How to make a house less depressing in fall and winter – 7 designer tricks to avoid SAD

How you decorate your home can have a huge impact on seasonal affective disorder, designers say. Here’s how to get it right

Linda Ring Fruttato wool yellow blanket draped on ahigh back arm chair with enclosed bookshelves behind
(Image credit: LAYERED)

Fall and winter can be a great time to hunker down at home and get cozy, but spending all the time indoors is not everyone's cup of tea, leading to low mood or seasonal affective disorder. So how do you make a house less depressing in fall and winter?

Between making a house look cozy and nailing your dark season lighting ideas, there are several ways designers alter spaces to cope with the darker days.

Here, they share them all.

 How to make a house less depressing in fall and winter 

Your home and environment can have a drastic impact on the way you feel, especially if you are spending an increased amount of time indoors with fewer hours of natural light. It can sometimes result in a condition called SAD or ‘winter depression’, a type of intermittent low mood that comes and goes with the colder months.

How you decorate your home is, therefore, vital to maintaining your physical and mental well-being in fall and winter. 

1. Prioritize your lighting scheme

neutral living room with green sofa, rust and patterned cushions, painting on wall, paint, floor lamp, drapes

(Image credit: Albion Nord)

Making a living room cozy with lighting is a great idea when looking to hunker down for a cozy fall and winter season, but having too much low lighting can drastically impact your mood in darker months, warns Marta Balazs, interior designer and founder of Embee Interiors:

‘Light impacts our body's internal clock and mood. Maximizing natural light is a mood booster; it regulates our circadian rhythms, so it is vital to let into your homes as much as possible in the day,’ she says.

‘But when natural light is scarce, smart dimmable lighting, which mimics natural daylight can be a game-changer for our mood,’ she adds. Personally, I love the Philips Hue White Ambiance bulbs, available at Amazon, which can be set to automatically follow natural light patterns throughout the day, moving from a warm white glow to daylight without you having to change your bulbs. I have been using them for over a year and have just bought some more. They make a big difference in my living room, bedroom, and office and make artificial light feel a little bit more natural.

Philips Hue White Ambiance Bulb | Was $44.99, Now $35.26 at Amazon

Philips Hue White Ambiance Bulb | Was $44.99, Now $35.26 at Amazon
The Phillips Hue Ambience Bulbs can be controlled from your smartphone or smart home device, allowing a range of temperatures from warm white to daylight in one bulb.

2. Consider color psychology

Green and yellow living room, bright yellow sofa, green rug

(Image credit: Future)

‘There is no denying that color psychology plays a role in our emotional responses,’ Marta Balazs, interior designer, continues. 

‘Think about bringing in warm and bright colors to counter those gray days. Soft yellows and warm oranges scream happiness, so play with these shades in your decor, from throw pillows to wall paint.’

When decorating for fall, consider adding colors that make a room feel happy through interchangeable decor, allowing you to swap them out when it comes to spring and summer.

3. Add natural elements when spending time indoors

string of turtles plant on shelf

(Image credit: Maritxu22 / Alamy Stock Photo)

As cooler temperatures and bad weather force us to spend more time indoors, it is important to still get a fix of nature. Of course, there is no real substitute for getting outside into fresh air, however adding in the best indoor plants to your home is a good start.

‘To bring new energy to your living space all year round, you can easily incorporate plants and flowers. These organic elements possess the ability to uplift your surroundings and add an aesthetically pleasing touch to your decor,’ says Mark Bearak, principal architect at dtls.Architecture. 

‘By making these simple additions, you can transform your home into a welcoming and inspiring oasis.’

Mark Bearak
Mark Bearak

Mark Bearak, a licensed architect specializing in residential architecture, is currently a Principal at dtls.ARCHITECTURE and an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Architecture at Columbia University in New York. Born in Chicago and enriched by experiences across North Carolina, Georgia, France, California, and New York, Mark brings a diverse and global perspective to his work.

4. Create a cozy escape space

Cozy corner with leather armchair and bookcase

(Image credit: Oka)

Cozy corners or reading nooks should never be underestimated when curating a house to improve your mental well-being, says Artem Kropovinsky, interior designer and founder of Arsight. They are the perfect spots for working on hobbies or taking some meaningful time out of your day to ground yourself,' he says.

‘Always have a cozy nook. Whether it’s a window seat or a reading corner, a dedicated space for relaxation can make winter days more bearable. 

