Joy isn't something tangible. You cannot touch it or hold it. That is what we have been told since birth. It is simply a feeling; one of deep happiness that cannot be bought or coerced. What if all we knew about joy was skewed, however? Author, Ingrid Fetell Lee disrupts this view and shows us another way to look at the attainment of joy. Reading Joyful: The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness for the first time felt like an internal awakening. It lit a fire in us, reaffirming the feelings we've come to know, working in the Interior Design industry.
Joy CAN be manifested. It is all around us. You can find it in long meaningful conversations with friends, you can find it in a child's awe-inspired face, but you can also find it in the objects that surround us every day. Sometimes we overlook the later, but the joy is there. It can be found in the shapes, sounds, and colours that pop up and surprise us while walking down the street or in our home. It can be found — stirring up feelings we don't quite understand.
With years of research on the topic of joy under her sleeve, Lee expertly brakes down how joy can be found, nurtured, and taught, in even the most downtrodden of places. Let's explore some of her findings.
Colour Your World
We talk about paint as making your home look sharp, warm, or inviting; but let's talk about the power of paint to create joy. Some people are 'Chromophobic' or afraid of colour, fearing the uncertainty. While others embrace it with full-force. Walking down the paint aisle can be overwhelming, but it can also be an opportunity to find joy! Colour speaks to us on a deep level.
Lee tells the beautiful story of Tirana, Albania, under the leadership of Mayor, Edi Rama. Prior to 2000, broken by decades of repressive dictatorship, the city of Tirana was filthy, dangerous, and its people were scared to walk the streets. That is until Rama set his sights on restoring historic buildings at its core. through the use of bold colour.
Rama commissioned the old, grey buildings to be coloured an eye-catching shade of tangerine. People stared in awe at these buildings, and a change started to brew inside of them. A trickle of joy began to spread across the town until it was deafening. Slowly, the crime levels started to deplete, people stopped littering and started caring about their city and the people in it. Who knew that paint could be so monumental.
Next time you go down the paint aisle at your local Home Hardware, remember Tirana. Choose a colour that speaks to you instead of choosing the safe choice. You may just experience the deafening trickle of joy spreading within you too.
Let There Be Light
Ask any photographer what is essential for their craft and one of the first things they will say is 'good lighting'. However, rarely do we think of light in our day-to-day surroundings and it's power in shaping our experiences. Even though we don't often understand it, our bodies are inevitably connected to the elements that surround us. Light is one of those elements. SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) lamps exist for this reason.
Lee explains that people, "like moths, cannot resist the light." She goes into scientific detail for this photon action, but what stood out to us was her explanation for the interaction between light and colour and their ability to affect human joy.
Have you ever selected a paint colour only to realize that once on your wall, the colour did not work in the space you chose it for? Recently, one of our clients came to us with this issue asking for advice. She painted her basement stark white, wishing for a brighter, more Pinterest-worthy home. What she didn't realize was the very important symbiotic relationship between light and colour.
While stark whites work in spaces with lots of natural light, basements are dark and do not reflect light in the same way. Fluorescent lighting turned the bright, crisp white cold. Instead of a Pinterest inspired home, she felt like she stepped straight into a dreary asylum. It felt sterile and lacked the cozy energy she desired. Lee highlighted that not all lightbulbs are the same. Some use warm light, while others use cool light.
Unless trained, not many people know to look for the difference when paint hunting. They don't know that manufactured light, unlike sunlight, reflects colour on a spectrum unnatural to the human eye. Next time you need lightbulbs, take the time to look at the lightbulb packaging to determine whether you are buying warm (with a CRI of 100) or cool light Kelvin bulbs. This step will save you when designing your home.
Need For More
Abundance is a topic Lee discusses in detail in Joyful and it's one of our favourites. The idea that humans need more — more variance and more stimulation in their lives — is both enlightening and perplexing. After all, we are all taught that less is more, right? From a young age, we are told to be happy with what we have and to not be greedy. After all, we have a whole movement (Minimalism) dedicated to shedding the excess. Reading Joyful prompted us to dig a little deeper into what it means to live abundantly.
No, living abundantly does not mean going on a shopping spree and taking up the hoarding lifestyle, packing as much into your home as humanly possible. It means feeding your senses with enough stimulation so your body and mind don't go "sense hungry." It means surrounding your day-to-day life with various textures, colours, patterns, lights, sounds, smells etc so that you don't feel the need for more. Having a plentiful palette of experiences is crucial for experiencing joy.
Think about how you feel walking through a lush and plentiful forest, feeling the crunch of twigs beneath your feet and seeing the swaying leaves changing colours before your eyes. Or think about the anticipation you feel when the clock strikes midnight on New Year's Eve. The bells, whistles, and gold confetti, all coming alive in that moment. What do you feel if not joy?
Humans too easily conclude that joy isn't something tangible, that it has to come from within. What they fail to realize is that our external environments shape our inner experiences. We are not simply vessels that either feel joy or do not. Joy is rooted in something tangible. If you have not done so already, we urge you to pick up Joyful and have a read. We are curious to hear your thoughts! Shoot us a message and let us know what you think and, as always, contact us if you desire a little home inspiration to spark your joy!