What Everyone Should Know About Joy

I’ve never been a fan of anything too pointy. Not in fashion or design.

Years ago, someone gifted me a pendant in the shape of a triangle.

I never wore it.

It’s probably why my design aesthetic is more traditional vs. ultra modern. Traditional design has way more curves, while modern has a lot more straight lines.

A builder once told me that if you build a traditional and ultra-modern house right beside each other, the traditional house sells way faster than the modern one.

The most simple way to illustrate this is is with chairs (below), if you HAD to choose one of these chairs, which one would you choose?

So I’m guessing you like the chair on the right (to be fair, there are obviously lots of curvy chairs in modern design as well).

Related posts: Rule for Chairs

Left | Right

While we are on the subject of chairs, probably the chair I dislike the most is a style like this (below) and similar ones that you’ll often find in a Chinese food restaurant. They must be available by the dozen and CHEAP because they are so common.

As I said in the post I linked to above, a chair should look good sitting all by itself. If it doesn’t, keep looking. You’ll never see a chair like this in House Beautiful. If you don’t believe me, scroll through all 50 photos of dining rooms on their site here.


See? Not a slatted chair in sight?

If you have dining chairs that look similar to this, don’t despair, paint will make them much more joyful, read on.

I will never look at shapes in furniture the same way again since this Ted Talk by Ingrid Fetell Lee on ‘Where Joy Hides and How to Find It’ (below):

After interviewing and polling countless people she met everywhere, even randomly on the street, she started to see a pattern on the kinds of things that brought people joy.  (below)

Universally, people responded that joy was represented in things like, rainbows, bubbles, polka dots, hot air balloons, bright pops of colour, etc.

And it made her wonder why we go to work every day in offices that look like this:

This past week I was downtown for a meeting in an office tower where the finishing touches were just being added to brand new offices that looked like this:

We sat in a meeting room with black carpet, black chairs and STARK white walls and I actually noticed that my eyes got tired.

As I learned years ago, when I was in colour training, high contrast workspaces like this, create eye fatigue because your pupils have to keep dilating to adjust to the contrast. It makes the workplace a high stimulation environment which is not good.

In her talk, Ingrid stated that research conducted in four countries, says that people working in colourful offices are more alert, more confident and friendlier than those that work in drab spaces.

I did find colour in this office building, in the elevator carpet which I posted on my stories last week.

Why do we love colour so much? Researchers say it’s because colour in a very primal way, is a sign of life, a sign of energy, and of abundance, we evolve in a world were scarcity is dangerous and abundance is survival.

This next piece of her talk was the most interesting, she said that neuroscientists tested people and found that when they showed them pictures of angular objects vs. round ones, they found that the part of the brain that associates with fear and anxiety, lit up when they looked at the angular objects but not when they looked at the round ones.

And they speculated that angles in nature are often associated with objects that might be dangerous to us that we evolved an unconscious sense of caution around these shapes (above).

While curves (below), set us at ease.

It’s why I don’t get tired of the colour in my house, it fills me with joy walking through it every day. In fact, I’ll often say out loud “House I love you! You are the best!” (not kidding, haha).

Decorating with Colour | Pink Powder Room | Bathroom Design | Farmhouse Sink | Styling Ideas | Classic White Bathroom

Maria’s powder room (see my full house tour here)

As much as I understand the hidden colours found in neutrals and live to teach them, the reason I’ve been writing posts about clean and dirty colours lately, (here, here and here) is because that is where the SECRET to choosing and specifying colour CORRECTLY, actually lives. Neutrals are best at being the backdrop, but colours create the feel of a room.

My Specify Colour with Confidence workshops involve learning how to specify neutrals (which we’re doing 80% of the time) and COLOUR. Why? Because it makes no sense to understand neutrals if you don’t understand how to choose colour as well.

My mission in life is to help people choose classic and timeless finishes so that they don’t need to be torn out when the next trend comes along, AND most importantly, to feel more confident choosing a colourful sofa, over a trendy grey one (for example). Or to choose colour over neutrals anywhere in the interior OR exterior.

Just today we received an inquiry asking about our New Build eDesign package and the question was “Can Maria help me even though I like warm, earthy colours and don’t want white walls?” So first, I have written many posts about how most people CANNOT have white walls even though that is a huge trend (as noted by the office pics I posted above).

Therefore, if you want to paint your house a true white, and it works, I will specify one for you. If you want an earthier colour scheme which dictates a more off-white/cream foundation palette, you can have that too. As well as a house filled with colourful walls, that’s where the balance of understanding clean vs. dirty (earthy) colours comes in.

When I travel to Europe I’m always struck by how much more colour lives there and it makes me wonder why North Americans are so colour averse.

That’s why I was so excited when I watched Ingrid’s talk about Joy.

I love how this video completely changed how I look at shapes in the world. I will never look at triangular objects vs. round objects the same way ever again.

And neither will you.

Ingrid also wrote a book about joy which I found out has just been released, I can’t wait to read it.

What was your favourite part of the video?

Related posts:

Ask Maria: What is the Most Timeless Colour?

Happiness is. . . a Colourful Hotel

Aimee’s Happy Home Makeover, Before & After









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  1. Very interesting and also encouraging that universally ‘people kind’ (☺) agree on something, that being what brings them joy.
    P.S.: Maria, knowing how you love yellow have you seen the plaid flannel blanket scarf that Old Navy is featuring online? (It is only acrylic (not wool) however at least it is washable and probably suitable for your B.C. climate.) Just thought I’d share it with you as yellow is difficult to find in apparel.