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Good design can make your home feel like an oasis—but just as easily, something that’s not quite right can make you feel like something’s, well, off. You can’t quite put your finger on it; you just get that feeling like the walls are closing in on you. Or you’re feeling overwhelmed, and you can’t blame your square footage or clutter. Turns out, there may be more subtle triggers to blame. New York designer Carolyn DiCarlo’s spent her career studying—and helping people decorate—spaces that put them at ease. Here are the offenders most people overlook…until she steps in.


Your “Memories Are All Right In Your Face.”

Family photos and mementos are great, but cram too many everywhere, and you can quickly find yourself haunted by the ghosts of your own past. “More is more, until you’ve created too much visual chaos,” Carolyn explains. “In terms of how your brain works, it’s just more information to process.”The space becomes overstimulating, and in today’s tech-addled world, that’s the last thing you need. “If you want to destress, really decluttering is the only way to do it. Remove three-quarters of the things that are on view and see how you feel,” she urges. “Or just remove a couple things a month, if you’re uncomfortable with change. Chances are, you’ll feel better.”


You’ve Set The (Wrong) Mood.

Color can often be a culprit: You loved the moody, jewel-box effect of a strong color, and now it’s just too intense. “Or you’ve gone completely minimal and white, and it’s too severe to relax in,” Carolyn says. Walk into the room and do a gut check: How do the colors that jump out at you make you feel? That gut reaction is telling.


You Totally Ignored Textures.

Even if you love the sleekness of a minimal, mostly white or neutral room, you may find that something still irks you. Take a look at the textures in the room: Do you have a few different ones going on, be it a nubby throw, some shearling pillows, or a paneled wall? “Add it in small steps to soften and warm things up,” Carolyn suggests.


Your Cell Phone’s Next To The Bed.

It’s the first thing you reach for when you wake up, and the last thing you look at before bed—and it needs to go. “Keep your bedroom free of electronics,” Carolyn says. “They affect your anxiety levels.”


You Won’t Go With The Flow.

You know that adding something green in a room can clear the air and make you feel happier, but this is about more than tossing a fiddle leaf fig in the corner. “Think of the flow of how you move through a room like a meandering river,” she says. “This goes back to feng shui—if you walk into a room and get stopped by furniture or extremely long hallways that go on endlessly, those can make you depressed. … If you physically get stopped by something—it sounds like a really subtle thing, but it has an effect on you.”


There’s A Constant Buzzing In Your Ears.

Yeah, that’s a real thing. “Noise, for us, is so real, and people really forget that it has an influence on how you feel,”Carolyn says. Working in a bustling city, like Manhattan, she’s become attuned to listening to clients’ homes, gauging how noisy the neighbors are and how close you are to busy streets. “Maybe you need to get a contractor to put some sound-insulating sheet rock in the wall between your bedroom and that loud neighbor, or you need a white noise machine that you can set to a frequency that’s calming for you,” she added.


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