Here's how you can reduce your stress, room by room.
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In this age of McMansions, great rooms, and big screen TVs, our homes are dressed to impress—not to help us unwind. Creating a live-in sanctuary requires that you shift this visual approach to one that balances your senses.

Cut the kitchen chaos

The kitchen is a common spot for sensory overload. It's a room full of scents, sounds, and, often, bright colors. "Walk in and ask yourself how each of your senses is engaged. If all five senses are in overdrive, look for ways to shift the balance. Repaint it a more soothing color, add some cushier textures with a throw rug and cushions, or turn on some soft music instead of a kitchen television," Wilson says.

"It can also be a matter of making sure that the space is designed for the activities that actually happen there," says Sylvia Sepielli, the award-winning consultant behind the Mii amo spa in Sedona, Arizona; Spa Ojai in Ojai, California; and Spa Grande at Wailea Resort in Maui, Hawaii. If the kids are doing their homework on the same counter where you're cooking the dinner and checking your laptop, it might be time to assign separate kitchen spaces for some of these tasks.

Use space wisely

Something you never see in a spa (where every square foot is meticulously conceived and executed) but often see in homes is a misused or underutilized room. "The classic example is the unused home gym," Sepielli says. "People buy exercise equipment and don't want to look at it, so they stick it in an out-of-the-way room they never want to go into."

Other common examples are too-formal dining or living rooms that sit gathering dust while waiting for the china-and-crystal dinner party that almost never happens. "Your home should facilitate how you really live; otherwise, it's an obstacle to your lifestyle, which is a huge stressor in itself," Sepielli says. "So if you really want to exercise while chatting with your husband who wants to sit at the computer or read, you should have a room that caters to those needs." And she speaks from experience.

Sepielli and her husband turned one room in their home into the "Renaissance room," a combination gym-library-office where the family gathers to do all of their favorite things while spending time together. "It completely works for us," she says.

Ask yourself if every room in your home is catering to a real need. If it's not, repurpose it. Why can't you have a conservatory, an art gallery, a library, or a yoga studio? Imagine the space you'd love to have, and claim it.

Upgrade the view

At a spa, it seems like every guest room comes with a view. That's because there's a designer who made sure it did. "Every window is a framed view, so it should be framing something that has purpose," McAdams says. If you're gazing into a framed view of your neighbor's den, a treeless driveway, or an alley, you're assigning those not-so-pleasing visuals much more importance in your life than they deserve.

"Try to make the view fit the mood of the room," he says. Place a window-box herb garden in front of a kitchen window, hang sheers to soften the view from your bedroom, or strategically place a lounge chair in your yard so that you'll feel as if you're living in a resort every time you catch a glimpse of it out the window.

The feeling of always seeing something pleasant will have positive cumulative effects. "You've created a little moment of magic for yourself," Cary Collier says. "And those little moments add up."

Don't be dim

Whether it's a basement, a small powder room, or a narrow hallway, almost everyone has some place in their home that's too dark, dim, and devoid of natural light. "A great technique for dark windowless rooms is to combine some layered lighting and a mirror," McAdams says. "The reflection makes the light move and sparkle. It mimics the effect of sunlight." You can't underestimate the soothing and inviting effect of a well-lit space.

Make it comfy

How inviting are the comfortable spots in your home? And do you have enough of them? "I think we all have a seat in our home that everyone rushes for," Collier says. "You should have more than one of those places."

The trick, again, is layering. "We just keep adding until we can't think of another way to improve the feel. So each of our beds has silky sheets, several pillows in varying degrees of firmness, a fantastic duvet, cashmere throws, a pillow-top mattress," Wilson says.

And you don't want to stop with the obvious places like the couch, the bed, or the guest room. "Your home should be filled with very comfortable spaces," Wilson says. "We found these wonderful throws to put at the foot of each bed and decided we shouldn't reserve them for the bedrooms. So we placed them all around the spa—on sofas, chairs, in waiting areas. They were a huge hit."

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