Designer Secrets for Making Any Room Feel Serene

You know how studies show that getting out in nature—even for less than a minute—can be restorative and calming? Now imagine you live outdoors. Except without all the mosquitos, sunburns, and sweating. Instant zen, right? That’s the appeal of filling your home with natural materials.

“It’s been scientifically proven time and time again that spending time outdoors is good for your mental health, immune system, and more,” explains New York-based designer Ariel Okin, founder of Ariel Okin Interiors. “Bringing some of the outside indoors is inherently beneficial for your well-being.”

It’s no surprise, then, that, given the chaos of the past few years, she’s noticed an uptick in clients requesting finishes and furnishings made of stone, reclaimed wood, rattan, and wicker. “Incorporating organic materials and textures can make your space feel soothing,” she points out. After two-plus years of masking, social distancing, worrying, and spending a lot of time at home, she says, “I think everyone is craving a bit of serenity in their spaces.”

In other words, this is a trend that feels pretty, uh, natural. If you’re interested in injecting a dose of calm into your crib, we’ve got a few ways to get started.

Set in Stone


Anyone with even a casual interest in real estate-based reality shows knows that natural stone tops many a homeowner’s wish list. Be it granite, quartz or marble, stone “brings a honed, textured dose of nature into the indoors,” explains Okin. Whether used in small doses as an accent table or stone fireplace, or on a grander scale as flooring, “It always makes a statement.”

One way to make a big one: Installing quartz countertops throughout your kitchen. Inspired by smooth beach rocks, the five designs in Caesarstone’s new Pebbles Collection range from off-white Riverlet to dramatic, greenish-black Darcrest—and all are perfect for crafting a calming, neutral-hued space.

Head Into the Woods

Reclaimed wood—lumber that has been upcycled from a previous structure—has been on trend for several years. It’s durable, unique, and the options for using it are pretty much endless. Okin often repurposes reclaimed pieces as flooring “to give a home lots of character” or turns it into ceiling beams to create contrast in an otherwise neutral room. Mahogany or walnut are her go-tos for custom furniture pieces. She also likes cerused oak, which is treated with a liming wax to emphasize the natural grain. It pairs well with any other materials, she says, “and the patina of the cerusing just adds an additional layer of texture that reminds us of nature.”

Weave in Some Fibers

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Rattan dominated the ‘70s and ‘80s, then fell out of favor for a bit, but today the material—created from strands of Abaca, a natural leaf fiber—is experiencing a glow-up. You can find rattan and wicker (often woven from rattan fibers) in everything from pendant lighting to headboards to chairs and other furnishings.

Okin is partial to using rattan furniture as accent pieces “whether it’s an interesting-shaped chair or breakfast nook chairs with custom cushions on them,” she says. The pro will also mix in pieces made from other plant fibers, like ultra-durable sisal rugs “in patterns like Greek key and herringbone” and grasscloth wall coverings. Bringing in a wide variety of materials is key to cultivating eye-catching interiors, she notes: “When you’re working with a tone-on-tone palette, layering textures like this together creates an interesting and dynamic space.”

Shell Out for Some Beachy Pieces

Coastal-inspired décor has undergone quite the upgrade. No longer the kitschy pieces of your grandma’s retirement cottage dreams, seashore-chic pieces now come in refined furniture and light fixtures that make use of tropical shells such as Capiz in a modern way.

Don’t Overlook the Details

The trick to cultivating a cohesive space is in the finishing touches. Okin loves using natural elements in smaller pieces like drawer pulls (a walnut and brass set she recently chose worked beautifully in an all-white kitchen), baskets (woven ones are great for potted plants and storing toys), even blankets to toss on the couch. “Textured light linen throws bring in the element of the outdoors with their calming, easy breezy nature,” she says.

Okin also likes adding framed botanicals to carefully curated shelves to inject a dose of the outdoors, but says there’s nothing quite like the real deal. “Plants and wildlife indoors are always the answer!” she swears. “I love the way greenery and florals—even potted trees—can add life to your space so quickly.”

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