cozy calm home design

How to Create a Cozy Home That Reduces Stress

Nippy weather often stokes up our desire for coziness. When our toes are freezing in our wooly socks, and we’re shivering in our turtlenecks and flannel jammies because the heat won’t turn on until the end of November, all we want is to be like snug little bears in our hibernation cave.

But how to make a home cozy for fall and winter is a bit of a fuzzy answer. The curious truth is that “coziness” is just as ambiguous as the word “wellness”.

cozy calm home design

Recently, I’ve been nerding out on an emerging science called neuroaesthetics. The nub is that neuroaesthetics explores how aesthetic experiences register in our brains, and how that influences our emotional and biological responses.

Coziness then depends upon personal factors like your culture and experiences. Things like smell, color, light, materiality, and sound affect our emotions, while aesthetics are influenced by genetics, sensory information, and conditioning. This means there are multiple ways to create “cozy” (which I plan to explore further in-depth).

For now, I’ll quickly share with you a few design areas I’m focusing on to cozy up our new apartment here in Rome:


Cozy lighting is all about creating warmth. In this case, soft yellow lighting is favorable (even if blue flames actually burn hotter). This is because we associate the color yellow with a warm crackling fire.

To produce the warm fireside effect, you can start by swapping out any cool-colored light bulbs for warm-colored bulbs. It’s budget-friendly and invites a bit of warmth into the home.

cozy lighting chandelier

Likewise, the soft glow of a fire can be imitated through candlelight. If you’re feeling creative, you can try making your own candles at home. Not only is it a cozy way to spend an afternoon, but it’s loads of fun to do with the children. I made my first candles out of melted crayons. Homemade candles also make for a sweet and thoughtful present.

warm cozy candlelight

One last note: Don’t forget about ambient lighting. Harsh overhead lights tend to remind us of the workplace or an educational hall (neither of which are known for their calm and relaxing atmospheres). Instead, try table and floor lamps, string lights, sconces, and light-diffusing lamp shades to give any room a soft, ethereal glow.


I’ll let you in on a well-known secret: Designers use texture to make a space feel cozy and inviting. Textiles like wool, knit, sheepskin, faux fur, and velvet make me feel warm and well, like I’m living inside a cozy cottage.

textures cozy home

Almost two months ago, we double-moved–first to a new country, then to a different apartment. My son and I were dealing with a lot of homesickness (we still are), but recently I noticed a subtle change in the air. Getting into a routine has certainly helped, but I realized how fond we’d become of spending time inside our snug little “treehouse”. This wasn’t the case before, so what changed?

I slowly began stocking our home and wardrobes with soft fleecy blankets, flannel jammies, and wooly socks. It was a small change, but home started to feel comfortable and familiar.

Try filling your space with soft, soothing textures in the form of pillows, blankets, cozy home clothing, or cozy home furniture pieces that are so soft and buttery, it feels like a warm hug when you snuggle down.

velvet sofa cozy textures
*We’re fond of velvet sofas

Other items that add a comfy, homey feel to a room are books, rugs, and tapestries. Books are one thing I need scattered throughout the house, along with parchment and writing utensils. For lovers of the written word, these are affordable items you can utilize to squeeze in a little warm familiarity.

book texture

“I must have books everywhere. They’re the soul of a room–they reveal the tastes, the interests, and the secrets of whoever lives there.”

– Diane von Furstenberg

Alas, rugs and tapestries can be a little pricier, but they’re lovely ways to add depth and coziness to any room. I’m currently searching for an area rug to add to our living space. Many of the apartments here in Rome have parquet flooring, which is lovely to look at, but my feet are bloody freezing when the weather turns cold and nippy. Just the thought of a nice fluffy rug in the living room gives me the warm and fuzzies.


Humans are drawn to the natural world. Nature has a calming effect, so by finding ways to bring nature inside, we can create a cozy, relaxing environment.

According to psychology, there are several reasons why we have a yen for both coziness and nature. Lily Bernheimer, environmental psychologist and author of The Shaping of Us: How Everyday Spaces Structure Our Lives, Behaviour, and Well-Being, says that one concept is biophilia.

Biophilia is the human inclination to seek connections with the natural world.

“Even if you’re inside working and you look out the window and see a tree, that simple view of something natural has the ability to sharpen your concentration to make you more focused and at the same time to relieve stress, to actually have a physical impact on blood pressure and the circulation of stress hormones,” says Bernheimer.

To experience the full effects of biophilia, you’ll need to waddle out into nature and immerse yourself–but it’s not the only way.

Try finding ways to integrate natural elements and natural materials throughout the house. Natural woven baskets make fantastic living room pieces. Simply pop one in the corner, add a few wooly blankets and, ta-da! Nature and a storage cubby rolled into one. 

Similarly, wicker plant baskets bring the nature element and also add a fun dash of texture to a space. But let’s not forget about wood, water, and natural lighting. There are so many ways to incorporate these natural materials into the design of your home.

For decor ideas, you won’t need to spend a thing if you go foraging. Chestnuts, pinecones, flowers, and aesthetically pleasing stones can be easily discovered on a pleasant family hike. Try placing your findings in jars or using them to create a new table centerpiece. It’s the perfect time to get a little creative and have some DIY time with the children.

forage home decor

Let’s chat, for a moment, about the prospect and refuge theory.

Humans are fond of spaces that make us feel safe and protected, which are also feelings associated with coziness.

The prospect-refuge theory suggests that we favor environments that allow us to safely observe without being seen, which is why smaller cave-like spaces provide comfort, especially when they open into nature and expansive views.


Scent is powerful. When I walk into my home, I like it to smell like home cooking, books, and parchment. I know, a bit of an odd combination, but it reminds me of my childhood. For you, a comforting scent will likely be linked to one of your own pleasant memories.

reed diffuser scent

Try scented candles, reed diffusers, essential oils, incense, potpourri (an ancient favorite), or plants to make your home smell divine and give it that extra touch of homeyness.

cookie scent cozy home
*Oh happy days …
I love when home smells like a bakery

Hopefully, you’ll stay warm and snug this season by focusing on these four simple design areas to make your home a calm and cozy sanctuary. Toodeloo!

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