My Happy Place


Julia Millen delves into the latest homes’ research to discover what makes a happy abode

It’s no surprise, that as we now spend so much time in our homes, our happiness is intrinsically linked with how they make us feel.

Building a happy home, quite literally begins from the ground up. With architects, builders and manufacturers working together to produce healthy, adaptable, solidly built properties that will last for many decades.

A recent study by Resi, an architectural firm based in the UK, identified six qualities of a happy home: secure, adaptable, connected, nourishing, relaxed and mirror. The last one refers to how accurately a home reflects its inhabitant’s personality and values.

Top of the list is homeownership. Homes must meet our basic needs for shelter, safety and stability. The biggest demographic predictor of home satisfaction — more than your income or relationship status — is whether you own it. People feel more invested in a property they own, as opposed to a rented home. This is, at least in part, because they can renovate and decorate it to their own tastes as well as build equity, which in turn gives a greater sense of security and pride.

In contrast, those with the lowest level of satisfaction were cited as people living in rental accommodation with a tenancy agreement of less than two years. However, it’s important to point out that this is not the case for social renters with secure lifetime tenancies, who experienced greater levels of satisfaction, than people who own mortgage free properties.

The freedom to adapt the layout of our home as our needs change, rates highly on the list. 92% of those happiest at home agree that their house meets their needs, while only 20% of those less satisfied feel this. Adaptability requires us to think of our properties less in terms of size and dimensions, rooms and storage and more in terms of the multiple uses and functions that each space can host. Regardless of the size of your abode, most of us can make our homes work harder to support our wellbeing and happiness by focusing on creating flexible spaces.

Private gardens, balconies and open-plan living rooms make us feel more connected and with an estimated quarter of homes now open-plan, there has been a significant shift in the way we live.

When residing in an open-plan environment, it’s important to divide the space to create zones and make the home functional and comfortable.

For the 23% of interviewees who work from home, at least some of the time, interaction beyond the front door is important, as it offers a sense of connection to nature and the wider world. Access to outdoor space, was cited as just as important as indoor rooms.

How satisfied we are with the views from our windows is a bigger predictor of our happiness than the need for lots of natural light pouring in, but in fact, the survey found, it’s not the light — it’s the view to the outside. It’s the connection to nature and greenery that is key.

More than anything, our homes should provide a sanctuary. Relaxed spaces help to make us feel calm and at ease, where we can switch off and put our feet up. 90% of those most satisfied with their home, say it often or always makes them feel relaxed, whereas only half of those most dissatisfied with their home say this.

Feeling at ease is closely linked to the ways in which our homes must be ‘adaptable’ in meeting our daily needs. Feeling relaxed on the other hand is more likely to be linked to design choices and ‘relaxed’ was the home personality trait most associated with satisfaction. After relaxed, sociable and distinctive had significant positive impacts on our happy home barometer.

One of the strongest findings observed, was that people feel far happier when their property reflects them. About 80% of those who are content at home say their homes reflect who they are, while just 7% of those who are unhappiest agree. So, whether you’re choosing a new lamp or building an extension, it’s important to think about how those changes meet your personal needs and help you express yourself.

It’s surprising when we spend more time at home than anywhere else that, when it comes to understanding how to live well, we too often lack confidence or power to change how our home affects us. We barely have the language to articulate our feelings, and so our comfort zone becomes all about making do and carrying on.

No two homes are the same, which makes identifying happy homes difficult. Our experience of the home is hugely influenced by who we live with. Wellbeing is about our personal resources and external conditions. Our homes are not just defined by physical characteristics, they are one of the basic building blocks of how we experience the world.

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