Why dopamine decor might be the happiest interiors trend in the world

Use decor to lift your mood.

Ever wondered what it would be like to wake up every day to perpetual sunshine, good vibes and not a care in the world? Wonder no more. The answer you seek is dopamine decor.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that, given the right stimulation, floods our bodies with sensations of pleasure. Often called the “feel good” transmitter, it is linked to memory and movement. If we don’t get enough, it can bring down our mood and make us distracted.

There are lots of ways to get your body to produce more dopamine, such as regular exercise, getting enough sleep and paying attention to your gut health. But did you know that positive stimulation can also help? This includes listening to your favourite music and – you’ve guessed it – perhaps even embracing “dopamine decor”.

Dopamine decor is rooted in a vibrant, maximalist approach. It’s all about bright, pleasing hues, thought-provoking artwork and fun, cosy furniture with a mood-enhancing effect.

And yes, we know that a lick of paint or a fabulous wallpaper can’t solve every problem, but the right colours and our environment do have a big role to play in our happiness. We’ll explain how it works.

Sam Buckley dopamine decor interiorCredit: Sam Buckley / Alix McIntosh Photography

What is dopamine décor?

Unleash the magic of childhood

Dopamine decor, in a nutshell, is like bottling the spirit of a tropical island and popping the magic cork in your home . It doesn’t matter if it’s day-after-day grey skies outside your front door, inside your home it’s wall-to-wall merriment.


Man colouring with child dopamineCredit: Shutterstock / eggeegg

The formula enabling you to experience this blissful state is closer than you think. In fact, it is already locked away in your earliest childhood memories. Remember when pure happiness was a brand-new box of crayons? This decor attitude is all about reclaiming the jolt of jubilation you felt in possessing so much unabashed freedom.

And, best of all, as a child you were more likely to express your imagination as you pleased. You simply picked your favourite hues and let rip. No censorship. No rules. No mistakes. No regrets. And no inhibitions.

Welcome to the wonderful world of dopamine decor.

Dopamine deco by Sam BuckleyCredit: Sam Buckley / Alix McIntosh Photography

And it gets better. You can forget all about keeping up with the Joneses. Instead, succeeding at this style is all about choosing whatever brings you joy.

Suzy Chiazzari, principal at the Holistic Design & Colour Institute, says: “Rather than trying to replicate fashionable colour trends, choosing hues that speak to you will instantly have a positive impact on your mood and outlook on life.”

This approach naturally extends to cherishing the planet.

Dopamine loveCredit: Shutterstock / Lucigerma

Chiazzari says: “Dopamine decor also encourages you to take more responsibility in your choice of decoration. Using environmentally friendly furnishings and handmade materials connects you to nature and community, both of which have been proven to increase feelings of happiness and well-being.

“The happy hormones released while you search for a piece of furniture or special object means that your dopamine thrill begins before you even get it home.”

Five ways to introduce dopamine decor to your home

Dopamine decor Sam BuckleyCredit: Sam Buckley / Alix McIntosh Photography

1. Make your home a top-to-bottom work of art

Take inspiration from your favourite pop artist

If you’re curious to see dopamine decor taken to its limits, look no further than Edinburgh-based interior designer Sam Buckley. Is it possible to gaze on the images of this riotously happy project in the Merchiston region of Edinburgh without feeling giddy with joy?

Dopamine decor Sam BuckleyCredit: Shutterstock / Sam Buckley / Alix McIntosh Photography

What makes this home so striking is its celebration of life. From the custom-made ceiling rose   to the blue bird perching on the fireplace, every inch of the space is an invitation to forget formality or convention and have fun.

The designer intended this scheme to look spontaneous, though it is anything but. A custom-made push plate for the door that coordinates with laboriously selected colours in the rug would have represented hours of work. But that is the point: dopamine decor is about taking the time to drink life in and puzzle over what truly makes you happy, rather than what the world says should make you happy.

Dopamine decor Sam BuckleyCredit: Sam Buckley / Alix McIntosh Photography

We tracked Buckley down to ask him what inspired this special home. The answer? Dope.

“It was inspired by the ‘Controlled Substances’ artwork by Damien Hirst (a copy of which can be seen in the sitting room), who likens the viewing of joyful colours to feelings whilst under the influence of controlled substances. I wanted to create an environment that could ‘wow’, but also envelop the occupants with interesting textures and colourful combinations.

“The super graphics on the walls create interest that leads the eye around the room, and the painting over of architectural details pushes those details into the background and are picked up once the eye settles into the space. This gives the colour pride of place and create its own mood whatever the weather.”

