Creating a space for yoga at home is part of the latest trend in the evolution of home fitness, with, and a general focus on domestic wellness. Private spaces for meditation are growing increasingly popular and specialized architects are there to offer optimal solutions in creating the perfect refuge.
That’s where Lisa Melone Cloughen comes in. Founder of MC Interiors, she’s an interior designer passionate about yoga — an aspect she’s folded into her work. “I like to think my work enhances the overall well-being of my clients, much like a yoga and meditation practice”, she explains.
“Obviously, an interior designer needs to consider form and function and a well-designed space should intrinsically be inspirational, peaceful, and emotionally aspirational for the inhabitants. A backdrop, if you will, to support, enhance and expand the mind/body connection. Overall my design sensibility is rooted in an attitude of relaxed elegance and comfort. I enjoy using subtle, yet rich color palettes, tactile fabrics and rugs, architectural detailing layered with the clients’ personal talismans, sculptural forms found in nature, artwork and appropriate antique and vintage pieces.”
So then, who better to give us a bit of advice on creating the perfect meditation room in your own home?
Here’s what she had to say, and how she recommends furnishing the home for a bit of domestic meditation.
Who are your customers, typically?
I have had quite a variety of clients, and I would say they all share a heightened sense of what a well-designed and edited home adds to their lives. I personally enjoy fulfilling the daily lifestyle requirements for each client and ultimately creating a layered, sumptuous aesthetic to revel in!
How important is architecture for psychological well-being?
Architecture and the corresponding interiors of a space are extraordinarily important for psychological well-being. Any good architecture, ancient or current, has the ability to inspire humans at almost any level. When you are in an architecturally pleasing space, it allows your entire being to expand intellectually, spiritually, physically and emotionally. Similarly, a yoga practice is built incrementally on a physical or structural level that helps guide your mind, body and spirit to a heightened awareness about yourself, others, and the universe.
You say that in the creation of a zen space there are no rules to follow, just concepts to consider — what are they?
Yoga and meditation are very much about connecting the individual to the expanse of the universe and a thoughtfully designed studio can enhance the experience. First, and foremost, the studio should be devoid of “visual clutter”. That does not mean the space should be austere, but it would be difficult to find your Zen if you are staring at a pile of laundry!
Consider a serene color palette for your studio and of course, choose colors that are pleasing and rela to you. Most of us think about neutral color palettes for quiet spaces, but a rich, dark color can be equally soothing and oh so welcoming to the senses.
A focal point is intrinsic to the practice of yoga and meditation precisely because it has a calming effect for the mind and body. If your studio has a window, that can be a lovely focal point and your practice will benefit from the natural views and the ever-changing light. Alternatively, a focal point can be created on a blank wall. Consider centering a yogic image such as a mandela and perhaps flank it with candle sconces, additional artwork or mirrors.
Lighting the space is an essential component whether the preference is for soft or bright light. Light sources should be dimmable and well-spaced and candles or lanterns add to the glow of the space. If you are incorporating sconces, consider the shadow or patterns they cast as an additional design element.
Natural elements have an inherently restorative quality and enhance feelings of harmony and balance. Any natural element that resonates with you is the ideal choice. Consider crystals, shells, river rocks branches or driftwood and definitely add a little greenery. Succulents and orchids are a good low maintenance and beautiful choice. Also consider creating an altar with some of your natural elements, possibly incorporating a Buddha figurine and a votive or two.
What are some of the mistakes to avoid entirely?
There are very few “mistakes” one can make when creating a yoga and meditation studio. For me, it comes down to two elements that have the potential to upend the space-color and lighting. Overly vivid, bright or highly contrasting paint or wallpaper detracts from the vibe and over-stimulates the mind and body. Similarly, very harsh or cold lighting creates an antiseptic feel that does not encourage relaxation and calm. The point of the practice is to connect all of your being to itself in order to expand and that is less likely to happen if the space has a harsh feel to it.
We often associate the idea of yoga and meditation with an ethnic, or minimal, décor — can we decline this space in any style?
Yoga and meditation are often associated with minimal and/or ethnic settings because of the nature of the practice and it’s ancient Indian origins. That said, it is perfectly acceptable to design a studio in pretty much any style that resonates with you. Several years ago, I had the opportunity to tour an old, very grand estate and there was a small room tucked away on the second or third floor that would have made an exquisite studio. The proportions, the classical detailing, French doors leading to a balcony, a fireplace on the opposite wall, all spoke to a gracious past. Rather then strip the space down to a minimal ideal, I would have played up the existing elements. Maybe cover the walls in a beautiful tone on tone dark damask wallpaper, a faded antique Oushak or Khotan rug, meditation cushions and a contemporary chaise lounge in a Fortuny fabric, luscious silk sheers framing the French doors, a romantic light fixture and of course, candlelight, lots of candlelight. That would make for an extraordinary example of a sumptuous yoga and meditation studio!
What are the ideal colors and material to use?
As I mentioned earlier, color is a personal preference and light, dark or in between are all suitable choices. I also like to use natural wall coverings such as grass cloths and corks in a variety of colors and finishes. I am currently obsessed with a wide weave grass raffia with a subtle metallic sheen and it would be fabulous in a studio-very nuanced and just a little sexy!
How important is lighting?
Again, good, balanced lighting is essential in a studio and personal preference is the defining factor. I tend to prefer natural light or dimmable light sources. In the morning I love the vibrancy of natural light and at the end of a long day I find a darkened space allows me to easily unwind myself from the day’s events.
Any tricks for a meditation space in a small house?
Of course, an entire space dedicated to your practice is ideal and it can also be used for quiet pursuits such as reading or painting as well. If you cannot dedicate an entire room to a yoga and meditation studio, all is not lost. A lesser-used space, such as guest room can multi-task! Basically, your yoga practice is confined to the dimensions the yoga mat. Once you have oriented your mat, consider your focal point. You can easily set up an altar on a bench at the foot of the bed. Again it can be as simple centering a Buddha, a crystal cave or an obelisk on the bench flanked with a votive or two. In other words, create a visual vignette that you find settling and peaceful.
Do you practice yoga? If so, can you tell us why it could be a good idea for everyone (with the addition of a dedicated space, of course)?
Yes, I do have a regular yoga practice and it has become more and more essential for my overall well-being. It is one of those truly wonderful pursuits that continues to expand my personal growth in every direction. Over time I have found that my practice has grown to be more all-encompassing with regard to the mind/body/spirit aspect and less about the individual benefits of a regular practice. That said, some of the particular benefits of yoga and meditation are hard to beat. Physically, I am much stronger and I have a much better understanding of the anatomical structure and how to use different muscle groups to delve deeper into the poses.
I have also found that I am more mindful of my diet and tend to choose a little more wisely at least some of the time! Mentally, yoga has been an incredible journey for me! When you first start a practice, you are so busy trying to execute the poses that the meditative aspect is not the focus. As your understanding of the physical aspect improves, the meditative aspect begins to grow. You are able to become more focused on the here and now of the pose and, the difficulty of many of the poses actually helps increase your focus and pushes you to a new mental edge. Yoga is also very much about the breath and breathing properly through the many poses.
As your breathing flows more consistently with the physical movement, you become mentally and emotionally relaxed leading to a meditative zone. I always feel relaxed and energized after practicing and that carries over into my daily life as well. I have more patience in stressful situations and I am more likely to pause and access a situation before jumping into the fray. I think yoga and meditation are at the very least, worth exploring and the benefits are hard to beat.