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The Anatomy Of An Inviting Space, According To Science

Ross Hudgens April 10, 2024

“There’s no place like home.” It’s more than just a sweet sentiment. Feeling comfort, security and warmth affects peoples’ mindsets, moods and actions. You may not always be able to point out the exact reason something is comforting or welcoming, but you can definitely recognize how it makes you feel. We explain what makes a space welcoming and comforting, and how you can apply it to your own space so that guests, potential home buyers and customers can feel at ease in your domain.

illustration of a welcoming home

How you make people feel is crucial to their overall experience. The tried-and-true Maya Angelou saying goes, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” This is exactly what the overall goal is for those who want to improve their hospitality: You want people who come to your space to feel welcomed, comfortable and secure.

The U.S. hotel industry alone broke $239.7 billion in profits in 2022. All of the various lucrative subcategories of the hospitality industry are essentially selling the same thing – an experience. To this end, 74% of Americans prioritize experiences over things. So whether you’re hosting guests, selling your home or trying to market a product or service, keep the experience at the core of your decisions.

The Principles Of A Welcoming Space


Before diving into the different types of spaces and how to make them welcoming, it’s important to understand the elements that make a space feel this way. According to International Association for Applied Psychology, at the core of an inviting, comfortable space is well-being. One recent trend that supports this is the rise of biophilic design based on the idea that “humankind has an innate biological connection with nature.”

To put the concept into use, living spaces are designed with forms, patterns, senses and layouts that evoke well-being and a connection with nature. Another thing that makes people feel at ease are factors that subconsciously access comforting memories and experiences. This is similar to the way weighted blankets calm people down: it evokes sensory feelings and memories of being embraced

Here’s how you can evoke well-being and comfort in your space:


Spaces should be airy and light so that the features of the room are visible. Psychology Today explains that dark and shadowy rooms make people feel uneasy because they can’t see everything going on in the space. To mimic lighting found in nature, diffuse bright light with shades and window dressings.


Your space should have a natural flow whether it’s an open floor plan or not. This includes removing clutter. WebMD tells us that clutter can make a space feel closed off and is bad for your mental and physical health.


When choosing colors, consider the experience or feeling you are trying to evoke. In a piece that appeared in IRMBR Journal, it’s explained that warmer colors evoke feelings of excitement and being welcomed, while cooler colors evoke feelings of relaxation


Textures can bring about feelings and create different emotional responses just as visual senses can. Softer textures are said to be more comforting due to our mammalian roots and instincts, as explained in a study from the Journal of Consumer Research. Using soft textures in your home can evoke feelings of protection and warmth.


Scientific American explains that the effect that scents have is dependent upon experiences associated with that scent. For example, if the scent of apple pie makes you feel comforted and nostalgic, you probably had an experience in your past where the scent of apple pie became associated with good memories.
There are common scents you can use in your space that a lot of people have similar reactions to – like how the scent of pine trees reminds most people of the holidays, nature hikes or camping. Aromatherapy has also been shown to improve sleep and quality of life as well as reduce anxiety (Mayo Clinic).


There have been numerous studies that show music can have a great effect on mood and emotion. Music can help you relieve stress (UNR), help with productivity (Study International) and make people feel more comfortable and at ease in your space. Calm classical music and jazz are a great way to boost moods and focus. Even ambient noise reduces fear and anxiety (International Journal of Research in Marketing).

How To Create An Inviting Home

image of a living room that points out different features

Are you expecting guests this holiday season or have friends and family that like to drop in unannounced? Use these easy tips below to help make hosting a breeze:

  • Light: Let There Be Light – Help guests feel welcome and relaxed by letting your natural light shine, try opening your blinds or using translucent window coverings that still let light in. Use warm bulbs in your indoor fixtures and add whimsical string lights to illuminate and create dazzling outdoor spaces.
  • Layout: Clean Often – Not only is this helpful if someone drops by unannounced, but it also makes your life easier by not allowing cleaning tasks to pile up.
    Color: Show Your Style – While warm colors are the most welcoming, you should still include splashes of color and patterns that represent your style. Use warm colors specifically in areas that you want guests to feel cozy, like on the couch in front of the fireplace or in their guest bedroom.
  • Texture: Seating – Make sure there is enough seating for guests that are free of clutter. Set out some throw pillows and blankets to make seating feel extra cozy.
    • Extra Linens – Keep extra clean blankets and bedding on hand, so you aren’t rushing to finish the laundry before guests arrive.
  • Scent: Aromatherapy – Have candles and scented oil diffusers on hand to give your home a pleasant and welcoming scent.
    • Freeze Food – Keep frozen appetizers and desserts ready to go. They can be popped in the oven for any last-minute arrivals.
    • Cook Or Bake – If you have advanced notice that you’ll have visitors, try to have something simple on hand to offer them.
  • Sound: Play To Your Audience – Music is a must when having people over to your house. Make sure it’s low enough that people can still talk and hear each other. When picking a playlist, think about your guests’ preferences – when in doubt, ask them for song requests.
  • Bonus Tip: Their Favorites – While it’s customary for the guest to bring a little gift for the host, it’s also a nice touch for the host to keep their guest in mind too! Which drinks or snacks do they prefer? Surprise your guests with these personalized touches.

Staging: How To Make A House A Home


If you’re staging your home with buyers in mind, you will have to make some tweaks to ensure that it’s appealing to the wide variety of potential buyers that may come through your property. You’ll want to make sure that you’re showing off the best features of your home, the things that got people interested in your listing in the first place.

It’s important to remember to depersonalize your home so that buyers feel encouraged to imagine themselves in the space, rather than feeling like a visitor. There are a variety of small do-it-yourself projects and upcycling hacks that make staging your home easier.

