In Maine, we take great pride in our homes — from urban apartments to lakefront mansions and mountain cabins.
Mainers appreciate the outdoors, but there’s also something to be said for the moments of practicality and luxury we find indoors.
These days, people in Maine have a heightened awareness about the importance of mental health, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic took such a toll for so many years. Whether we’re spending our time indoors or outdoors, it has never been more important to feel “right” in our minds, whether it means taking a hike, playing a round of golf or unplugging from technology at home.
While Maine faces many challenges from a mental health perspective, with hundreds of Mainers reaching out for help on a weekly basis, there are also plenty of opportunities to address those challenges by making key lifestyle changes.
As a longtime interior designer, I spend most of my working life indoors, helping people find the best possible living situation for themselves. Over the years, I have come to realize that there is a strong — and often understated — connection between the interior of a home and the mindsets of those living in it.
In some cases, the way your home looks can lead to mental distress, amplifying feelings of anxiety and even depression.
The numbers don’t lie. Human beings spend about 90% of their time indoors, meaning that a few simple interior design tweaks can have a very noticeable impact on your daily routine. Ninety-eight percent of interior designers now consider well-being when working on their projects, knowing that the right design can boost people’s productivity.
Consider house plants. Studies have long shown that indoor plants reduce fatigue, stress and sicknesses like colds and sore throats. On top of that, plants can increase concentration and creativity. Putting together the right collection of house plants makes you feel like you’re out in nature, even when you’re just sitting on the couch.
Or take color as another example. It’s no coincidence that an indoor plant with an earthy green hue or a flower with bright pop to it conjures up that healthy feeling of being one with nature. Vibrant shades of green, orange and yellow encourage communicating and socializing — fostering the connection that makes human beings feel, well, human. Warmer shades of orange and yellow inspire relaxation, while even an icy blue can produce a feeling of calmness.
My general rule of thumb is to make your home your own. The place where you live needs to reflect your identity, creating a symbiotic relationship. Interior design should speak to people’s unique hobbies and interests on a case-by-case basis, reminding them of their own personality traits and empowering them to take pride in those qualities.
Again, the numbers don’t lie. People who feel that their homes reflect their identity are 1.5 times more likely to have positive feelings about where they live. Whereas an unclean or untidy home can weigh on mental health, the showcasing of personal possessions instills a sense of pride that is unparalleled. When your interior design features you, it becomes much harder to leave the indoors because it turns into your comfort zone. Therein lies the symbiotic relationship.
This is not to say that venturing outdoors is a bad thing. To the contrary, it is vital for people to leave their homes and explore everything that there is to experience, especially in beautiful states like Maine. It would be a disservice to not take advantage of the great outdoors in a place where nature is so easy to explore.
However, Mainers do spend a lot of their time indoors, so we have no choice but to make the most of that time. It may not always be top of mind, but we should never underestimate the power of interior design as we all strive to live healthier lives.
Let’s make interior design a staple of Maine’s ongoing mental health discussion. Our minds will thank us for it.
Lori LaRochelle is the founder of LaRochelle Interiors, based in Augusta.