How To Design A Room To Heal In

Lynn Goode began thinking differently about interior design after she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

The texture of her bedspread, the way her walls curved, the ridges on her crown molding: When multiple sclerosis left Lynn Goode confined to the dream home she’d bought in Houston, Texas, but never had time to enjoy, she started to notice the details all around her.

Goode, who just turned 60, was first diagnosed with MS when she was in her late 30s and caring for four young kids. The diagnosis came after months of numbness, blurred vision and a drooping mouth. Long before MRIs were the gold standard for diagnosing MS, her doctor told herself to submerge herself in a hot bath and note what happened to her body; she soon became so weak she couldn’t stand up.

After her diagnosis, Goode recovered at home. Although already an art dealer, Goode had an epiphany as she lay within the confines of her four-poster bed, gazing out the window into her lush courtyard: our interior spaces matter. They help heal us.

Through MS, Goode found her calling. She opened Lynn Goode Vintage in Houston, where she revives and sells furniture from the 1950s to 1980s: pieces with a story, a soul. She’s driven to help others create comforting interiors and safe haven spaces, rooms that soothe and heal.

We sat down with Goode to learn more about soothing spaces, how they can help those with chronic illness, and how to create them.

Lynn Goode’s career path changed after she was diagnosed with MS in her late 30s.When you were recovering in bed, you decided to forgo T.V. and impulse purchases on QVC and focus on your surroundings. What did you learn?

I became aware of what brings pleasure in a room and what doesn’t. What colors work, how light works. It allowed me to think about rooms in a different way, as containing individuals, as a form of healing and containment. I got very interested in design after that. Previously I’d designed an art gallery and co-designed a bunch of different spaces, but then, I started collecting modern objects and furniture and being more aware of interior spaces and how they affect us.

What was it about your room that comforted you?

I was isolated at home. I couldn’t go outside, but I could see the flowers and plants in my courtyard through the windows in my room. The design brought the outside in. I remember we had azaleas out there, some ivy and potted plants. It was the greenery that was so pretty. There’s something about flower and plants, the growth, it makes you feel more alive. Also, the textures and the fibers of the fabrics the interior designer and I had picked out together—on the headboard, the bedding, the chairs—the beauty and variety of it all, and the pleasing feel of the fabrics, they all helped lift me up.

How do you help people create healing and comforting spaces?

Our home is such a personal expression of who we are. To create a space that feels like a safe, holding space, first I need to know what a person likes, what they gravitate toward, what they enjoy, what calms them. I use a lot of different textures. For example, I like to use a sheepskin rug or a heavily textured shag, some type of thick rug, and pair that with more streamlined or structured furniture. And then always, in every space, I put a great, big reading chair. It could also be an arm chair and an ottoman.

What about light? What’s more soothing, lamps or overhead lighting?

You need a balance of both. It’s important to have light at different levels. That helps soften a room. I like candlelight and table lamps too.

And what about colors? Are certain ones better for healing?

Colors that have always been associated with healing are yellow or white, pure light. But blue can be very tranquil too, because it’s sea and sky.

Colors that have always been associated with healing are yellow or white, pure light.

Why should we also have plants inside our home?

Live plants are the most important; they filter the air. Ferns are really good at absorbing and recreating a positive inner space.

What are the top three things every healing room should have?

Color is an important consideration when designing rooms to heal in.

A nice rug. A nice rug grounds a room. Interesting light, and by that, I mean a light fixture or lamp that’s sculptural, that has an interesting design. And then a mixture of textures. For example, nubby, textural fabrics with smooth velvets or silk. Different woods. Every room should have some wood, some glass, some steel and an upholstery.

How do you think your diagnosis has contributed to who you are today?

Having a major– and at that time what could have been considered life-threatening–illness in my late 30s, just when I was getting my kids a little settled, it was completely life-changing. It changed everything—the power structure in my then-marriage, my outlook on life. I felt compelled to travel as much as possible because I didn’t know how long I’d be around for. I thought to myself, “no, this didn’t happen to me, this isn’t supposed to happen.” But, it also led me here, to this place where I feel like I’m helping people. Whether it’s a chronic illness, stress or even trauma, everyone struggles with some issue, and everyone can benefit from a comforting space. For me, it took a while to get to a place where I wasn’t panicking. My grandfather had what we now know is ALS, and he died within two years of being diagnosed. But eventually I was able to get to a place where I said to myself, “to heck with it, live.”

Whether it’s a chronic illness, stress or even trauma, everyone struggles with some issue, and everyone can benefit from a comforting space.

Anything else you want to add?

Over the years, I’ve thought about why I gravitate toward older furniture, and I’ve realized a lot of it has to do with my MS. The furniture I find and restore is built well. It still has a lot of good years in it, but it might be damaged. There’s a metaphor there. To not discard or discount something, or someone, because of an imperfection. Furniture—and people—they can both be restored and renewed, they can both be given new life.