The feelgood factor

For holistic interior designer Phoebe Oldrey of Smartstyle Interiors, our homes need to do more than just look pretty – they need to make us feel happy, too. Rachael Hale visited her to discover more…


Hi Phoebe, what exactly is holistic interior design?

Every interior designer assesses how a space looks and functions, it’s part of our bag, but as a holistic interior designer, I go beyond that to assess how a space actually makes my clients feel. On the surface, that can sound a little ‘Woo Hoo’, but a big part of my job is looking at the psychological effect of each interior design element and then, ultimately, the effect they have as a whole.

A lot of our identity is tied up with how we put our homes together and what message that impression gives to others, but our priority should be on creating homes that make us feel happy, healthy and comfortable. For example, the way a room is laid out can make someone feel vulnerable or protected, colour can make you feel stimulated or relaxed and the way we use and place everything within a room can make us feel stressed or in control.  And then, of course, there’s a health and environmental impact related to everything we choose to have in our homes. There’s far more to great interior design than a pretty mood board.


Why do you think this approach is so important?

I think it’s the unseen element of how we can take care of ourselves. If you’re trying to sleep in a bedroom where you can’t relax that’s detrimental to your long-term health. Likewise, if the layout of your kitchen means the countertops are cluttered and you keep bumping into things, you’re going to take that frustration out on your kids or partner. All those daily hassles and frustrations can make a huge difference to how happy we ultimately feel in our homes.


When did you first get into holistic design?

The first time it crossed my radar was at a conference about 10 years ago. Until then, I didn’t really think there was much more to interior design than ‘make it work, make it pretty’, but people were talking about interior design as a solution to a much bigger issue. Revealing how the use of colour can change the behaviour of prisoners and school students or have an impact on the recovery of medical patients.  It completely blew my mind and gave my work a deeper purpose.


If someone wanted to make their home more holistic, what can they do?

I’d say the first thing they need to do is consider how they actually live. What bothers them about their home? Where does everything get dumped, not sorted? What are the problems they always encounter when trying to do a task? I spend a lot of time getting to know my clients, not just their styles and pattern choices, but their habits so I can ensure every space I design not only looks great but enhances the way they live.


Where’s the best place to buy things for a holistic home?

I wish there were a one-stop shop, but it’s not just about the accessories and items you buy but the materials those pieces are made from.  So, for example, if you’re choosing a new floor, go for a wooden one rather than a vinyl floor that’s potentially full of harmful phthalates. Likewise, when choosing paint, go for one that’s free of harmful VOCs – the horrible-smelling fumes that are released while, and even after, a paint dries.  The more artificial smells and products you put into your home the less healthy it, and you, will ultimately be.

When you start to break it down like this, it can feel a little overwhelming, but your home really can support how you live, make you feel good and look gorgeous. It just takes experience and know-how, and I can help you with that.


And here are Phoebe’s favourite local spots to shop and socialise:

Favourite place to eat?

The Vineyard. The food’s good, the people are friendly, and it always feels nice and cosy.


Favourite place to shop?

Anna Poulsen’s fashion and lifestyle boutique in Chapel Place. She’s got gorgeous things and proper assistants who want to take care of you and make sure you leave with exactly what you want!


Favourite place to explore?

The real luxury of living in Tunbridge Wells is that we have the best of both worlds.  If I go out my front door and walk for 20 minutes in one direction I reach The Pantiles, yet if I walk in the other direction, I reach some of the most beautiful countryside you’ll ever see. It’s perfect.

Website –

Instagram – @phoebeoldrey

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