How Happy Is Your House?

Mary Kay Andrews-bright entrance

Do you have a happy house? How would you even define what that means? Real estate expert Barbara Corcoran was on The Nate Show the other day and said that when a homebuyer says a house “feels happy,” that’s code for light and bright. Light-filled rooms translate into happy ones.

I think she’s onto something. Since our backyard is heavily wooded, we don’t always have as much light coming in as I’d like. I even have to keep the lights on in some rooms in the middle of the day, which drives me nuts. Love the view, but hate all the indoor shade! I can definitely say I feel happiest when I’m hanging out in our sunnier rooms–especially our new sunroom.

Light can’t be the only thing that determines whether a house feels happy or not, though. I could list a few more things that make my darker rooms feel good, like comfortable chairs to curl up in. Stacks of books waiting to be read. Old family photos.  Bright colors like the limeade paint in the kids’ playroom and the turquoise buffet in my dining room.

According to Curbed, the real estate site Trulia surveyed American couples to see what makes them happiest in a house. The majority of women said “closet space.” Most men said “a bedroom big enough for a king-size mattress.”

Something both sexes agreed was necessary for house happiness? “Bright and airy spaces.” Interesting! And it backs up Barbara Corcoran’s theory that a happy house is a light-filled one. Do you agree?

What makes your house feel happy?

P.S. That happy coat rack at the top of the post is from Mary Kay Andrews’ Tybee beach house, which I just looove. You can see the rest of those photos here.

For more information, check out another post I wrote about Barbara Corcoran: The 5 Things That Sell Houses Faster Now.

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  1. says

    Hmmm… a happy home is so much more than that… I live in a tiny house… It has no closet space and definitely no room for a king size bed and yet everyone who visits here comments on the feeling of the house… granted cozy is used a lot and homely, but I’ll take that, as they also say it has a great feel and happy… My sister yesterday, was commenting about how her new (and much, much bigger) house just doesn’t feel right and that she wanted it to feel like mine… Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder… Lx
    P.s It used to be a vacation cottage so it is super light… so maybe there is stock in that comment!

    • Jane says

      I agree Laura. I live in the same kind of house. Everyone that comes here always feels at home and welcome. Although it has a lot of windows, I actually prefer darker rooms, sort of like a little nest. We live in the very cold north, and too much white is very chilly for the six months of below freezing temperatures that we have. Sometimes I think that these experts stereotype everything. What is “happy” for the south might not be for the north. In the end your home should make you and your family happy

  2. says

    I feel my house is happy- because you can see who lives here. It is casual, comfy. welcoming. right now my kids are young and I have decorated to allow my kids to have fun. A large art display wall, fun colors, and a bit of whimsy thrown in.

    As the kids grow I can grow the decor. It is tricky balance to allow kids to “live” in the house with out it being cluttered with kid things.

  3. says

    For me right now a Happy House would be where I could see the hardwood floor, and not have my socks sticking as I walked through the kitchen. But I *do* agree that light & bright is the way to go, to lift everyone’s spirits.

  4. says

    Totally agree with this. We moved into our current house a few years ago and while I like it, I’m having trouble ‘loving’ it. It is very bright and airy but it has a lot of dark oak woodwork and I can’t decide how to paint and put some color into it. Right now it’s all off white walls and ceilings. Our last house was a tiny dark cottage in the woods but it really felt like home and I wish I could bring some of that into this house. There are days when I miss that little cottage…

    • Jill says

      Awe I think I miss your little cottage too but I just wanted to say that I think a warm buttery color would warm your walls and maybe pale blue on the ceiling? You will definitely feel happier. And maybe in another room a green and in another room a rosy peach. Just a suggestion!

