Where we live profoundly shapes how we live. Perhaps no one understands this better than Gretchen Hansen, CEO and Founder of the Decorist: an innovative online interior design service that brings professional design with reach of homeowners of all types.

A couple of years ago, Gretchen bought two gorgeous bright pink velvet vintage chairs—only to find that they looked terrible in her San Francisco home. Gretchen called a designer friend who, based off photos alone, updated the room to perfectly highlight the new chairs. With that experience, the power of online interior design was revealed—and the Decorist was born!

Gretchen and I sat down to discuss how the quality of our rooms, offices, and living spaces impact our happiness and productivity:

1. Color Matters

Why does color matter so much when it comes to decor?

Your home and environment have a direct impact on your mood and outlook on life. Even more, we know there is a deep psychological connection between how you feel about your home and how you feel about yourself!

Color is one of the first things you notice about a room, and it is also one of the most prominent elements of a room design. Color is a hugely powerful force that can make you feel calm or energized—or even happy or sad.

For me, color is a critical part of my surroundings, and I frequently remind people that white is a color, too! I have always gravitated towards monochromatic and neutral interiors because I see my home as a calm refuge from a very busy life and I want it to feel relaxing. Neutral colors help me to reflect and recharge. I really love and appreciate those with colorful homes, however, but as many times as I’ve tried to add color, I usually end up going back to my neutral happy place with my décor.

2. Make More Space

We hear so much about the need to de-cluttercan you tell us why this is so crucial?

Whether you are a minimalist or maximalist, clutter is your number 1 enemy if you want a well-designed room. Clutter can also make you feel overwhelmed, unfocused and stressed-out. It’s not surprising, then, that getting rid of clutter is the easiest, most effective and affordable way to transform almost any room—it’s amazing what will happen to a room when you remove unnecessary and uninviting items. It’s hard to do though, so you need to be committed and strong!

Personally, I am obsessed with de-cluttering, because every day I see its transformative effects first-hand. My family now blames me if anything goes “missing” in the house, and with three kids, a husband and a dog, let’s just say I keep the Goodwill pretty busy. The aesthetic and psychological benefits of getting rid of things you don’t need or love is definitely worth trying it out.

I have even taken my “love” for de-cluttering to the next level—I am now on a mission to make every moment I experience in my home feel focused and beautiful—that means every drawer I open should feel organized and calm, even decorated if I’m feeling ambitious. It’s an ongoing process, but I love the results already!

3. Design With YOU In Mind

You founded your company to help people express their individuality. Why is this so important in our lives and your life too?

This is exactly the issue that the Decorist was designed to address: working with people to update and improve their homes in the way that makes the most sense to their lifestyle and experiences.

As an entrepreneur, I am a very avid believer in the need for individuality and self-expression—they are foundation of understanding and advancing ourselves as human beings.

People express themselves in many ways, and one’s home and environment are a very important component of showing the world who you are. This doesn’t mean you need to spend a fortune on custom furniture or designers—you just need to have a sense for the feeling you want when you are in your home and the overall look you are trying to achieve.

Everyday, we see how creating a home that reflects our customers’ individual style contributes to their happiness, excitement and well-being. This is why I am excited to jump out of bed every morning and head to the office!

4. Add Live Things To Your Life

We hear that plants and even animals affect us dramaticallytell us more!

I think every home should be filled with plants—mine certainly is! My home probably has at least 50 plants in it, and I take care of all of them myself. As living creatures, they almost have personalities: some are fussy, some very hardy, some grow very quickly others take their time. I have one plant in my bedroom—a big, gorgeous fig tree—that is practically like a pet; I have had it for over six years and have even caught myself talking to it on occasion!

Plants have so many positive effects on you and your environment. Stanford did a study that showed that people who by simply looked at images of plants saw reduced levels of stress. Other studies conclude that plants increase happiness, develop empathy and improve our air quality. Caring for something and seeing it grow and thrive fulfills a base need for many of us.

In addition to their therapeutic effects, plants play a critical role in home design—they add a beautiful natural element that every room needs. Next time you are looking at a stunner of a room, check out how many plants you see—you will probably notice a few.