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Keep Calm and Carry On: Modsy’s Guide to Creating a Relaxing Home

Are big life changes adding stress to your day-to-day life? Maybe you’re facing a big move or career change, or perhaps your kids are getting ready to head to college or you’re just starting a family. Or maybe, like many of us, you’re just feeling overwhelmed by current events!

The world can feel chaotic and overwhelming, but your home doesn’t have to be. In fact, a well-designed home can be a grounding, centering space where we can process and even momentarily escape some of the stressors of life.

Want some help transforming your home into a peaceful and calming zen space? Read this list of 10 interior design tips to transform your home into a haven away from the world’s stresses.

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1. Use a Neutral Color Palette

When it comes to interior design, neutral tones are easier on the eye than bright colors. As such, using a neutral color palette can help promote a sense of calm in your home—making it feel like a true sanctuary. However, make sure your neutrals aren’t too stark; add some warm neutrals, like gold, pale tan, or faded yellow to keep your space from looking sterile. Another great way to add visual warmth is to decorate with textures and natural materials. This helps balance out white or brighter neutral tones, adding warmth and visual interest.

“Neutral, neutral, neutral! Don’t worry—everything doesn’t have to be beige! To create a calming ambiance you can pull in a few colors like blue-grays, pale greens, or dusty mauves. The trick is to keep the palette light and airy to lift the spirit and the mood!” –Shelly S., Modsy Designer

“A light neutral palette is uplifting and leaves space for whatever emotion is being processed at the time.” –Peter C., Modsy Designer

2. Add a Pop of Punchy Color

Just because you opt for a neutral color palette doesn’t mean you have to avoid vibrant colors! In fact, pops of color can promote feelings of happiness and positivity! So, add in a few brightly colored accessories such as pillows, vases, or artwork. If you want to make even more of a visual statement, cluster a few colored pieces of decor together to create a focal point that maximizes the joyful effect in your space. Adding punchy pops of color in small amounts throughout your home allows you to have a moment of joy every time you pass by it. Another way to add pops of color? Natural greenery! Plants can add color throughout your home while also boosting your mood!

“If neutrals leave you feeling a little ‘meh,’ try incorporating little pops of color. Color therapy can have a tremendous effect on seasonal mood disorder and depression, so adding bold color in art, decorative accents, or even books helps create a space that feels cheerful and optimistic with little commitment and cost.” –Hope C., Modsy Designer

“Greenery is a must! Plants have been clinically shown to promote a better sense of well-being and reduce stress. Adding natural elements grounds the space, looks beautiful, and brings some soul to the space!” –Shelly S., Modsy Designer

3. Display Personal Photos

When it comes to wall art and tabletop decor, consider incorporating personal photos. Framed photos of the people you love, pets, or places you’ve traveled can take your mind to pleasant places! Keeping images of loved ones on display can also have a grounding, calming effect. Not into displaying personal photos? Store them in easily accessible albums or boxes so you can access them whenever you need a boost!

“Personal photos can add a sense of ownership to your space and bring you a lot of joy. If you have some favorite photos from a vacation or moment in your life, take the time to print them out, properly frame them, and display them in a place that makes sense to you. Guests will love seeing them too!” –Katherine B., Modsy Designer

4. Soften Your Space with Textiles

Textiles like blankets, throw pillows, and drapes are a great way to add visual depth and texture to your space. Purposefully long curtains that pool on the floor, loose-fitting slipcovers, and comfy throw pillows all add a sense of ease and livability to a room. And materials such as knits, linen, velvet, and suede can look and feel particularly relaxing.

“Layer those natural and cozy textures. I love mixing natural textures (rattan, jute, wood) with those that I find plush and cozy (cotton, boucle, faux fur, and even linen). Make sure to not introduce too many layers, though, as this can start to detract from the calming effect we’re looking to create. For example, if you’re hoping to bring more peace into your bedroom, start out by mixing a natural woven bed frame with a plush rug or swap that idea with a linen upholstered bed frame and a jute rug.” –Becky S., Modsy Designer

Designer Tip: With throw pillows, use a variety of shapes and sizes, and don’t be afraid to move them around regularly to refresh your look without spending any money! Pillow covers are also a great piece to swap out seasonally to refresh a room’s color scheme!

