Inside Michelle Ogundehin’s Cozy and Calm Brighton Abode5 min read
When Michelle Ogundehin set out to find a new home in her beloved Brighton, England, she brought her well-trained eye to the job. For 13 years she was the editor in chief of Elle Decoration UK, and these days she’s the judge of popular BBC and Netflix series Interior Design Masters, so she knew what she was looking for. Day in, day out, she canvassed the city streets looking for the one. It turned out to be right under her nose.
“It’s a house I must have walked by a dozen times. And one day I just saw it—and there was a ‘For Sale’ sign,” she recalls of the cottage-like Georgian, built in 1821 with a walled garden tucked behind an old-fashioned black gate. “I put a little note through the door that said, ‘I think I love your house. Will you sell it to me, please?’ and attached a copy of the magazine. They called me back, I walked in, and I just knew.”
Michelle pays close attention to those good feelings, always careful to choose things—whether it’s a set of flatware, the color of a cushion, or the house itself—that make her heart sing. But that skill, she insists, is not reserved for editors, interior designers, and the sartorially inclined. As she argues in her new book, published last fall, Happy Inside: How to Harness the Power of Home for Health and Happiness, armed with a few useful tools, just about anyone can cultivate a space that really works for them physically and psychologically. As Michelle likes to say, “Your home can be your superpower.”
It’s a rather timely subject, as we endure a raging global pandemic that has forced so many of us indoors. But long before mandatory quarantines and stay-at-home orders became everyday parlance, Michelle was thinking hard about domestic environments and the way they connect to our well-being. “We have accepted the twin pillars of wellness as exercise and nutrition, and I just felt like, Yeah, but we’re forgetting about environment,” she says. “What surrounds you absolutely affects what you feel like and how you think and your ability to be your best self.” In the book she lays out the basics. The gist? “Everyone can be their own designer and, actually, you already know everything you need to know.”
When we spoke on the phone in early November, England had just announced a second lockdown, and Michelle was preparing for hunker down, part two. While she carefully strategized a few updates to the place—a door on her office; some new plantings in the garden—she was hardly dispirited at the thought of more time at home. After all, she practices what she preaches.
“Every single thing in the house has been chosen according to my happy inside principles,” Michelle says, laying out her core strategy: “Choose well, choose once, choose sustainably, choose that which will last, choose that which makes you happy, that which makes you smile, that which lifts your soul. Because it makes a difference.”
A guiding mantra she used throughout her own home is “Clear, curate, and contain before you add color.” Take her home office, for instance, where all of her personal odds and ends—a puzzle toy painted by her son; a Bitossi ceramic pup that was a birthday gift from her team at Elle Decor—have been thoughtfully selected, gathered, and styled on a few shelves. She uses this trick throughout her home—a few floating shelves in the dining area, and more in the kitchen.
As for adding color, Michelle recommends selecting a palette and sticking to it. Hers, which is steered toward tactility and calmness, includes just six colors, including white, that play well together, while still delivering, from time to time, a jolt of the unexpected. (Read: a mustard sofa or ceiling.)
While selecting just six colors might sound daunting, Michelle insists, “That’s the fun bit!” explaining, “Whenever you discover something about yourself, it’s growth. I get excited when I realize I have absolutely definitely found my favorite flavor of tea. It’s self-knowledge. In decorating your home, you find yourself. You paint a wall and think, Okay, that actually makes me happy. Imagine if you did that on every level. You walk through the door and you’re surrounded by you—the best you—amplified.”
Originally Appeared on Architectural Digest