2. Colour block in the colours of nature

Blue and green are great for lifting the mood

John Lewis of Hungerford kitchenCredit: John Lewis of Hungerford

You don’t have to use all the colours in the crayon box at once to get the mood-enhancing effects of colour in your home.

In fact, narrowing your colour choice down to blue or green for key rooms might be the ideal way to enjoy a sense of happy calm in choice spaces.

Why blue or green? These two colours are so closely associated in our minds with nature that they have been shown by scientists at the University of Sussex to give us a sense of peace.

By saturating rooms with them, we create little oases of reflection that not only look beautiful but can have a therapeutic effect.

A fun way to amp up the colour-block fun is to match your furniture choices with walls saturated in these calming colours. You feel fully immersed in the decor experience and instead of feeling overwhelmed by the bold colour, you feel enveloped and become a part of it.

3. Select art that really speaks to you

Let your chosen artworks evoke your favourite memories

Diana Ross artwork Monica Ahanonu Design / EtsyCredit: Monica Ahanonu Design / Etsy

We’re all familiar with those tasteful but generic paintings of sailing ships or bowls of fruit that look very sensible but don’t say much. They’re precisely the wrong approach to take when selecting art for your dopamine decor scheme.

What you’re after is a selection of art works that remind you of amazing moments in your life. It could have been that time you saw Diana Ross live in concert. Or a replica of a signpost from a mind-altering road trip you once took. The point is, no art in your home should be pedestrian and each piece has a part to play in sparking a happy recollection.

We have fallen for bold, playful artworks by Monica Ahanonu (available on Etsy), including paintings of famous female cultural icons. This funky artist also has a pure dopamine-inducing arts rug collection available through Ruggable.

Dopamine decor rugCredit: Ruggable

In true dopamine decor style, the goodness doesn’t stop at collecting art for your walls or your floors. You’ll be blissed out by supporting a talented African American artist to boot.

Featured product

Monica Ahanonu Carrot Midnight Rug, Ruggable

RRP: £419

Monica Ahanonu Carrot Midnight Rug, Ruggable

4. Pick out playful throw cushions

Small accents hold big dopamine decor appeal

Credit: Jonathan Adler

Jonathan Adler is perhaps the most famous interior designer associated with dopamine decor. For three decades he has been the go-to name for the kind of hyper-personalised interiors that raise cheerful smiles in abundance.

Wondering what you should do if a full designer dopamine decor overhaul isn’t an option, but you still want that aesthetic pick-me-up? Investing in some pleasure-inducing cushions is a quick and easy way to dip your toes in the dopamine decor trend.

Jonathan AdlerCredit: Jonathan Adler

Plain cushions or cushions with no engaging motif won’t make the cut. What you want is a heap of fun statement cushions that will give your sofa the thrill-appeal of an amusement park ride.

Sounds like a tall order? Not with Adler’s collection of fun-time textiles. Poised somewhere between high jinks and high art, Adler’s velvet cushions have the quality of collector’s items and should last for years.

They also make great presents for friends and family, because what is more dopamine-inducing than giving to the ones you love?

Featured product

Madrid Key Cushion, Jonathan Adler

RRP: £135

Madrid Key Cushion, Jonathan Adler

5. Add patterns to your bathroom floor

Make your most hardworking room a happy one

Credit: Otto Tiles

Ever get the feeling that bathroom design is altogether too sensible and lacking in fun spontaneity? Dopamine decor in the bathroom is a breath of fresh air. Not a sterile white subway tile in sight.

It is all about balance. It makes sense to keep some classic elements in your bathroom, such as the white suite. After all,  updating it is not as easy as, say, your sitting room, which you can refresh in an afternoon with a lick of pain t. But it is not about being so staid that your bathroom is a predictable yawn.

When it comes to bathrooms, a safe place to inject some good feels is the floor. Use that surface to raise a smile first thing in the morning and you won’t regret giving the standard plain grey flooring a miss.

The designs available at Otto Tiles will give your space a blast of the carnival spirit, even if your home is in a grey corner of the UK. We like the idea of our bathrooms tiding us over between holidays. What is good decor if it can’t make us dream of Caribbean sun, sea and sand while we floss?

Just make sure your tiles are as joy-inducing as they look – there is nothing fun about slipping in the bathroom. These Otto Tiles are naturally slip-free.

Featured product

Carnival Tiles, Otto Tiles

RRP: £180

Carnival Tiles, Otto Tiles

Written by Joy Archer she/her