5. Bring in Visual Warmth with Candles

Who doesn’t love candles? Their flickering flames create a cozy, soothing ambiance, and scented candles can elevate their calming effect even more. (Hello, aromatherapy! More on that next.)

“Lighting is everything! The right lighting can take your well-designed space to the next level! Using a soft yellowish hue produces a sense of calm. If you don’t know where to start incorporate some candles too to create a calming mood.” –Shelly S., Modsy Designer

Designer Tip: Instead of just buying a single candle when you want or need one, we love keeping a substantial supply of tapers, pillars, and votives on-hand, as well as several favorite candleholders. That way you’ll have plenty on hand whenever you want them and you never have to be stingy about using them!

6. Indulge in Aromatherapy

Using your sense of smell is one of the quickest routes to relaxation and is great for creating a sense of well-being. So, fill the air of your home with your favorite scents! As we just mentioned, candles are a great way to add some calming scents to your home. But you could also try an essential oil diffuser if you don’t want to worry about monitoring an open flame! Or simply bring in some fresh eucalyptus or fragrant flowers into the rooms you use the most for a natural, light fragrance.

Some scents that are particularly calming and relaxing are:

  • Lavender
  • Rosemary
  • Peppermint
  • Ylang Ylang
  • Bergamont
  • Chamomile
  • Geranium
  • Rose

“I use scents to mark the transition of time throughout the day. For example, I diffuse lavender in the morning to help cultivate a calming vibe for the day ahead. When it’s time to transition into the evening, I’ll light a favorite candle while making dinner. It’s a lovely little ritual that helps me transition throughout the day more intentionally.” –Karina L., Modsy Designer

7. Separate Work and Play

While mixed-use spaces are prevalent and hard to avoid, especially in today’s world, they can cause undue stress. After all, if your home office is situated within your living room, it can be difficult to relax at the end of the day. Work/life balance definitely has a mental and emotional component, but physical spaces do impact our ability to compartmentalize different parts of our lives.

In general, single-use, designated spaces are better for creating a relaxing home, if they’re achievable. By designating specific areas for various activities, you are subconsciously allowing yourself to move with ease and purpose within your home. This also allows you to be more intentional when designing your home since you can decorate with each room’s function in mind. Can’t avoid mixed-use spaces? Utilize closed storage to help create some separation between uses and activities.

“Closed storage is essential for visually calming or ‘de-stressing’ a space. Putting away functional items when they’re not in use can help reset a space and produce a feeling of accomplishment.” –Peter C., Modsy Designer

8. Create a Comfort Zone

Speaking of single-use spaces—creating an area of your home specifically for relaxation is a great way to create calm. It could be a reading nook, a space to turn on a record and listen to music, or perhaps a meditation corner. You don’t need to set aside an entire room; just select a spot that’s out of the way! You can separate this space by putting a barrier between you and possible distractions. Folding screens are a great way to divide an open space and create zones with unique purposes. Plus, they can block out distracting, unwanted views and redirect foot traffic away from your relaxation zone!

“What hobbies do you have that promote your own wellness? Yoga, reading, meditation? If space allows, why not create a dedicated area for this activity! Keep these spaces free of clutter, but include elements that help you focus on the activity at hand. Candles, sound machines, a few of your favorite books, or cozy pillows can help do the trick!” –Becky S. Modsy Designer

9. Strike a Balance

Visual balance can bring harmony into your space, making your home feel more inviting. It’s a simple way to create a sense of calm in your home. And that balance can be found in several ways—from using symmetry when arranging furniture and decor to creating contrast with light and dark pieces or playing with height when arranging tabletop decor. Check out our guide to feng shui for more tips.

