• Sat. Apr 17th, 2021

Tour Writer, Editor and Netflix Host Michelle Ogundehin’s Cozy Home

When Michelle Ogundehin set out to find a new home in her beloved Brighton, England, she brought her well-trained eye to the job. For 13 years she was the editor in chief of Elle Decoration UK, and these days she’s the judge of popular BBC and Netflix series Interior Design Masters, so she knew what she was looking for. Day in, day out, she canvassed the city streets looking for the one. It turned out to be right under her nose.

“It’s a house I must have walked by a dozen times. And one day I just saw it—and there was a ‘For Sale’ sign,” she recalls of the cottage-like Georgian, built in 1821 with a walled garden tucked behind an old-fashioned black gate. “I put a little note through the door that said, ‘I think I love your house. Will you sell it to me, please?’ and attached a copy of the magazine. They called me back, I walked in, and I just knew.”

In the cozy dining area, a Saarinen Tulip table by Knoll is surrounded by vintage Ercol chairs, restained to match the floors.

Michelle doused the kitchen in soothing gray tones, creating texture play by mixing lacquered cabinetry with matte walls and ceilings. Units from IKEA are paired with a wraparound Corian countertop.

Michelle pays close attention to those good feelings, always careful to choose things—whether it’s a set of flatware, the color of a cushion, or the house itself—that make her heart sing. But that skill, she insists, is not reserved for editors, interior designers, and the sartorially inclined. As she argues in her new book, published last fall, Happy Inside: How to Harness the Power of Home for Health and Happiness, armed with a few useful tools, just about anyone can cultivate a space that really works for them physically and psychologically. As Michelle likes to say, “Your home can be your superpower.”

It’s a rather timely subject, as we endure a raging global pandemic that has forced so many of us indoors. But long before mandatory quarantines and stay-at-home orders became everyday parlance, Michelle was thinking hard about domestic environments and the way they connect to our well-being. “We have accepted the twin pillars of wellness as exercise and nutrition, and I just felt like, Yeah, but we’re forgetting about environment,” she says. “What surrounds you absolutely affects what you feel like and how you think and your ability to be your best self.” In the book she lays out the basics. The gist? “Everyone can be their own designer and, actually, you already know everything you need to know.”

“Like in any cooking, you need that pop of heat,” says Michelle, noting the bold mustard sofa in her study. She used this vibrant hue in dashes throughout the house, such as on the ceiling in the kitchen.

“People often ask me, ‘Oh, where do you buy your objects?’” explains Michelle. “They want to buy a whole set to make a shelf-scape, and you can’t do it like that. You just have to live your life and you might see something that resonates with you.” For displaying those odds and ends, she follows her simple rule of “Clear, curate, and contain before you add color.”

When we spoke on the phone in early November, England had just announced a second lockdown, and Michelle was preparing for hunker down, part two. While she carefully strategized a few updates to the place—a door on her office; some new plantings in the garden—she was hardly dispirited at the thought of more time at home. After all, she practices what she preaches.

“Every single thing in the house has been chosen according to my happy inside principles,” Michelle says, laying out her core strategy: “Choose well, choose once, choose sustainably, choose that which will last, choose that which makes you happy, that which makes you smile, that which lifts your soul. Because it makes a difference.”

“In my editorship I was always looking for homes that had what I would call a singularity of intention,” explains Michelle. “They did that thing, whatever it was, from the front to the back of the house. It wasn’t whether I liked their style, it was, Have they done it consistently? Because that’s what gives you an overall sense of who the person is and a sense of flow.” Here, in her living room, a Robin Day Forum sofa upholstered in a pale pink Dedar velvet and covered in colorful cushions gazes at a lineup of artworks and objects.