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Oceanic Feeling: Five More Aesthetics to Bring Joy and Serenity to Your Life

Person sitting in Stressless recliner by a fjord in Norway

While Marie Kondo popularized the phrase “Does it spark joy?” in reference to deciding whether to keep or let go of a possession, Ingrid Fetell Lee is more interested in the question “Why does it spark joy?”

As a designer, Lee wants to push back against the idea that happiness can only come from within. She argues that joy can be found all around us in our physical world, and moreover, that we can access it through a variety of aesthetics. After years conducting surveys and reading about the science of joy, Lee formulated ten “aesthetics of joy”: energy, abundance, play, surprise, celebration, freedom, harmony, transcendence, magic, and renewal. Each of these has its own defining elements, and each can be harnessed to make our lives brighter.

With an emphasis on quality and beautiful contemporary design, Copenhagen is no stranger to the idea that our surroundings can improve our lives. Read on to discover Lee’s five aesthetics of joy with a “serene” feel, as well as Copenhagen pieces that embody each.

Freedom

From children bursting out the school doors as summer vacation begins, to a patriotic ideal referenced in constitutions, freedom is strongly entwined with joy. Perhaps there’s no other place we feel freer than in nature. The biologist E. O. Wilson coined the term “biophilia” to describe “the innate attraction humans have toward other living things,” and argued that this tendency evolved because living things were more likely to help or hinder our survival than inanimate objects.

Study after study has revealed the benefits of (safe) exposure to nature. For instance, Van den Berg et al (2010) found that people residing in greener areas had lower rates of anxiety and depression. Another study found that hospital patients who saw greenery through their windows experienced less pain and left the hospital sooner than those who saw a brick wall (Ulrich, 1984).

Though it’s not feasible for all of us to pack up and move to the wilderness, here are traits of the freedom aesthetic we can seek out no matter our environment:

• Openness, either outdoors, or indoor negative space
• Sense of wildness
• Connection to nature, especially through greenery or nature motifs

The Gordon Deep Wood Table is a prime example of this aesthetic, with a 3-inch-thick top made from walnut wood with its natural edges and grain patterns left intact. A magnificent piece, this table brings a touch of the forest to any interior.

With a top crafted from solid bamboo, the Arnold High-Low Desk has an open, minimalist look accentuated by white metal legs. Its dual motor gives you the freedom to adjust the height of this desk so you can work seated or standing. Better yet, bamboo matures in under 5 years, making it one of nature’s most sustainable building materials – another reason to be joyful!

Harmony

This aesthetic is all about the joy we receive from order, symmetry, and rhythm. After all, who hasn’t felt a deep satisfaction after cleaning and organizing a messy space, or witnessing the symmetry of natural forms? From snowflakes to sunflowers to ocean waves, Lee argues that humans grew to favor harmonious forms because they are “a tangible manifestation…of disparate parts working to sustain the graceful balance of life.” Harmony is not just visual, but auditory as well – after all, the musical qualities of beat, rhythm, and repeated choruses are a crucial part of why music is joyful for so many people.

For harmonious joy, look for or create the following elements in your environment:

• Patterns and repetition
• Order, organization, and coordination
• Symmetry, bilateral or radial
• Rhythm and flow

The Lake Queen Bed features a headboard with a pattern of wood slats for a look that is both stylish and harmonious. With a warm walnut finish, curved elements, and pleasing symmetry, the Lake Bed offers a comfortable haven for you to rest and relax.

For harmony on a larger scale, consider the Valentinoo Sectional. Valentinoo is upholstered in a calming ivory leather and has two sections that mirror each other for a balanced look. Movable backrests create extra-deep seats that can accommodate a variety of lounging positions.

Transcendence

This aesthetic is dedicated to lightness, elevation, and upward movement. Though the idea of transcendence or ascension permeates many world religions, you can have a secular appreciation of this aesthetic too. Indeed, the association between “happiness” and “upwardness” manifests in our very bodies and language – whether we curve our mouths upward in a smile and jump for joy, or use phrases like “in high spirits” or “on cloud nine.” A study by Casasanto and Dijkstra (2010) further reinforced the link between upward movement and joy, as participants who moved marbles to a higher tray from a lower one were able to recall more happy memories than those who made the opposite motion.

To summon the transcendence aesthetic in design, try these elements:

• Light colors
• Lightweight materials
• Sense of airiness and buoyancy
• Sense of verticality and upward orientation

A pendant or arc lamp, like the Sonic, is a good way to provide overhead illumination, as well as drawing your gaze upward and inspiring contemplation. For another take on transcendence, try the Stressless® Sky Plush mattress, made with ultra-soft and breathable materials to make you feel like you are sleeping on a cloud.

The Traffic Control wall sculpture is an additional piece that evokes lightness and high spaces. Its brushed steel is crafted in the shape of paper airplanes and mounted on curved supports that suggest the airplanes are being blown aloft on the wind.

Magic

Another aesthetic with a strong connection to spirituality, magic takes us back to the fairy tales and fantasy of our childhoods. Even in adulthood, special moments or phenomena can feel magical, such as witnessing rainbows, fireflies, or the aurora. Matthew Hutson, a journalist with a science background, argues that magical thinking has been adaptive for the human species because it “fights the sense that we’re alone in the universe…It weaves a story where there’s an ultimate purpose, and the universe is looking out for us.”

Whether or not you believe in magic, here are some design features of the magic aesthetic that can help you tap into your sense of childlike wonder:

• Sense of illusion and mystery
• Seeming defiance of natural laws that evokes curiosity and delight (not fear and aversion)
• Luminosity or iridescence

The Diamond Mirror by Cattelan Italia features faceted sections of glass that create angled reflections and evoke the surface of a precious gemstone. Whether you hang it in your living space, by your dining table, or in your bedroom, Diamond will infuse any space with a touch of awe.

Also by Cattelan, the Voyager Sideboard features a luminous frosted bronze structure with front doors covered in black studs that evoke the look of a constellation. Both stunning and functional, this sideboard subtly brings a taste of the cosmic to any dining occasion.

Renewal

The renewal aesthetic is a reference to cycles of nature, particularly the way nature comes alive again in the spring. Metaphorically, renewal can mean the joy of new beginnings and fresh starts. Perhaps no entity embodies renewal better than the flower, which Lee describes as “signifying an uncontainable verve, a life force that can’t help but find its way out.” Indeed, humans deduced early on that flowers signaled the coming of fruit and therefore nourishment, connecting blooming plants to anticipation and hope.

Defining traits of the renewal aesthetic include:

• Seasonal elements
• Flowers, greenery, and nature motifs
• Blooming and expanding shapes
• Organic curves or spirals

The MyFlower Cocktail Table is a marvel of design that effortlessly embodies the renewal aesthetic. It has three tabletops, one round and two flower-shaped, that expand outward with a simple touch, giving the impression that this table is literally blooming.

The Consul Chair and Ottoman is available in a sprightly thyme green reminiscent of spring foliage. With patented ergonomic mechanisms, this chair supports your body fully in any position, giving you a place to feel refreshed and recharged.

From blossoming flowers to blinking fireflies, these are only some of the aesthetics we can tap into to find everyday happiness. Since no two people are alike, there are more aesthetics of joy than those listed here. But if you find delight in a beautifully designed interior, why not visit your local Copenhagen and see what sparks your joy?

All information in this post was sourced from Ingrid Fetell Lee’s Joyful: The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness.