Creating a Sanctuary

Four Essential Elements for a Personal Haven in your Home – Part 1 of 2

A couple of years ago I wrote a book with my friend and fellow designer Tonya Olsen, titled Sanctuary: Essential Wisdom for and Inspired Home.  I decided it was about time I share a few select tricks and tips from the book with you, my favorite friends, clients, and followers! 


We live in a world dedicated to our physical senses, which is one of the reasons why we love looking at Pinterest, full of images of rooms that seem to fulfill our every desire! Those spaces are attractive, comfortable, and functional-- all of which appeal to our physical senses. But creating a Sanctuary goes beyond that. Creating a Sanctuary is about the subtle, less tangible, energetic elements within a space.

SO- what makes a home a sanctuary? In the book, we covered the four essential components: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. In this Part 1 article, we’ll cover two of the four: Structure & Atmosphere.


Structure addresses the physical portion of a space,including your walls, floors, and ceilings, and how their configuration relates to you and the other occupants of your home. The structure itself is not what makes a home sacred, but the important elements of the structure must work cohesively to support your lifestyle. The way you experience life (order or chaos!) has much to do with the structure of your home. Important elements of Structure are Human Scale, Gathering Spaces, and Private or In-between Places. 

Human Scale is where the mind aligns with the functionality of your human physical characteristics. Harmony, proportion, and balance are the building blocks of basic design principles and they influence how you feel about your environment. Uncomfortable spaces are often out of scale with our human dimensions.



In my own home, I had to make changes (and many, many more to come!). I transformed the lofty, awkward ceilings with strange angles and used appropriately scaled furniture to bring my home back to a more cozy, personal scale.

Gathering Spaces are the places in our homes where we connect with one another, help each other, and simply enjoying being together. In today’s homes, gathering spaces increasing in size; contending with the isolation that technology has produced.

This double-island kitchen is an all-time fan favorite Liv remodel. A great gathering space was created by borrowing from an under-used guest room. The kitchen opens up to the family and dining room, giving ample room for family and friends to gather.

Private Spaces & In-Between Spaces. Almost equal to the need for our connection to others is our need to connect with ourselves (an important concept for mothers of young children like me!) and that's where private spaces come in. An in-between space allows you to pull away from the core while still being a part of it at the same time.

Areas such as niches, desks, window seats, alcoves, and even a simple corner can create an in-between space- and we LOVE what those elements do for a home. These small areas create places to be "alone" but still be in the presence of the family and be socially present. In our efforts to remain communal- even with many daily private activities- our common areas should provide the ability for those personal functions within the larger functions of the room.


This built-in desk at the corner of the room is the perfect in-between space. While it's not the main part of the action, anyone using the desk can feel a part of any gathering. And our designer Pamela Jensen couldn't have picked a better color for this custom cabinet! Love. 


Atmosphere comprises the mental components of a space, including light, sound, color and design principles, and organization or order. 

In designing our spaces, we create a variety of "tones" or moods. These moods can be sophisticated or lively, cozy or casual. The best spaces offer diversity in the desired experiences and moods for the activities of a space. Architect and author of Creating the Inspired House, John Connel, says it best: "The ineffable quality of a well-designed space goes beyond what we can see with our eyes." Sound, touch, and smell also directly affect our atmosphere.

Light & Sound are key elements of atmosphere. Ideally, natural light comes from two sides of the room. And the more options for lighting control-including window treatments, overhead lighting, and task lighting- the better. Sound isn't my specialty (besides the fact that I like to belt songs at the top of my lungs at home or in the car), so I won't cover that here!

If you’re a fan of Liv's work, you've seen this room. Everyone seems to love it – perhaps because it’s filled with natural light (on three sides!). Cue the lighting design must-haves: window treatments to control light and several options for overhead and task lighting. 

Color & Design are two of the main elements people think of when they are designing a favorite space. Color obviously can affect our mood and feelings.  

In this space, color really means color!  But a room doesn't necessarily need "color" to be a Sanctuary. It's about finding the scheme that speaks to you and the feelings you want to invoke in the space. Softer tones create a different feeling than brightly colored shades.

Order is sometimes the hardest part of creating a Sanctuary- because it can mean some hard work. But, since order simplifies day-to-day activities, creating it makes every-day functions easier. One of the very first things I learned in design school from the director of the design program, Carla Rogers, was to not have anything you don't believe to be beautiful or useful. Keeping clutter out is just one key to making inspired spaces; having a space for all functions is another way.


We used this special multi-tasking space in the book to highlight Order. Built-ins hide a desk but double as extra kitchen and dining storage. The room is used for homework, casual dining, and games. The layout and built-ins add order to the great room area of the home. 

Stay tuned... Each of the four components are interconnected and, when in balance, create harmony. Watch for Creating a Sanctuary: Part 2 to get more tips from my book about Expression & Reflection.

Liv in balance,


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