  5. says

    I completely agree with this theory. Windows and light are big for me. This is one of the many reasons I live in Florida. I need sunshine and blue skies – dark, grey skies would have me depressed all the time. The same goes with a darker, less light-filled house. I know some people love the coziness of it, but for me, it just wouldn’t work. My favorite part of the morning just might be opening the curtains and letting the sun shine in. Well, second favorite to my glass of chocolate milk every morning…

  6. says

    I think a happy house is one that is clean and uncluttered, smells like cookies, and has fresh flowers in cute containers! Certainly, light and color heighten the emotional appeal and contribute to the happiness factor, as well. Yummy things to eat and drink ready to serve, with areas prepared for company are always inviting and evoke great feelings in a house. I love my house when it is all “dressed up” for a party. A happy house makes me happy!!!

  7. says

    Hmmm. If a happy house is a clean house, then mine is duly pissed off just now!

    BUT…if happy is light and bright, I think we have that covered!

    Although…when we bought it it was kinda sad and gloomy and dark…and 1970’s.

  8. says

    Our house is happy because of the light. The rooms all have many floor to ceiling windows, and the floor plan is very open. The only problem is that wall space is at a premium, I tell ya!!! We love our light-filled, cheery, Georgian-style home.

  9. says

    If it comes to light, then our house is definitely happy. When we built it, my husband and I picked a lot that would face the south so our rooms would be filled with light. I hardly have any window treatments on the first floor of our home because I love natural sunlight.

    Now is our home happy when it comes to other elements? To that, I would have to answer no. We have a lot of sprucing up to do. It was so easy to keep things in prime condition when we only had our daughter. Add the addition of two boys and things started to look worn….marks on the walls, dirty hand prints on doors, furniture cushions looking well lived in, etc. Coming spring, things are going to be refreshed and I can not wait.

  10. says

    When we first toured our house, it was late afternoon on a sunny summer day, and the house was fabulously light-filled. What we didn’t realize until after we moved in, is that the house next-door, which sits slightly higher on the hill we’re on, blocks most of the morning sun and my house is depressingly gloomy in the morning. Our best source of natural light in the morning, is the glassed-in porch on a distant neighbor’s house on our other side. The morning sun reflects off their porch and beams it back into our house.

  11. says

    My house feels like a holiday house because that’s how it started, as a duck-hunting shack (also it isn’t what you could call pretentious). No closet space at all, no problem: I just cut down on stuff – and I think anyone who ranks ‘closet space’ at the top of their list deserves what they get!

    • hookedonhouses says

      I’m with you on that one. Closet space = happiness? Really? Sure, it’s nice to have, but I’d never put that at the top of my list…

  12. Dawn says

    I think there is something about a light-filled house that makes it feel “happier”.

    We moved to a house with lots of large windows and light and sun, and I feel so much happier. I love the house, neighborhood and the whole area.

    My spirits are much higher than in the previous house, which was smaller, cramped and darker.

    Another thing for me that contributes to the light and happy feeling are WHITE doors and trim. The doors are beautiful and white. Gone are the dark wood plain doors that I hated in the old house.

    Also, the walls aren’t plain white like in the old house. They are a nice neutral shade with white contrasting trim and molding in the lower level.

    All of that makes me happier.

  13. says

    Hmmmm. Artwork, natural lighting (or at least table lamps), and cleanliness makes my house, and therefore me, happy. I find homes with no artwork and overhead lighting to be insanely dreary and depressing. So I guess I’m on board with the no light=unhappy house theory. But I’ve thrown in a few conditions of my own. Thanks for sharing these tips!

  14. says

    Simple…light, light, light. I always have all the shutters opened up in my house as soon as I get up in the morning. It drives my husband crazy because with the family room shutters open it causes a glare on the TV and he can’t understand why I keep them open! TV-Shmeevie! And one of my favorite things we put in when we built our home was the under-cabinet lights in our kitchen. “Cool white” looks just like daylight. Love them! Great post. :)

  15. says

    That cottage would make me very happy. Barring that, an answer from the owners of the house we bid on last week would do (even better if it’s a yes).