'Make sure to embrace the senses in this spot too,' he adds, 'aromatic candles or essential oil diffusers with uplifting scents can change the atmosphere instantly.’

Artem Kropovinsky headshot
Artem Kropovinsky

Based in New York, Artem Kropovinsky, founder of Arsight, has a decade of extensive and considerable global design experience. Prioritizing minimalism, sustainability, and authenticity, Artem, alongside his team of professionals, works on projects in the US and worldwide.

5. Personalize your space with art

Close up of living room gallery wall, vintage frames and mirror/candle sconce

(Image credit: Magnolia)

Adding personal touches to a space is enough to lift anyone out of a funk. Using family photos, decorating with art that has meaning to you, or decor from trips and holidays is a great way to inject your space with personality and create a home full of memories to carry you through fall and winter, says Jenny Kozena, interior designer at the eponymous design studio.

Try to use images and decor that remind you of positive experiences you have had in the fall and winter months to promote positive thinking too, rather than solely reminiscing over summer and spring which can lead you further into a funk. 

6. Declutter and clean

Cleaning supplies

(Image credit: Future Publishing Ltd)

Although cleaning and decluttering don't sound like the best activity to cheer you up, it has been proven that having a cluttered home contributes to a low mood – especially when you spend so much time indoors. Whipping out your fall cleaning checklist and making space in your home is, therefore, a must to make a house less depressing in fall and winter.

‘Get rid of anything that you don't use or need,’ says Parveen Garg, cleaning expert and manager at OlaClean. ‘You can also organize your belongings in a way that makes sense for the cooler months, such as pulling warmer clothing and coats to the front of closets to help you get outside more easily to improve your mood,’ 

7. Use soft materials to create a comforting tactile space

A white sofa with wooden legs in a white room, with sisal carpet, dark grey coffee table, cushions and blankets, a terracotta tea set on a wooden tray, and a dark green leafy plant

(Image credit: Davide Lovatti)

Using texture in interior design is a must year-round in your home, but it is especially important when you find yourself indoors for longer periods of time, reminds Julio Arco, interior designer and founder of Bark & Chase.

‘Building upon the need for coziness, the tactile experience of a space is paramount. Introducing a variety of textures, especially natural ones like wood, stone, and tile, not only appeals to our senses but can also be associated with feelings of warmth and comfort.

'Even synthetic textures, like thick carpets, can make a room feel warmer and more inviting. In my experience, homeowners often underestimate the psychological comfort derived from the soft underfoot feeling of a plush carpet, especially during colder times.’

Julio Arco
Julio Arco

Julio Arco has been practicing as an architect, interior designer, and online interior designer for the past several years in the United States. He holds a degree in Architecture from ITESM and a Master’s degree in Urban Design and Housing from McGill University. He is also a member of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (RAIC).  


How can I increase natural light in my home?

There are plenty of ways to boost the impact of natural light in your home, from opening window treatments fully all day, using sheer curtains to help let light in to its fullest and using mirrors opposite windows to bounce natural light around the inside of your space. Don't forget to thoroughly clean your windows, either.

It also helps to decorate with light colors, both in your wall paint and decor, and use furniture with a light visual footprint (i.e. not too bulky, and with visible space beneath) to visually expand your space and allow natural light to travel through it more easily. 

How can I feel happier at home when it's always dark?

Fall and winter usually mean shorter days with more dark hours than light. Although itt's easy to despair, acing your lighting schemes with smart bulbs that transition from a cozy glow to daylight can help to emulate a brighter day. Alternatively, you can find activities that romanticize the low light, such as lighting your home with candles for a romantic or cozy glow to cuddle up and watch TV with, read a book, or even bake something autumnal.  

There are plenty of other ways you can combat SAD outside of decorating your home, but your decor is a great place to start and build upon when everything just feels a little tougher. Start with finding the best SAD lamps to reinstate good circadian rhythms and improve sleep and mood, and work up from there for a home you won't want to leave even come springtime.

Chiana Dickson
Content Editor

Chiana has been at Homes & Gardens for two years, having started her journey in interior journalism as part of the graduate program. She spends most of her time producing content for the Solved section of the website, helping readers get the most out of their homes through clever decluttering, cleaning, and tidying tips – many of which she tests and reviews herself in her home in Lancaster to ensure they will consistently deliver for her readers and dabbles in the latest design trends. She also has a first-class degree in Literature from Lancaster University.