The world broke you? A touch of “dopamine decor” may lift your spirits.

The biggest trend in home decorating this fall is an emphasis on happiness, self-expression, color, and creativity. Does orange make you smile? Decorate your kitchen with happy color. Love a variety of styles? Mix.

The appearance goes by many names. Fashion writer Dawn Karen referred to the feel-good brain chemical in her book Dress Your Best Life, in which she opined that “dopamine dressing” — dressing in your individual style — gives you positive feelings.
Interior designers and influencers say the same thing happens when we ditch old decorating rules and step into a space decorated with personal touches. We are more relaxed. More creative.
People ask themselves what colors and patterns they really like, “and then they bring those features into their spaces — even if it goes against traditional decorating advice or what they may have seen online 10 years ago,” says Lauren Phillips, associate director of Special Decorating. Projects at Better Homes and Gardens.
The trend toward making rooms more comfortable, functional and personal gained momentum during the pandemic, when many people were stuck at home. Phillips says it continues to grow.
“Unused guest rooms are home offices. Formal dining rooms become literal spaces. Parktecture is having a moment — installing dog baths and other pet-specific features,” she says.
The decor is steeped in aesthetic “cores” – barbecue, cottagecore, coastal novelty, mermaid.
“But I don’t take that to mean we’re bouncing from trend to trend at breakneck speed. For me, it means people are defining their own style, and really getting to the roots of the designs they love, even if they’re more colorful, kitschy, or funky,” Phillips says.
There is a lot of inspiration on the Internet. “If, 15 years ago, we all wanted the perfect kitchen we saw online, today it’s all about taking a trend or beautiful interior design you see on TikTok or Instagram and highlighting the details you love,” says Phillips.
“Generation Z is on the cusp of becoming the new owner of our home,” says Amanda Cross of Upspring PR, a real estate, design, and interiors marketing firm.
They’re more inclined to mix styles for a personal touch, she says.
Emily Munro began designing a Victorian family home by leafing through a collection of torn magazine photos from a client.
“We knew right away that our design had to bring joy and inspire curiosity,” says Monroe.
The small powder room has pink and black animal print wallpaper. In a narrow hallway by the window, there are kaleidoscopic wallpaper, an abstract rug and a Basquiat-style chair.
Meanwhile, design editor Cara Gibbs noted the liberal use of paint.
“I feel like it used to be silly to paint a room pink from top to bottom, but now applying these bright, poppy palettes is chic, interesting, and most importantly, very livable. I’m here for it!” she says.

As well as designer Nicole Hirsch. She placed a bright green color — she calls it “alligator” — on the bathroom ceiling. Tangerines on the ceiling of the playroom. Cobalt blue, lipstick pink, and chrome yellow add lively touches to the furnishings.
In her home, designer Allison Pickart has the kind of spacious closet that’s the envy of homeowners who struggle with storage. But she saw value in a different use.
“It used to be a hall cupboard, but with its sheer size and the wonderful natural light from the back window, it felt like the space could be ‘bigger,’” she says.
So she turned it into a little “telephone room” for herself. “It seemed like the perfect size and location for an escape, with some privacy for a call.”
Clara Jung of Banner Day Interiors worked with clients on a farmhouse filled with large, airy spaces. But push the secret panel in the living room’s bookcase and you’ll find a cozy, color-saturated music room filled with albums. There is an antique wooden bar and a sprawling crimson carpet.
“The homeowners are avid LP collectors, and the husband is a musician,” she says.
Jung was ready to install a door when the clients suggested creating a secret entrance instead. “We loved the idea!” she says. “It’s the perfect haven for music lovers.”
Maybe this is the new decorating rule: Create your own “perfect escape.”

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