  16. Marie says

    Everyone calls our home “The Happy House”! When house hunting, we looked for these must-haves: big, sunny lot, with a smaller cute home from the 50’s thru the 70’s that needed TLC. We also wanted a driveway that would hold several cars or plenty of street parking for our guests. We also wanted low mortgage payments, low electric bill, low property taxes. A house isn’t happy if you can’t afford to live there, or can’t afford any upgrades.

    Now you’re probably thinking, “Duh, everyone’s looking for that.” But most couples don’t want to do the work involved: fixing up, lawn care, snow removal, so these homes sit on the market for months.

    We added some larger windows, painted bright happy colors in all the rooms, bought second-hand furniture, and some great patio furniture! It was wonderful to practice our remodling skills on an older ranch house, because anything we did added value.

    These houses still exist, as I see them all the time in the real estate ads. However, they don’t come with a master suite, and you won’t see the words “lots of closet space”!

  17. jan says

    Happy = Clean, Comfy, Cozy, Contained Clutter Control, Creative and most of all ……. Charming.

    Jan at Rosemary Cottage

  18. says

    For me bright colors don’t make me happy. They give me a headache. That first photo, while pretty, would be too much for me. There’s just too many bright colors. I like muted colors with a pop (like your turquoise buffet or the door, windows and gate in the last photo).
    Closet space is high on my list of priorities, but not in the top. I like openess and space and lots of windows. A room all to myself that I could decorate with pinks wouldn’t hurt either. 😉

  19. Rick says

    I love this topic and your understanding that happy doesn’t always mean lots of sunny windows. Each of us has “our” own way of seeing happy home.
    My wife and I live in a “not small” house that is welcoming. We always say we are hugged the minute we get home and often afterwards. We love the maple trees giving us shade all summer and letting in all the light when winter days are so short. If you can picture our family room with wood beam ceiling, brick firplace, and distressed/rustic wood paneled walls and how sheltered and at home you can feel with a book in your lap and our Shit tzus on our feet. Heaven.
    Our house by some people’s standards would be dated or old fashioned. to us it seems like a warm, cozy, familiar home type of place. The family that built our home lived here 29 yrs. Us 4.5 yrs. We feel like we are home and never want to leave.


  20. says

    I agree let the light in, pops of color throughout a pretty aromatic scent, and nice music playing in the background. ( I swear back in the days I sold a 2million dollar plus house in La Jolla because of the Kenny G music playing on their extremely espenive sound system!)


    Art by Karena

  21. says

    Merrypad = happy house (hence, my site!!). Why’s it happy? Full of treasures I love, an escape from everyone and everything, and best of all, there’s no landlord telling me I’ll be charged for painting walls or nailing into a wall.

    It’s an extension of me, a happy girl.

  22. Bre says

    Love that coat rack! I love bright, cheery colors in a home. I prefer a neutral look with bright accents. I agree, light is definitely a mood elevator. Especially in these grey winter months. If I had your gorgeous turquoise buffet I would be quite happy too… 😉

  23. says

    Totally agree with this!
    I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about what makes house a home, and how to create meaningful spaces in your house. I think light, especially natural light is part of it, but I agree with you about the comfy chairs, books and photos.
    My house is also dark in places, and I am always compelled to turn on the lights!
    But warm lamp light, or candle light…….

    thanks so much for this post Julia!


  24. says

    We definitely have a light-filled home, especially in Winter. Sunlight reflecting off all of our Minnesota snow helps keep our spirits up even when the temperature is below zero. Which happens. Frequently.

  25. says

    Well, I agree with the light & airy, because we keep buying houses with lots of dark stained wood and I strive to paint it all white! But, a big disagree on the big closet thing. Over the past 5 yrs I’ve cleaned out and downsized my clothing (and other storage things) so now we have a large closet but only use 1/4 of it! And still I only wear 1/4 of my clothes… can you say frumpy mommy? 😉 btw, where do you get all your photos? I’m looking for a site to get free (hopefully) photos so I don’t have to take all the pics myself! Thanks, Nan

  26. Kim says

    I agree with Laura. It’s the feeling you yourself give your house. I mean our house doesn’t have color on the walls, or fancy decor, but yet the feeling is what makes it feel happy.

