, layers of light make any space feel cozy, inviting, and peaceful.

Powder Bathroom with natural light and earthy tones
In this Powder Bathroom we added a sconce above the mirror and a can light in the ceiling (for general lighting). Both operate independently of the other and are dimmable allowing one to control the amount of light desired. A skylight above provides diffused natural lighting during the day which softly plays off the reflective surfaces below. Project in collaboration with Sarah Hoover Interiors.

3. Textiles

Upholstered furniture, window coverings, throw blankets and pillows, towels, bedding, and more make up the vast category of design elements known as “textiles.” With so many such pieces in your home, you can imagine the important role they play in creating a sanctuary-like look and feel.

We have a profound love of fabrics here at RHD and they often serve as inspiration for the spaces we design for our clients. To lay the foundation for a restful retreat, we start by bringing in upholstery and rugs in colors, patterns, and textures that evoke comfort and delight. Part of the beauty of smaller textiles in your home is that you can swap certain pieces in or out to meet your needs and the mood you want to create. While we usually don’t see drastic changes in temperature here in California, creating true comfort in your home as the seasons change may call for swapping cool linen bedding for a cozier variety. Or, you may find that as Spring makes its debut, you want to incorporate fresh, nature-inspired hues and light, cooling textures into your décor to welcome warmer temperatures.

If selected well, textiles provide endless opportunities to transform your home into a sanctuary.

Luxurious bedroom featuring drop pendant lighting and patterned wallpaper.
We incorporated soothing details throughout this clients' bedroom makeover via textiles, lighting, and more to ensure a luxury, sanctuary - like aesthetic. Project in collaboration with Sarah Hoover Interiors.

4. Calming Color Palettes

The effects of color on our psyches cannot be overstated. Certain colors may leave us feeling energized and happy while others can make us sleepy or melancholy. What constitutes a calming color palette can be different for each individual. Some may gravitate towards deep, muted jewel tones. Others may prefer a lighter aesthetic, with pale blues and greens taking the lead. Whatever your preference, your home’s ability to make you feel at ease is firmly rooted in the color palette you choose.

As we remind our clients, a color palette not only determines the feeling within each space, but it also serves as a statement of their personality and tastes. As in the above examples, we know that deeper colors can make us feel cozy and mellow, which can serve to lower our stress levels and give us a sense of relaxation within our walls. And while lighter hues provide a very different vibe, they, too, can be calming as they instill a feeling of airiness and simplicity, helping us forget about the busyness of the world outside our doors.

A view of this spacious and open white kitchen showcases a striped area rug, creamy white cabinets, a brass and glass globe island pendant, and stainless steel appliances.
A foundation of neutrals anchors the kitchen we designed for a San Francisco client, with warm brushed brass pendants, an earthy jute area rug, and Roman shades in a soothing gold and silver floral jacquard. The result exudes simplicity and calm.

5. Organic Elements

Finally, we’d be remiss if we didn’t address the importance of organic elements in creating peaceful spaces. This category encompasses a wide range of items, from plants and florals to stone, wood, and woven materials such as seagrass (water, detailed above, also falls within this category). But for our purposes here, the what doesn’t matter as much as the why.

In short, we incorporate organic elements into our homes’ décor to foster a connection (however subliminal) with nature. The goal is to bring a sense of life and rejuvenation to our interiors. Living with nothing but man-made furnishings and materials can leave us feeling empty and cutoff. Instead, by infusing our spaces with materials only nature can create, we give our interiors an enlivened character, reminding ourselves of the calming effects of nature on our hearts and minds.

The effect on a space of including any of these five elements is instantaneous and undeniable. When used all together, they can transform your home into a living, breathing entity that helps you thrive in your daily activities. And whether you’re more inclined towards stillness or high-energy activity, having a healthy dose of sanctuary-inspired décor at home is guaranteed to make you feel rejuvenated each and every day.

 A calming master bath retreat with grey and white natural stone floor tiles.
The use of natural stone is an effective way to bring in an organic element into any interior space. Here the earthy color palette and inherent movement in the stone itself are a beautiful example.


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