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Michelle Ogundehin invites us inside her happy home

The author, broadcaster and former ELLE Decoration Editor-in-chief is an expert in creating a happy, healthy home. Here, she shares the details that make her smile

michelle sits on her ‘d1531’ chair by gio ponti for molteni  c, upholstered in rubelli’s ‘puntegiato’ fabric, also designed by ponti
Marianna Wahlsten

I love my home to the extent that the best aspect of any travel, for me, is the return.

My home is, quite simply, my favourite corner of the world, my ultimate retreat and my greatest ally. It is my space to be fearless and splendid in all of my obsessions. In short, I think of it as a secret superpower that protects and supports me – something that feels ever more essential now the world seems to have gone a bit bonkers.

But with its perfectly symmetrical brick-fronted façade, original leaded glass windows and pretty walled front garden, it looks like the sort of house you’d expect to see adorning a chocolate box.

Built in 1821 (so strictly speaking, Georgian), it even has a little porch with flower baskets hung on either side, and there’s an ancient passion flower tree and pink roses tumbling across its front. But this is to belie the modernity I have installed inside thanks to new electrics and plumbing, a few raised ceilings, marble-clad bathrooms, a Corian-countered kitchen, and underfloor heating throughout.

in michelle ogundehin’s living room a robin day sofa, upholstered in velvet from dedar, sits below a collection of fornasetti plates
A Robin Day sofa, upholstered in velvet from Dedar, sits below a collection of Fornasetti plates
Marianna Wahlsten

As for the décor, I live and breathe the philosophy expounded in my book — Happy Inside: How to Harness the Power of Home for Health and Happiness — in that every single thing in my home contributes to my wellbeing, from the weight of my cutlery to the feel of my sheets and the colour of my cushions.

‘Every single thing in my home contributes to my wellbeing’

And I do not say this lightly. It is the consequence of everything being very carefully considered. But not in an achingly pedantic, hours of trawling sort of way, rather, for anything to be welcomed indoors, it has to contribute positively to the story of relaxation and harmony that I want to tell with my home.

In this way, surrounded by things that make me happy, and the colours, fabrics, materials and finishes that soothe me, no matter where I look, I am uplifted.

ercol chairs, stained to match the wooden flooring from ecora, flank a ‘tulip’ table by eero saarinen for knoll in michelle ogundehin’s dining room
Ercol chairs, stained to match the wooden flooring from Ecora, flank a ‘Tulip’ table by Eero Saarinen for Knoll
Marianna Wahlsten

However, it’s not been about spending a lot of money. The majority of my furnishings are not expensive designer pieces. Instead, I prefer to lavish attention on the envelope of my home – walls, floors and ceilings. The most important design decision being the flooring. Literally and visually, it is the foundation for everything, underpinning every view and item lain upon it.

I indulged a long-standing dream and splashed out on a dark stained oak parquet floor for downstairs; hand laid, then oiled to a gleam in situ. I happy cried when it was finished. Upstairs, a thick pile, 100 per cent wool carpet was meticulously colour-matched and hand-dyed to a Farrow & Ball paint chip – ‘Mizzle’ to be precise.

in michelle ogundehin’s bedroom the headboard was created using tiles from h  e smith the bed is dressed in a duvet cover from georg jensen damask, as well as pieces from society limonta, larusi, caravane and merci
The headboard was created using tiles from H & E Smith. Pieced from Georg Jensen Damask, Society Limonta, Larusi, Caravane and Merci dress the bed
Marianna Wahlsten

But my path to this place of peace has not been without its twists. Over the years, I’ve swapped cities, counties and countries in pursuit of home, rented many a dodgy apartment, and moved almost once a year. But every abode taught me something about the effect of my surroundings on my health, wealth, happiness and hormones, and I grew to understand just how deeply these things are connected. The ultimate recognition being that home-making is never frivolous, it is absolutely fundamental to becoming your best self.

‘Happy Inside: How to Harness the Power of Home for Health and Happiness’ by Michelle Ogundehin (Ebury Books, £18.99). Series two of BBC2’s ‘Interior Design Masters’, in which Michelle is head judge, airs in January 2021

This article first appeared in ELLE Decoration October 2020

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