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I was recently in a hotel room when my daughter Alex broke down laughing while I pulled three giant, hot pink saris out of my bag. “You’re like Mary Poppins!” she exclaimed, barely getting the words out as she watched me drape each one strategically around the lamps in the hotel room.

Think about that last time you were sitting at a nice restaurant as the sun went down. Around 6:30 a staff member probably came over to your table and softly placed a candle in the middle. I call this the romance factor.... the little touch that helps you to feel so relaxed and welcome that you order that second glass of merlot, or lightly touch your partner’s hand. Now imagine that the waiter comes back five minutes later and turns on a fluorescent light right above you that is so harsh you almost have to put your hand over your eyes to keep from wincing. Suddenly you’re feeling like you’re in a hospital cafeteria and flagging down the nearest person for the check.

Harsh lighting reminds us of chaos. It puts our nervous systems on high alert, hinting to the time we said goodbye to our grandmother in the hospital, or that time we pushed ourselves to do one more set of squats at the Sport & Health Club.

I don’t know what evil genius decided to put those same horrible death-ray lights in every office, home, and school in America but I am so not down with it. And you know what? You shouldn’t be either.

The right lighting calms your nervous system. It calms your inner spirit, brings you out of panic mode and into the moment, which is the only place you can enjoy yourself anyway.

If you’re reading this and cringing thinking of your own home don’t panic (I hate that, remember?), I’m going to share my favorite quick tips that will transform any room.

  1. Dimmers. Dimmers! I LOVE DIMMERS. Do you want my humble opinion? All lights should be on dimmers.

  2. Light bulbs. Not all light bulbs are created equal. I love the Edison ones. If you’re open to a slightly groovier option pick up the colored ones. The pink ones are my fave.

  3. Candlelight. I have finally accepted that I live in the 21st century and electricity is our friend most of the time, but when you can- go old fashioned. I dig the unscented, white pillar candles. You can find them just about anywhere.

  4. Balance. You don’t want all of your lights on one side of the room, or just overhead. Think of it like a light triangle.

  5. Scarf. Never underestimate the value of a thin scarf. Drape it over a lamp, and voila. Game. Changer.

I believe that our homes should be, quite simply, sanctuaries. Sanctuaries to relax and to unwind in, to play card games by the fire and torture my kids by playing "twenty questions" in.... and there are no death-ray lights to be found.

I hope you enjoy these tips, friends!

Follow us on Instagram @sanctuarydesigns, and I hope to see you soon on Church Street at my very own Sanctuary!

~this blog post originally appeared in Great Falls Magazine, Spring 2017

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