    I also love how our house has an open floorplan and is surrounded by our beautiful property. Everything flews through and functions well when people come over and the property makes it feel like we are out in nature.

  27. says

    I believe it! I FEEL a huge difference in the mornings when I open up the blinds in the kitchen and the bamboo shade in the family room. The light makes me feel so much better. :) Love that gorgeous cottage! I’m celebrating my blog’s birthday today, if you have a chance to swing by. 😉

  28. says

    Well, that sure is a bright and happy entrance…makes me happy just looking at it!! I try to fill my house will pops of color in every room, so it is bright and cheery and makes everyone feel happy.

  29. says

    I’m living in the the happiest home I’ve ever lived in–it’s happy because I’M happy!
    I’ve downsized, so it’s small and simple. It’s filled only with things that are special to me. Bliss!

    • Marline says

      Right on, Susan! Small and simple spell happiness to me. I just dumped off 200 books to the local library, making THEM happy and ME happier! 😉

  30. says

    Great provacative question!!!! First I think a home can’t make itself happy. Appreciation and enthusiasm for the property and building make a huge difference.
    Light is crucial. If you can’t change the architectural issues then working with them is a must. Appreciate the asthetic of the house itself…….If you are happy so will your house/home be. That means if you are changing things spend where you hang out the most first………Maryanne 😉

    • Marline says

      I totally agree! Happy owners, happy house!
      Marline in Rochester, NY

  31. lucy says

    add a sumptuous throw to that comfy chair and enough home magazines to read the afternoon away…and I’m in heaven (sigh)
    Oh….and keep the cups of tea in lovely cups coming too!!!!

  32. carol says

    I agree with Laura and Jane. I too live in a little cottage, but our house is incredibly happy. Maybe the fact that it is just steps to the ocean helps, but we have no trouble finding people to stay with our dog when we take long weekends. For me it is bright primary colors, comfy furniture scaled to cottage size and the beautiful, ever changing art on the walls (I am married to an artist). One of my favorite views is from the front door all the way through the house to our colorful garden. I seriously smile every time I enter the door even if I have just been to the store.

  33. says

    Our house is happy when it’s clean, too. LOL! and it’s happy when it feels loved by being maintained, and really LIVED in and used by people also (I believe).

    It’s so funny, when we drive by crumbling houses, or vacant houses (all too common around here, nowadays…) hubby & I say “that house looks SO sad!” I swear, empty houses look SO sad to me!

  34. Karen T. says

    Isn’t it funny how what’s considered a happy home can be so different for a married couple? Now I love a completely dark room for sleeping, but the first thing I do on awakening is to open all window coverings because I love natural light which my home does not get enough of. My husband, however, prefers a somewhat dark, “cozy” room. I guess some people’s moods are more affected by the amount of sunlight they are exposed to. As far as more closet space, we all feel light we need more (including me), but most of us have too much “stuff” anyway & should probably pare down so we won’t have so much to “manage”. Last, I could be very content & happy in that adorable little cottage. I would have a ball decorating it to make it homey.

  35. Karen T. says

    Oops… that’s feel ” like” we need more closet space, not feel “light”!

  36. Maria says

    Oh I agree – light, light, light. My home does not get much of it and though I love it, I feel it every time I come home from friend’s homes who do. Sadly it can be a bit depressing to me. Few windows, lots of trees = lamps always on in the daytime. One can’t really decorate well with white in a dark space either because it comes off as gray.

    I love/dream of a light filled space that at least faces N/S vs. E/W like mine.

  37. Tina says

    Sadly, our current home isn’t happy … as well as its mixed textures, wall and floor coverings, the couple we purchased it from fought like crazy, and I think their bad energy is lingering (have tried white sage, etc., to no avail).