Light: Show Off Your Natural Light

Frame your windows and glass features with complimentary window treatments, but keep them visible so potential buyers can see the full potential. If your space is lacking in natural light, add lighting fixtures that mimic natural light or have a warmer tone in the bulb rather than cold.

Layout: Clean, Not Sterile

In order to work with what you have and accentuate your layout, make sure to clear out any clutter. Remove furniture pieces that disrupt the flow, especially if you’re limited on space or have a quirky floor plan. To ensure flow, make sure there is at least two to four feet of space in walking paths.

You’ll want to create a feeling of togetherness, like the home is built for entertainment – even if it isn’t. Do this by “setting the scene,” create definite spaces with purpose throughout your home with furniture and a light assortment of staging “props.” These props could be table settings on your dining table, a neat stack of books in a reading nook or a fresh bouquet of flowers on the counter.

Make your space feel clean and clutter-free but comfortable and easy to live in. It will make buyers feel welcome and help them see themselves hosting guests of their own there.

Color: Warm Neutrals

The colors you choose to highlight should be light, neutral and warm. You want your space to be as move-in ready as possible and if potential buyers don’t have to paint, that’s one more todo to check off of their list. Including pops of color in your house is encouraged as it can make your home feel more lively.

Use those pops of color strategically to draw attention to your home’s best features. For example, if you have a stunning fireplace and mantel, hang a colorful print on it to catch the buyer’s eye. When choosing your accent color and patterns, keep a consistent theme to avoid clashing colors and designs.

Texture: Comfy And Polished

Again, make sure that the textures you choose are appealing to a wide variety of buyers. One additional key point is to make seating and beds look and feel comfortable. This can be done with a healthy abundance of pillows and blankets. Don’t overload the space, try to include a maximum of three on each seating area and around five on beds, depending of course on their size.

Scent: Pleasant, Not Overpowering

It’s pleasant for buyers if you not only engage them visually but also through scent as well. Ensure that whichever scent you choose to feature isn’t too overpowering as many people have sensitivities to strong perfumes. The safest scent to go with is the subtly pleasant scent of a freshly cleaned home. To choose a scent, think about your location and the time of year too, i.e. a pumpkin spice candle doesn’t make much sense in the middle of May.

Pro tip: Try baking something fresh in the oven before buyers arrive so your home smells delicious and you have something to offer them and make them feel welcomed.

Sound: Cheerful, Laid-Back Music

It’s a good idea to have light music playing in the background. This is a perfect way to evoke positive emotions and cover the lull of street traffic. Make sure the music you play isn’t loud or too quick. You don’t want buyers feeling rushed by fast tempos. Choose the music based on the type of mood you’re trying to evoke and the person you’re selling to. A young bachelor or bachelorette will surely be drawn to different music than a mature couple looking for peace and quiet.

Which brings up another important point, don’t play music if one of the home’s best features is its environmental location. You don’t want to cover up the sound of the babbling stream outside or the birds chirping. Alternatively, you could have music playing at the entrance of the home but ensure that you can show off your home’s peace and solitude in other rooms of the house.

Hosting Guests: Home Is Where You Make It


In recent years, many people have turned their additional property or space into lucrative bed and breakfast ventures. If you’ve decided to turn hosting guests into a career or side hustle, you know how important positive reviews are. In order to build up your customer base and earn those five-star reviews, it’s crucial to give your guests a great experience. Below are a couple of additional tips to create a five-star visit:

  • Light – If guests are arriving late, make sure they can easily find your place. Solar-powered pathway lights and motion sensor lights are a great way to guide guests without wasting electricity.
  • Layout – Above all else make sure your place is clean, clutter-free and accessible to guests with disabilities who have expressed their accessibility requirements.
  • Color – Guests feel most welcome in homes that feature warm colors. However, if this doesn’t mesh with your personal style make a compromise by including warm colors in the guest bedroom or their bedding to create a cozier vibe.
  • Texture – Make sure you have enough blankets and pillows available, especially when temperatures drop.
  • Scent – Your space should smell clean and pleasant, make sure that any scents aren’t too overpowering. To make guests feel like they’ve truly arrived at their destination, place a scent diffuser with a popular essence from your area.
  • Sound – If possible, have soft music playing for your guest when they arrive. If you won’t be there, consider leaving a small speaker that they can use to play music and feel more at home or CDs of local musicians so they can experience something new. Just remember to include your quiet hours on your house rules to keep your neighbors happy.
  • Bonus Tip: Welcome – Many hosts leave “welcome baskets” for their guests, these little gestures aren’t necessary but can be a great way to ensure your guests have a positive experience. Something as simple as a small treat like a chocolate bar, city maps or other helpful suggestions make guests feel welcome.

In addition to welcoming guests, you’ll also want to ensure that house guidelines are laid out clearly to ensure a safe and pleasant stay for both the host and the guest. Click the button below to download or save our free printables below:


How To Make Any Space Feel Like Home

The principles of comfort and feeling welcomed don’t just apply to homes, they also apply to a variety of public and commercial spaces. While your brand and style will play a big role in the style of your store, there are ways to make the different principles of comfort work in your favor to create a better guest experience.

Click the button below to save a visual guide to making customers feel welcome.

download business tips

Creating an inviting environment is a crucial part of a visitor’s, guest’s or buyer’s experience. And when the time comes to sell your home, you can save a lot of money by using the tips above to stage your own home. Remember that not everyone has the same design taste as you so try to depersonalize and meet somewhere in the middle of neutral and your personal style. Even though neutral design is the most universal, make sure you’re still accentuating the quirks and features that make your home unique and desirable.