Did you know that my first career was interior design? I started studying architecture at the University of Miami, then a professor suggested I look into a neighboring program. The focus on designing interiors to enrich people’s lives really sang to me.
I studied and worked in the field in my 20s and 30s, first for a few retail operations and eventually opening my own design business in Palm Beach County, Florida. I designed the interiors of many homes, condos, and medical offices.
This was all before I obtained my master’s in counseling and became a therapist, though I see my two careers as deeply intertwined. It likely won’t surprise you that I would closely examine how the interiors I designed would positively impact my clients’ psychological well-being. I even created a course—“Achieving Individuality through Interior Design.”
I applied color and textures to help clients feel like their homes were their safe havens and their offices were welcoming, comfortable, and conducive to working well. I’ve also helped many colleagues create the ideal counseling office.
This experience was invaluable when designing the White Picket Fence Counseling Center in Winter Park, Florida (2005-2020). The historic house, built in 1925, was perfect for creating the feeling that we’d always been a part of the community. We regularly heard from new clients who tried counseling simply because the building looked so inviting and welcoming.
Here are some of my best design tips for creating your own safe havens for working and living:
- Use colors that express who you are—that both stimulate and soothe you.
- Keep your desk area clutter-free, but not sterile. Find your “Goldilocks” level of comfort here.
- Include comfortable seating that is also functional. When I fractured my knee, I added an under-desk bike to keep my knee moving (important for gaining mobility in recovery).
- Use task lighting. I love the aesthetics of my gold leaf lamp (its base is the shape of a crown), and I also have a task light for paperwork.
- Choose an inspiring view, if possible. My current view is the woods and mountains, with different birds and flowers to enjoy each week.
- The time is now! Hang up wall art in a new (or any) space as soon as possible to feel truly planted and settled.
- Select wall art that expresses YOU. This doesn’t need to happen in every room or space, just where you like.
- Create collections. Group wall art or photos that you’d like to view together.
- Do you paint? I hang my own paintings side-by-side with art by my grandfather and original folk art, mostly purchased from my favorite gallery, Jeanine Taylor Folk Art Gallery in Sanford, Florida.
Kitchen and Dining
- Rearrange contents in cupboards/cabinets and drawers to be convenient. Easy-to-reach tools and cookware will encourage self-care in creating delicious meals.
- Upgrade old tools that are unsafe or broken. Sharpen knives to avoid injury. Keep cutting boards clean and in good shape.
- Consider saving up for a special appliance like a smoothie blender, or a slow cooker or pressure cooker like the Instant Pot. The right tool can truly be life-changing if it simplifies things for you.
- Get creative about your table top design, which includes everything from dishes and glassware to place mats and linens, and centerpieces or simple flowers. Whether you dine alone or with others, it is my “must” to create a pleasurable dining experience.
If you’re looking to improve your quality of life through emotional, mental, and physical recovery, consider all the ways you can design your environment to support that growth. And if you need any specific suggestions for your space, please ask!