What does it take to be happy at home? It’s not about buying (or not buying) a new sofa, it’s about whether your home is working for you in the best possible way. We caught up with design psychology coach Rebecca West to chat about her new book, Happy Starts at Home.
Hi Rebecca! How did you get started as an interior designer?
My career started when I got divorced and found myself living in the house I’d once shared with my ex-husband. Everywhere I looked I felt haunted by that past relationship—there was the couch we’d gotten… the bed we’d shared… the paint colors we’d chosen together... I couldn’t keep living like that. I found a way to transform my space on an out-of-work divorcee’s budget, moving on without moving out. That launched the start of not only my new career, but also my new life.
Why did you write Happy Starts at Home?
I wrote Happy Starts at Home because interior design is a powerful tool that can help folks live happier lives, and I want everyone to know it! There are lots of interior design books that are full of beautiful, aspirational pictures but they don’t ask the very important question: "How will these changes to my home help me live a happier life?"
Even though you’ll find my story and some examples of past design clients in the book, along with images of beautiful rooms, that’s not what it’s about. Those stories and pictures are in there along with workbook-style questions to help readers identify concrete and achievable action they can take in their spaces, right now, to get happier at home and in life.
What can readers learn from this book?
Each chapter of Happy Starts at Home tackles one aspect of life—like relationships, healthy living, or money—and connects success in those areas to the design of our homes. It’s meant to help readers get big-picture perspective on how their homes are either supporting their life goals, dreams, and passions, or creating obstacles to those goals. And then it guides them towards achievable small steps they can take to make their homes, and their lives, happier.
Is this a book just for homeowners, or can renters be happy at home, too?
Having a happy home doesn't require owning your own home. I've helped plenty of renters find ways to make their temporary house feel like home, and in my own life I grew up in the military and moved from rental to rental. My parents always made the effort to make the house feel like home, and that was an important reason why moving always felt like an adventure, rather than an uprooting of my whole life.
What makes you the expert in getting happy at home?
I am a certified Design Psychology coach with degrees in Interior Design and in Community and Environmental Planning. I've been leading my interior design firm Seriously Happy Homes for 12 years, and I have helped over 2,000 people create a happier home. But what connects me so deeply to the importance of having a happy home, and helps me have compassion for my clients, is experiencing it for myself. Finding "home" while growing up in the military, splitting homes with divorced parents (one of whom was living on a sailboat in the middle of the Pacific Ocean), leaving home to serve in the Peace Corps, and reinventing my home post-divorce, have all made me hyper-aware of the importance of having a happy home, no matter where life might take you.