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9 Reasons your Home Feels Soulless (and how to Fix it)

Homes with soul all share a common thread, but it’s not always easy to pinpoint what it is.

When I work with clients in the interior decorating side of the TLC biz, the number one thing they tell me is that they want their space to feel homely. They often say things like “the room doesn’t feel complete”, or “I want it to feel inviting”.

What I often learn these phrases mean is that my clients feel their rooms are soulless, or sterile, clinical or bland. And I’ve found that it’s becoming a more and more common design conundrum for people in this modern, social media-heavy world.

We are so flooded with perfectly styled imagery on blogs, Pinterest, in magazines and in catalogues these days, that I find people have over-emulated these photos. Day-to-day, though, in copying these gorgeous images, people end up with on-trend homes that feel like the showroom floor of a retail store. Portions of it might look amazing on your Instagram feed, but as you sit in the space, it feels void of heart.

In today’s post I want to give you some ideas to make your spaces feel full of soul again. And throw in a tonne of images of homes with soul that I think perfectly capture this approach.

Why your Home Feels Soulless (and how to Fix it)

built in home office nook with marble desktop and dark timber panel wall from schoolhouse

1. There are no Photos of You

I like to walk into a home and know who lives here. This is best done through photos. I’m well aware that over-cluttered photo walls can look hectic, but there are ways to display family photos on a smaller scale. Some cute frames on shelves is essential. Even a small photo on a bedside table can work wonders.

I find that black and white imagery is a nice and subtle option if you want to avoid an over-the-top look. Photos are always great when the people aren’t looking at the camera, too. You can also weave family photos in amongst art, so it doesn’t feel too cheesy (more ideas on gallery walls here).

schoolhouse electric work hard and be nice to people art against black feature wall

2. It’s not Layered Enough

I recently worked with a client whose walls were all-white, the furniture was white and their was little to no art on the walls. It did feel very sterile walking into the living room, and I knew just how to fix it. The first thing I did was install black cloth wallpaper on one wall and paint the other walls a soft grey.

It sounds dramatic, but it looked amazing and added instant warmth to the room. Art on the walls, a hide rug on the floor and some cushions on the sofa and suddenly the room felt resolved.

The reason is felt resolved is because there were layers of texture. The room was cocooned and cosy and felt amazing to be in. The lesson: Homes with soul are full of layers.

3. The Lines are too Clean

When I say ‘clean lines’ I mean that there are a lot of straight lines in the room. A square coffee table, a rectangular sofa and artworks, oblong rugs, and so on. Rooms with clean lines tend to feel quite hard and formal, and it’s tough to make them feel relaxed, cosy and inviting without introducing some fluid shapes.

Fluid shapes could be a round coffee table, round lampshade, oval mirror, soft cushions in varying shapes, or round baskets that hold throws or toys.

Take a look at your living room now and ask yourself: are there any fluid shapes? This could be the reason it feels uninviting.

schoolhouse electric eclectic kitchen with green and grey bench tiles and grey pendant lights above bench

4. There’s no Mementos

OK, so we took care of the photo thing already. But if you hate displaying photos or you need more ways to make your home feel soulful, you need to display mementos.

Mementos are essentially any possessions that hold some meaning to you. I find that things you’ve picked up when travelling work well. Any object that has a story behind it is a good idea to display on a wall or shelf. I also like to pin old letters or notes on cork boards, for example, that make you laugh. The fridge is a good spot for things like this.

If you have kids, this concept is easy because they’re always creating something to display. If you want to see a really cool way to transform your kids art, check out this post.

5. Your OCD is Showing

I love a clean house just as much as the next decorating-obsessive, but it can be taken too far. Kitchens with nothing on benchtops always bother me a little. Dining tables that hold nothing and floors you could eat off are just as worrying. Sure, your house should be clean, but do leave some things out so it feels like a functioning space. Homes with soul are always a little ‘lived-in’.

Kids rooms are also spaces that I see parents going a bit loopy in with the cleaning. Kids spaces are meant to be fun and a little all over the place. By all means have some clever storage solutions (like these) to keep everything in over, but do allow your children to express themselves.

vintage artwork by schoolhouse electric leaning against white timber panel wall

6. It needs some Vintage Moments

I went through a stage of loving vintage furniture and homewares a while back. I’ve seen the good, bad, and terribly ugly, so I know that some people cringe at the thought of displaying other people’s throw aways.

Honestly, though, heading to a vintage shop to pick up an old piece of art, or an aged decor gem you can spray paint and make your own is a great idea. The sense of history in these pieces give your home a story. It’s such an easy way to inject a little heart and soul into your space, and I highly recommend it.

schoolhouse electric credenza with vintage record player and world map

7. You’re not Displaying the Everyday

I love walking into homes and seeing hooks on the walls with jumpers and scarves on them. Or belly baskets on the floor containing shoes. A coat rack is just as appealing too. Home with soul don’t shut everything away in cupboards and drawers.

Displaying the everyday allow your home to function well but also look good. I also love seeing a bowl with keys and notes and other bibs and bobs in them. It once again shows that someone lives here, and it feels really inviting.

schoolhouse electric living room with gallery wall and dark green sofa

8. Minimalism has Sucked it Dry

Minimalism is bullsh*t, and it’s the mortal enemy of homes with soul. I wrote this post where I ripped into the minimalism philosophy, and I believe it’s a huge factor in making spaces feel barren, sterile and cold. Avoid it at all costs and fill all of the pockets of your home with gorgeous decor, furniture, art, rugs and other randomness.

9. You’re Appealing to just one Sense

I had a friend a few years back who executed this idea perfectly. When you went to her house, there would be mood music in the background, scented candles lit, something in the oven and oodles of texture in her living room when you sat down.

Appealing to every sense also makes a home feel soulful. So consider lighting candles or using diffusers in your home (these are my fave) and having music going throughout the day. I’m always on Spotify looking up new chillout playlists for when I work or make dinner, and it’s such a good tool for injecting life into a quiet space.

Over to you!

How do you inject heart and soul into your home? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below! Are there any other things that homes with soul contain that you’d like to share?

All photos in this post come via the amazing SchoolHouse Electric.

Outside of writing the TLC Interiors blog, Chris is an interior stylist and author. You can also catch him on your TV screens as a designer on Channel 10's Changing Rooms. If you'd like to book a design consult with Chris, you can find out more here

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