How To Make Your House Feel Less Depressing In Winter

Room design by Erin Gates Design // photo by Michael J. Lee

This probably isn’t an issue for those of you who live in warmer areas of the country and world, but where it’s cold and snowy like New England, winter can make our houses feel like a complete cave of dusty, soul-crushing grossness. So here are my tips to help turn your cabin-fever riddled space into something a BIT more happy.  (Oh, plus a stockpile of Clorox wipes because it seems like the entire world is sick and germs are everywhere.)

(Click images for specific links)


We just got all new sheets at Christmas and it makes our bed feel SO much cleaner and nicer.  I personally think Matouk makes the best sheets (so light and crisp) and worth the investment (they last a LONG time). And when you have illnesses circling the family, it’s nice to feel like your bed is a haven.


Adding a big piece of art in a room can bring it to life instantly. Especially over a sofa or big blank wall in a dining room or bedroom.  There are lots of great oversized options these days from sources like OKL, Pottery Barn and Ballard.  Or try your hand at painting something yourself during a boring snow storm!


With everything closed up and the heat on, the home can get really stuffy.  I am obsessed with The Laundress Baby Fabric Fresh spray for anywhere in the house. It’s non-toxic and has natural antibacterial properties and such an easy way to make things smell and feel fresh.  And for the closet, I spray the Wool & Cashmere spray on all my sweaters and clothes to freshen them up between dry-cleanings. (side note: Their stain solution is also really good for kids clothes!)


If you don’t have a fireplace, I like using a huge vessel candle on the coffee table with lots of wicks to give off the same cozy vibe. Bonus points if it has a light, clean scent that fills the house too (I don’t know about you, but I hate heavy winter scent candles the second Christmas is over)


If you haven’t pulled the trigger or installing drapes in your house, now’s the time! Not only will drapes make your space feel cozier and more finished, they help with drafts quite a bit (especially if you get lined ones).  I love this hardware (it’s in my living room) and simple white Belgian linen panels (use drapery rings for the best drape).


With it getting dark so early good lighting is especially important this time of year. Nows the time to get it sorted. I always have lighting on multiple levels so you can adjust based on time of day, mood or situation.  Along with any recessed lights you have,  you’ll want table lamps or sconces (plug in is fine with a cord cover) and floor lamps in a living area.  In a dining room a ceiling fixture plus buffet lamps and sconces.  In a bedroom, a pair of table lamps or sconces plus a floor lamp or secondary table lamp on a dresser.


Dingy pillows on your sofa can make everything look sad.  Freshen things up with a couple new pairs and watch how it brightens the room!

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  1. Good ideas. I have been looking for a candle that smells like a fireplace but that doesn’t cost $100. So I get the smell and the glowing light without the mess of a fireplace.

  2. Clicked on the pillow link to find that the Etsy shop is only 20 miles from my house!
    Love that Etsy is one of your sources! Would you mind sharing the source of the blue and white dragon vase pictured on the bar in your book please?

  3. Your living room in the first photo is exactly what my living room wants to be … when it grows up and has a makeover.
    Alas, once again, I can’t make the “pin me” button work. Is it just me? #pinningincompetent

  4. I just discovered Laundress a few months ago and am completely obsessed! Fantastic products. Don’t miss the ironing water — it definitely works and smells wonderful.

  5. My home is definitely cozy for winter but I can’t seem to pull the trigger on drapery and a dining area chandelier or pendant. I want it to be perfect but at some point I need to settle for close enough! Thanks for this post.

  6. Erin, I am so glad to have found – and subscribed – to your blog. It is a ray of sunshine in my inbox! I especially like the links to (affordable!) items we can purchase for ourselves.

  7. May I ask a question about living room drapes flanking a fireplace? What might you do when there is hardly any room on either end for “stack back” of panels? I don’t wish to instal romans on my french doors but there is minimal room to keep the drapes open. . . Thanks, this post made me think of my question as I think my black hole living room windows at night are contributing to the wintertime sads!

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