“Symmetry and scale bring a sense of balance to a space, which can actually help to mute feelings of low-level anxiety. If your room has a lot of sharp corners or right angles, consider adding some softer shapes to help break up the lines and support the flow of energy.” –Hope C., Modsy Designer

10. Avoid Perfection

A space that feels too perfect and overly designed isn’t welcoming or homey—in fact, it can feel downright uninviting. To keep your home from becoming a showpiece, seek balance between order and livability—mixing organization and beautiful, polished pieces with practical items that you’ll use everyday. The idea is that making your space look like it’s lived in will further invite you to truly live and relax in your space! (Just be sure to avoid clutter, which is definitely stress-inducing!)

“Keep things to just the necessities to create a relaxing and clutter-free look—but make each piece aesthetically pleasing and purposeful. Marie Kondo has it right; every piece in your home should ‘spark joy.’ That’s just as important as function!” –Mackenzie R., Modsy Designer

What do you think? Will you implement any of these tips in your space to enhance your sense of calm? Are there any new ideas you’re going to try out? And don’t be afraid to share if there’s anything we missed and let us know in the comments! We’re always looking for more tips for creating a calm and peaceful home!

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Tips for Choosing a Planter for Indoor Plants

If you’re a plant parent (or an aspiring one), finding the best planter for your greenery is a must. Whether you have a small houseplant or a tall leafy tree, choosing the right planter for your indoor plants will make all the difference in their growth, health, and lushness.

There are some key considerations when shopping for indoor planters. Style is a huge part, but you’ll also want to factor in planter size, what it’s made of, and if it has drainage holes.

To help you pick the best indoor planters, read on for our tips on what to look for, then check out our stylists’ favorite planter picks!

Not sure how to work in more plants in your home? Check out our tips on how to style indoor plants and our houseplant care guide!

What To Look For In A Planter

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Consider Material

Indoor planters are made in many different materials, and they can have an impact on the health of your plants.

For instance, a wood plant pot is porous so it provides better drainage and is also resistant to rusting from water, which means they’re a great option, especially for indoor-outdoor spaces.

If you have indoor plants that need to be watered a lot, try a metal or plastic planter since they won’t absorb the water (unlike wood) and will keep the plant and soil moist. A small metal plant pot in brass or silver can also be great if you have mini faux plants that don’t require any real maintenance. The metal will make the plants appear extra lush.

For those looking for an easy planter that’s stylish AND practical, you can’t go wrong with a stone or ceramic design. They’re all-weather, so they can be used indoors or out, and they have a sculptural appeal that will give your houseplant an extra-vibrant look.

Pick Your Style

Planters come in every shape and style, so you’ll want to choose designs that blend in with your space. Outdoor planters tend to be bigger and more rugged, while indoor ones are smaller with a wider style variety.

If your taste is more modern and contemporary, try metal and ceramic planters for their clean-lined look. If your space is more rustic and boho, consider wood and stone planters that bring in a natural element and an organic touch. You want to pick indoor planters that go with the overall vibe and look of your room, so take your time to decide on the color, shape, and details that work for you.

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Look For Drainage Holes

The most important detail to consider, drainage holes are essential for healthy indoor plants. A pot that has lots of drainage holes is great for plants that need a ton of watering, but it might dry out other plants that thrive in soil that’s on the drier side; you’ll want a plant pot that has one draining hole to keep in moisture for those. Likewise, if you have a plant that requires lots of watering, avoid single drainage hole planters—they’ll clog the roots and end up drowning your plant with “overwatering.”

Also good to note: If a planter doesn’t come with holes (and you can’t drill them yourself), then it’s meant to be a decorative holder for either greenery that’s already in a plastic planter that can be placed inside of it or faux plants.

Size Matters

Pro Tip: Plants grow bigger and taller when they’re potted in slightly bigger planters than the plastic ones they come in. It’s always a good idea to switch newly purchased plants out of their plastic holders once they’ve grown to a fixed size and repot them into slightly larger planters to help them grow more.

That means you should always take root size into consideration along with how much soil and/or rocks you’ll be filling your planters with. Look for indoor planters that are big enough so that the roots of your plants can grow deep.

