Book Review – Happy Inside by Michelle Ogundehin

With rain lashing the windows and gales blowing for much of the Christmas holidays in Cornwall, I curled up on the sofa with Michelle Ogundehin’s book, ‘Happy Inside’.  Michelle trained as an architect, and I was expecting a book largely about interiors.  But actually it’s much more her philosophy for life; how to ensure you’re happy inside yourself, as well as inside your home.

The book highlights the importance of our home environment on our overall wellbeing, covering all aspects of life, from how to work efficiently and reduce clutter & distraction, to improving your sleep and nourishing your body with good food and exercise.  And whilst I don’t tend to write a long list of resolutions, it encouraged me to review all these things as the freshness of the New Year rolled around.

Michelle sets out her stall early on, with a firm belief that most people don’t need “more space”, rather they need less stuff and to make best use of the space they already have.  I wholeheartedly agree!  We delight in designing storage so that everything has it’s place.  How many pairs of boots do you need shelf space for? Where do you do your make-up?  Where’s the most convenient spot to keep the recycling?

She articulates one of our key philosophies when she writes,  “too often ‘architecture’ is considered separately from ‘interiors’ and yet they are but two halves of the same thing, the envelope of your home.   Thus for maximum coherence, they must be considered together and your palette should therefore include all your external materials as well as interior finishes to ensure a seamless flow from inside to out”.

This is so true and it’s why we work so closely with the whole Project Team.  The choice of kitchen flooring is considered in close conjunction with garden designers, to ensure that it will sit happily with the paving on the terrace outside, maybe we even use the same product.  It’s not simply the choice of stone, but the size and layout of the slabs, even the width of the grout lines.  Nothing should happen in isolation!

Tanya Bentley Contemporary Interior Designer Cornwall

The book highlights the need to think about your materials palette early on.   Limiting the palette of finishes and colours employed through a house ensures there is continuity and cohesion in the design, without every room looking the same.  It’s about having an overall vision before you start.  This is vital and it’s something we encourage our clients to invest time in.  Clearly defining the Brief and articulating the overall Concept is the single most important means of ensuring a great result.  As Michelle so rightly says, “ Think first, decorate later”.

I don’t agree with everything in the book – she has a dislike of kitchen islands and bar stools, which I’m very happy with, provided they are just storage and a ‘meeting place’, for coffee and a chat, rather than sitting amidst the grease or splashes that come from having hobs or sinks mounted in them.

I can also see the attraction of a dedicated playroom – surely parents of young children need some respite from the sheer relentlessness of parenting and a break from looking at brightly coloured toys, once the little ones are tucked up and they can flop on the sofa?

But overall I thought the book takes a very holistic view of how best to achieve happiness in life; in your own health and wellbeing and in the creation of a happy home environment that “restores, rejuvenates and replenishes”.

So whether you’re planning a major house renovation in 2024, or just feel that some small areas of your home could do with a freshen up, I recommend this thoughtful read.