Time was when Nigerians wanted to relax, they were on a flight to London on Friday evening and back on Monday morning to resume at work. “Those were the days,” I hear some saying to themselves as they read. It was common for friends to plan weekend shopping trips in London and Paris and when public holidays created an extended weekend, all the better for shopping and pampering. Nowadays it is truly the well heeled that would venture on such trips and that with a clear eye on the costs unless you happen to be one of the lucky few who make money from luxury travel.

We have accepted that times have changed in Nigeria and are now quite cost conscious, but for many who are used to a certain way of being, and a certain way of doing things, the transition is akin to shock therapy. It needn’t be so. You need to stand back and ask a few simple questions, the first of which is why you feel the need to ‘escape’ from time to time. Many will reply that the stress of Nigerian (read that as Lagos) living and working is too much and there is a need to de-stress in a friendly environment. Here’s the funny part, such people will usually take off to some exotic destination, spend quality time de-stressing, and then come right back to the same stress they claim to have escaped from. What is wrong with this picture? The average well to do person splits their time between work and home apart from the times spent being ferried about in traffic. If we then eliminate the stress of traffic, the only other sources of stress are either from the office of at home…

Office stress in turn is either tied to work goals or the work environment. We can go further and suggest delegation of work to others down the food chain to reduce the burden of work goals. We can also suggest a recalibration of the work environment to a much more relaxing space and there are a good number of professionals who make a living from such conversions. We strongly suggest you choose to do this recalibration, especially given how much time you might spend in a space that finances the rest of your lifestyle.

Home stress can come from several sources. However the stress that comes from living in a space that is not properly designated to relax the occupant is the heart of the subject matter. Making your home a place to escape to, is one of the best things anyone can do. We will be looking at how the use of colour, space, light and scent can make a home a luxurious space.

Colour has the power to change a person’s mood in very strong ways. Colour psychology tells us some colours can keep the mind switched on while others have the ability to calm and relax one. For example, the colour violet calms the body and mind while indigo provides a sedative effect. Blue also acts like a combination of violet and indigo but is not as sedating as indigo. Painting a room in complimentary colours is an effective way of creating balance. An example would be plum and beige. Plum is part of the purple family which is a colour associated with wealth, imagination and spirituality while beige is a neutral colour. Unless you wish to create a sterile environment, try to avoid painting a room all white as it can be a bit intimidating. There are several colour choices and combinations that can create a space that instantly relaxes your mind and body. Consult with a professional and change the ambience of your home apart from activity spaces that need to be bright and stimulating.

Regardless of preference when it comes to furnishing, open spaces give the impression of greater luxury than tight and confined spaces which feel like a person is “getting by” until something better comes along. It is the reason why executive rooms and hotel suites are preferred to singles. How do you achieve this same effect at home? One word — declutter. The pictures of places and spaces we like to look at are rarely congested with ‘stuff’. You need to ruthlessly curate what you allow into your personal space. Each item must please you in a specific way or perform a needed function within your aesthetic appreciation. If you have quite a few, say, artworks, you can store most and rotate them on your walls rather than try to fit everything into the space you have. If you also collect knick knacks, you can choose to create a single showcase for them rather then placing them all over. Again, professional advice can go a long way if you can afford the fees.

Light is one of the most powerful weapons in an interior architect’s arsenal. There are bodies of work on how to use light to sculpt spaces in day and night time. We will however keep it simple and make the observation that we in Nigeria mostly use light wrongly. Much of the lighting in homes is direct and in many cases just covered by a ‘fitting’. An aircraft if one of the best examples we can use to understand this problem. A passenger expects to be able to relax as much as possible on board particularly if you’ve put up the price for a business or first class seat. You usually know that there’s light on board but you rarely see the sources as they are recessed. Then there’s also the ability to control the intensity of the lighting itself via dimmer controls, an intensity that is managed during the duration of the flight depending on activity — with dining being the brightest, and sleeping the dimmest, lighting settings. Even the reading light that comes with the seat can be dimmed… Why cant this be done in the home too?

Last but not least for our purposes, is the matter of scent, or incense, or aromatherapy… The writer once stayed at a hotel in Paris where the bath towels were infused with lavender — exquisite is the word. Go out and buy diffusers, scented candles and incense sticks with burners. Certain aromas create a relaxing atmosphere when used to scent a space. They range from floral to herbal and some of the more common ones that are available as oils, candles and in incense stick form include: lavender; cinnamon; strawberry; cherry; mandarin; tangerine; jasmine; rose; coconut; passion flower; vanilla; sandalwood; lilac; ylang-ylang. There are also bespoke scents that can be made just for you in oil and candle forms.

Now imagine coming back to a home with soothing wall-paint, turning on lighting and lamps at just the level that meets your need to chill and the aroma of the essential oil from the diffuser hits you. The next stress issue would be to actually get you to leave home…

Written by Babatunde Olaoluwa Jeje for This Day Style