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Don’t Forget The Details

Some other elements to keep in mind when shopping for indoor planters are the type of soil and the appropriate amount you need, whether drainage rocks or pebbles are a good idea for your type of plant, and if a plaster tray is what you need (they can prevent leakage but can also end up collecting water and drowning some plants).

When it comes to these details that vary from plant to plant, we suggest making a trip to your local nursery or plant store and asking an expert. Experienced plant parents are always happy to help other plant lovers!

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Houseplants Care 101: A Guide to Choosing and Caring for Your Indoor Plants

Raise your hand if you love a good house plant! We sure do! They add so much life to your space—not to mention color and texture. And we’ve waxed poetic more than once about the health benefits of houseplants. (Cleaner oxygen! Boosted moods!)

But as people who have killed more than our fair share of house plants, we know it’s not always a rosy outlook. Some plants are very finicky or downright difficult to care for. Even the easiest-to-care-for plants need the right light and environment and a solid watering schedule. And this might leave you wondering—are indoor plants worth the work? We say: yes. If you’re not convinced, we dare you to keep reading our indoor plant care guide and discover the best house plants for your lifestyle and your level of plant expertise!

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What Kind of Plants Should I Get?

The plants you choose depend on a couple of factors:

  • Do you have kids or pets? (Some plants are toxic if ingested!)
  • What lighting levels do you have in your home?
  • What space are you trying to fill—big or small?
  • How good are you at keeping plants alive?

Each of these variables impacts what house plants you should bring into your home. To help break it down, we’ve divided some of the most popular indoor plants into three categories, from easiest to care for to the most needy of the bunch!

Level 1 Plants: Easiest to Care For

What we’re calling “Level 1 Plants” are the plants that are easiest to care for. These are the ones that can go weeks without water and not drop a leaf. (And they can handle some overwatering, too.) They’re able to battle through bad soil conditions, poor lighting, are more resilient to pests, and can tolerate neglect. Think of these as your “set it and forget it” plants.

Spider Plants: Spider plants are highly adaptable and can grow in a range of conditions. Their arching leaves give them a graceful look and make them perfect hanging plants. They thrive when planted in well-drained soil and sitting in bright, indirect sunlight. Spider plants occasionally flower, producing babies or “spiderettes” which makes them easy to propagate. Spider plants are non-toxic and safe for humans, dogs, and cats.

Succulents: Succulents are a group of plants that are characterized by storing water in their leaves—resulting in leaves that are thick and fleshy. There are many different types of succulents out there, but in general they thrive in dry climates and don’t like too much humidity. This means they can handle infrequent watering. However, make sure you plant them in a pot with a drainage hole, as succulent roots that sit in water for too long will begin to rot, and will ultimately kill the plant.

Snake Plant: Sometimes called “Mother-in-Law Tongue,” snake plants are a fan favorite. With coloring ranging from light yellow-green to a variegated dark green, we love the architectural shape of these hardy plants. Put a snake plant in indirect sunlight, and let the soil dry out between waterings. Snake plants are mildly toxic to humans and pets and can cause mouth and stomach irritation if ingested.

ZZ Plant: Known for your ability to kill off even the hardiest of plants? Then a ZZ Plant might be for you. It’s said that these plants are virtually indestructible; they can withstand months of neglect and low light and still look wonderful. However, they do best in moderate to bright indirect light. Let soil thoroughly dry out between waterings—the one way you can kill this plant is by overwatering. ZZ Plants are mildly toxic to humans and pets and can cause stomach irritation if ingested.

Pothos: The trailing vines of a pothos plant can add a lot of visual interest to your home—whether it’s potted in a hanging planter, or set on a shelf with the tendrils trailing downward. They do well in bright, indirect light and nutrient-rich soil—but they handle low light and nutrient-poor soil with aplomb. And, in fact, they can survive without soil at all! They can be grown in water, and happily stay alive, untouched, simply sitting in a vase. Pothos is mildly toxic to humans and pets and can cause stomach irritation if ingested.