    But, our old house was an absolute delight. It was built in the 1940s as a beach house for an elderly woman and had only ever been owned by women, up until we bought it in the late 2000s. I can’t pinpoint exactly what made that house so special, but it was little – a teeny weeny cottage – and had the most beautiful cottage garden in which all sorts of new things appeared to sprout each year. I loved that house … despite it’s creaking floorboards, banging pipes and dated interiors, it really was my special place :)

  38. says

    Yes, my house is a happy house. People always come in and comment on how light and bright it is. Plus I have happy colors in it. I have very little in the way of window covers in the main living areas of the house. I have planted trees in the front yard though….so one day when they get house may not be so bright. My backyard is shady and I love it that way….the deck is sunny and then the trees overhead as you go into the yard make it seem like a green room back there. My Mom says its oppressive but I love it.

  39. says

    My house felt good when I first set foot in it. I think that’s the first step toward a happy house. My bedroom definitely feels happy, at least to me, and that’s because I love the paint color and my bed. I don’t think a huge amount of light is required for a happy home, but after a long winter it certainly feels lovely.

  40. says

    oh I reckon this is true. Part of why I love my little woodland cottage is because of the massive windows in all the downstairs rooms. I love how the sun plays inside the rooms, and how much light adds to the decor and clor scheme in general. It feels summery, it feels happy*!

  41. Marline says

    My house isn’t particularly light (shady side of stree) or bright (1952 Cape Cod), but it IS happy because I fill it with friends, serve up yummy food, and pour my love into it by adding happy little touches to it. I think a loved house is a happy one!
    Marline in Rochester, home of the 24.7.365 cloud cover

  42. Lisa T. says

    My favorite design style has to be light filled rooms with happy colors. I lOOVE the Tybee Island cottages. But it seems like a distinctly feminine look. My husband would not be happy If I did that all over the house.

  43. says

    I love this post! I am a fan of happy colors and making sure that the palette in my home is one that is pleasing to the eye and makes everyone enjoy living there. That’s exactly why I painted my old farmhouse a happy yellow this past year. I am so happy every time I drive up! I love that playroom you did, and am in the midst of fixing up ours. Now I am inspired by your color scheme.

    I hopped on over here because of Emily linking to you! Love your blog
    Have a great weekend!

  44. says

    We really wanted our house to have a happy feel to it when we designed and built it…and I think we acheived our goal. Everyone that visits loves the feel…and we don’t even have any furniture yet!
    Have a great weekend…
    xo Jessica

  45. says

    Closet space? I like closet space, but it wouldn’t make a home happy to me. My husband and I both say windows. We like the natural light and a view. He also added in cats. A cat in a home makes him feel happy :)

  46. says

    I do feel incredibly happy in a home that is light and bright! But I also LOVE to be cozy…dim lighting, blankets, books – sometimes that makes me even happier! But I would say our home is happiest when it smells incredible of candles or homemade cooking and when everything is tidy and in its place.

  47. says

    oh julia…my home is not that happy right now. in up to my knees with projects, getting it ready to sell. i love the look of that cottage! i think i want to hide out in there for awhile… i linked it on my blog post today.
    thanks sue

  48. says

    Light and more light makes my house happy. I also think happy colors and happy people!!! I think my house feels happy and peaceful according to visitors. I love being here and I know it is because of all the light I get. So for me it is light and colors!! KS

    • hookedonhouses says

      Yay! Thank you! It’s the gardeners cottage at Glenveagh National Park in Co. Donegal. -Julia

  49. says

    I don’t always agree that bright colors and lots of light are the only way to have a “happy” home. If that were the case than much of the midwest would have “unhappy” homes throughout the long cold winters.

    I do think cozy and “livable” (different than cluttered and not code for “messy” 😉 matters. I am sometimes happiest in a somewhat dark room with big cozy chair and a soft glowing lamp, comfortable throws, etc. (Again, we have long cold winters).

    It’s not so much about having a bright lime green room (although that can certainly be cheery!) as it is about having a good “feeling” for a room – whatever the color or decor.