Level 2 Plants: Require a Bit More Attention

These plants are a bit more sensitive than their Level 1 counterparts, and they require a bit more attention. But they’re not so sensitive that they’ll keel over after one missed watering session!

Broadleaf Ferns: Broadleaf ferns are distinct from the more common leatherleaf or Boston ferns in that their leaves are undivided rather than compounded. So, their name literally comes from their broader leaves. Ferns are generally low-maintenance houseplants. But they do require a more specific environment. Since ferns originate in dense, shady woodlands, they need lower light and plenty of humidity. Mist your fern daily and keep it out of direct sunlight to keep it happy!

Philodendron: Philodendrons are a type of plant that comes in a variety of shapes and sizes (nearly 500 species!). They can range from tall, tree-like plants to small, vining varieties. We love the fact that a philodendron readily adapts to new conditions and will tell you exactly what it needs. (Droopy? It needs water! Leaves yellowing? It’s getting too much light!) With simple adjustments, these houseplants will stay happy for a long time. Place philodendrons in bright, indirect sunlight and allow the top inch of soil to dry out between waterings. And keep out of reach of kids and pets, as philodendron leaves are toxic when ingested, causing swelling in the mouth, upset stomach, and vomiting.

Dieffenbachia: Dieffenbachia plants have beautifully variegated leaves, making them a lovely decoration in your home. They’re fairly adaptable to different environments—but they’re sensitive to overwatering. Keep their soil moist but not soggy, and allow the top inch of soil to dry out between waterings. They like filtered light best, and require being rotated regularly so that all sides of the plant receive adequate sunlight.

Fittonia: This compact plant has striking patterning on its leaves, often with pink veining. Fittonia plants prefer bright, indirect light and like to be kept moist. While average household humidity is generally fine, these plants like it on the humid side—so regular misting will keep them very happy. Bonus: fittonia is non-toxic and pet-friendly!

Level 3 Plants: Needy But Beautiful

Ready for a challenge? These plants make a beautiful statement in your home—but they definitely require some babying. They’re very sensitive to over or under-watering and some need a lot of humidity. And they absolutely won’t tolerate incorrect lighting conditions, the wrong type of soil, pests, or any other adverse conditions. But don’t let that neediness scare you! These beauties are worth the work.

Calathea: Known for their bold, patterned leaves, calathea are unique in that their leaves fold up slightly at night, revealing a beautifully colored underside. They do best with medium to low indirect light, and they like when their soil is kept moist but not saturated. You should also mist it regularly, as these plants appreciate some extra humidity. Calathea are also non-toxic and pet-friendly.

Fiddle Leaf Fig: Fiddle leaf figs get their name from their large, violin-shaped leaves, which can make quite a statement in your home. They grow best when exposed to consistent, bright, filtered sunlight. You’ll want to turn the plant every few months, as fiddle leaf figs are prone to leaning toward sunlight. Let these plants dry out between waterings, then really drench them when you do water them. It’s good to keep them in pots with a drain hole so that you can water them to the point that it drains to the saucer. And since these plants are native to the tropics, they like regular mistings to keep the humidity levels up. Fiddle leaf figs are mildly toxic to humans and pets and can cause mouth and stomach irritation if ingested.

Alocasia: Alocasia plants can grow quite tall—up to 8-10 feet! Their height, combined with their arrow-head shaped leaves and tall stems makes quite a statement in your home. They thrive in bright, indirect sunlight. Just make sure it’s not direct, as their leaves will burn; conversely, they also can’t handle a dark corner. Alocasia is fairly tolerant if you forget to water them, but they prefer to be kept damp. And they love extra humidity—so make sure to mist them regularly, and you could even consider keeping a humidifier nearby! (They also love to live in bathrooms, where humidity is higher!) Alocasia is mildly toxic to humans and pets and can cause mouth and stomach irritation if ingested.

Bird of Paradise: Considered the queen of indoor plants, birds of paradise add a tropical flair to your home. These large, upright plants can adapt to a wide variety of lighting conditions, but they especially thrive in the sunny corners of your home, with the ability to handle direct sunlight. Keep this plant on the drier side, and especially make sure that its roots aren’t sitting in wet soil. Occasionally misting these plants will keep their dark, glossy leaves looking great. Bird of paradise plants are mildly toxic and can cause stomach irritation to humans and pets if ingested.

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What supplies do you need when caring for plants?

Ready to bring home a new indoor plant (or five)? Just like bringing home a pet, you’ll want to make sure you’re prepared with the right supplies for proper houseplant care! Here’s what you need:

  • Pots: You can’t plant a houseplant without a pot! There are a ton of beautiful plant pots out there, but you don’t need anything fancy. Just be aware of if your plant needs well-drained soil, as this requires a planter with a drain hole and tray.
  • Soil: Make sure you buy potting soil that specifically suits the plant you’re potting. (Desert plants will want a “cactus mix,” others can tolerate an all-purpose potting soil.)
  • Watering Can and Mister: A watering can makes watering your plants easier because of their long, slender spouts. But plants don’t just want water in their soil—they love a nice mist on their leaves, too!
  • Fertilizer: Fertilizing your plants is a way to introduce nutrients into the soil. Think of it like taking vitamins, but for your plant!
  • Pest Control: Unfortunately, with house plants, pests are inevitable at some point. Be prepared for any outbreaks of mealybugs, spider mites, or scale with the proper pest control.
  • Clippers: Regular pruning helps keep your plants happy and healthy. Invest in some clippers rather than using household scissors, as you’ll get a cleaner cut. Bonus: These are also great for trimming the ends of fresh flowers!

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Common Houseplant Pitfalls

Of course, even with the easiest and most low-maintenance plants you’ll encounter some pitfalls. (And certainly with the needy varieties!) Whether it’s the wrong amount of water or lighting, some sneaky little pests, or a pot that’s too small, little shifts can dramatically improve the quality of life of your plants!

  • Overwatering or underwatering: Many plans come with basic watering instructions. But you can always do a quick Google search to find out what your type of plant needs!
  • Incorrect lighting conditions: Some plants can’t handle direct sunlight; others crave it. The right lighting conditions will make a big difference. This is another case of Google being your friend to figure out what your plant needs!
  • Root binding: As plants grow, sometimes they outgrow their planters to a point that they become root bound, with their roots densely packed within the planter. This can be detrimental long-term—but a simple upgrade to a larger plant pot can easily improve its outlook. Just try to untangle and loosen up the roots before transferring it to fresh soil and a new pot.
  • Dry air or conditions that are too hot or too cold: Some plants are very particular about their conditions. They may need slightly warmer and more humid conditions, while others can happily thrive in cooler or drier conditions. Figure out what your plant needs and make simple adjustments to their environment.
  • Pests, disease, and nutrient deficiencies: Mealybugs, scale, spider mites, fungus, mold, rot. Who knew so many gross things could grow alongside your plant?? Regular observances of your plants during your watering routine will help you quickly notice abnormalities or pests and allow you to deal with them quickly and more easily.

Overwhelmed by all that can go wrong with plants? If you want to avoid these pitfalls and the risk of dead plants, you can always opt for faux plants instead! While they won’t help clean your air, they’re certainly more low-maintenance than their live counterparts—one of the many benefits of faux plants.

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Additional Houseplant Care Tips & Tricks:

  • Create a watering schedule so that you never forget to water your plants.
  • Rotate your plants around your home once a month to switch up the angle from which they receive sunlight.
  • Every plant varies in how often they need to be fertilized—but in general, fertilize your plants approximately once a month during their flowering or growth phases to continue bringing nutrients into the soil. You can skip fertilizing in the winter, though, when many plants go dormant.
  • Keep your plants clean by periodically dusting or wiping down leaves with a damp cloth. If they get too dusty, it impedes their ability to take in sunlight and photosynthesize!
  • Don’t forget to prune your houseplants to get rid of any dead leaves or unwanted growth.
  • Finally, learn how to style indoor plants and integrate your plants into your home’s decor!