Designing My Home, Designing My Sanctuary of Wellbeing


For me, home didn’t always feel like a sanctuary. Feeling safe, calm, grounded, creative and connected were experiences that I longed for from a very young age. I imagined it and wanted to build it for myself. I wanted to be able to design sanctuary around me and within me and to carry it with me wherever I go.

Two months ago, I moved into a new home that became a safe space for those childhood longings to manifest. I entered this transition with an intention: To design a home that lives as a tangible vibration of the inner work I’ve done and the sanctuary I’m cultivating within. 

With the support of some friends, thoughtful questions related to holistic living were asked as a way for me to share what this sanctuary building process has been for me. These questions will guide you through my home, celebrating what holds meaning and what keeps me well.

1. How do you use your home space design to help you keep promises to yourself and support healthy personal practices?

The intentional placement of every object is what keeps me present throughout each room and it begins in the bedroom.

How I begin (and end) my day is connected to monitoring and managing my wellbeing. In this case, my type one diabetes. A bedroom side table may be a typical home decor item for most but for me, it’s nearby placement holds health supplies that are life sustaining and information that impacts the day ahead. So, my first promise to myself is to take care of my body. Having a cloud mattress, soft sheets, memory foam pillows and a clawfoot tub help with that, too. 


My second promise is to spend at least 10 minutes on the yoga mat before entering the rest of my home. I can do a yoga stretch routine, meditate, pull tarot cards, read, write or do nothing but sit at my altar. You should see me pacing my room some mornings when I’m resisting processing some emotion that I know I’m avoiding. But I made that promise because I know it will keep me grounded and I keep my yoga mat out, unrolled, so that I have to see it and walk upon it when getting out of bed each morning.


One of the beautiful things that I’ve found about designing an open altar space is it’s visibility, which is becoming a theme for me.

I think there’s power in seeing healing technologies, loving messages, loved ones and supportive tools to be both reminded of their importance and aware of their invitation to engage with the healing they want to offer us.



When I was looking for a new space, I wrote down everything I wanted. I made a list, placed it on my previous altar, spent energy manifesting and a separate office space was on that list. 

Work life and home life are in a loving relationship, so prioritizing one lifts up the other. Because I spend a lot of time here, I wanted to make sure that I had dedicated spaces to live and work in a way that nourishes all of me, including the creative, work mode me. I wanted the transition into this room to have ease with an awareness that its purpose was changing but still rooted in my higher intention: to be well. 


I took the location of my office, in the center of my home, as an opportunity to showcase process and conception and for this to be a space where creative wellbeing and inspiration can happen. I love placing tangible takeaways from experiences that I’ve had (many that I’ve also designed) along with the memories of people who have been apart of that journey.

the thing is, If I don’t prioritize a holistic home life that treats work in a way that can be pleasurable and healing, my work won’t have sustaining power.


The very first item that I placed on my mood board to be a feature in the living room was a photo of my mud cloth given to me by a beloved friend in community from Dakar. 

They brought it with them to the first-ever Yes! Black Diaspora Jam that I participated in June of 2018 at the Highlander Research and Education Center in New Market, TN. 

Every time I look at, and touch, this mud cloth, I’m reminded of the moment I received a gift from my secret angel during our time there. Restoration was what I said I needed to receive upon arriving and on this particular evening, restoration came in the form of me being physically lifted up off the ground, held by the community around me, and wrapped in the cloth. Words of love, encouragement and affirmation were whispered around my body as I was gently rocked back and forth in the air.

I cried, and laughed, and cried.

That was a moment—a timeless moment—of community care and sanctuary that I needed and still feel the vibrations of throughout my entire home.


Of course, there are other meaningful objects placed throughout, holding memories of both joyful and painful experiences that I have navigated. Loss, death, discovery, surprise, peace, excitement.

There’s beauty, at least to me, in embracing the full spectrum of the things we carry with us and I see their presence as a sort of gallery of my growth through it all.

A newer addition, positioned above the fireplace is an art print by Studio Ashleen. I chose this because who I see as a womxn in this piece reminds me of my beautiful qualities: discernment, quiet strength, complexity, intentionality, and confidence.

She marks a new phase in my life that honors who I am and who I am becoming every single day. And she’s gorgeous to look at when you open the front door.



This is where we talk about boundaries and being really, really intentional about who I allow into my home.

Previously, I made the mistake of not listening to my body and intuition and inviting people over who 1) I didn’t fully trust and 2) hadn’t earned the privilege of physically entering what was sacred to me. I’m a sensitive person. An empath who is highly intuitive, introverted and perceptive, constantly taking in my surroundings, so personal energies do impact me and my space—all of the time. I can feel an energetic shift when others are invited in.

In my new space, I want to carefully discern who I extend those invitations to because the work done before and after experiencing the presence of another requires time and energy. I’m asking myself:

  1. Is this someone who I want to share sacred proximity to the things that hold meaning to me?

  2. Do I feel like my true nature is seen and heard when they are around?

  3. When I imagine them in my home, do I feel like our collective presence is rooted in care, appreciation and love?


Reflecting on those questions also involve me engaging with breathing lessons, greenery, CBD, stress relief tinctures, sage, East African Amber candles and Questions & Empathy Cards. Maybe I engage with these elements as preparation before company arrives. Maybe it becomes a shared activity when they enter. Whatever I decide, the practice becomes a conscious decision and I get to set the tone when and if that invitation is extended.


I've been abundant and rich in my relationships. What many people may not realize is that so many things that I own have been gifted to me by family and friends over the years. Just recently, some of my family members gathered their funds together to help pay my first month’s rent with extra to cover the cost of a new mattress and platform bed after sleeping on an airbed for three years. It was me asking for support and truly accepting it when it was received. My body—especially my back—is forever grateful.

Recently, I went through a wave of guilt when thinking about the money I’ve personally invested to design a sanctuary of wellbeing. That feeling dissolved when reading about money being a feminine energy in one of the Feminist Business School activities by Jennifer Armbrust. In my notes, I wrote:

I look around right now and am moved to tears knowing that I’ve consciously used my money to ‘breathe life into the things I believe in’ and that divine feminine energy is flowing all around me. And when the people I love enter this space, she’s around them, too.

I’m surrounded by the loving and nurturing quality of my connections, the tangible and the intangible. The investments that I’ve made into beautiful, meaningful things bring me pleasure and support my desire to be well.


Every day, home feels like a sanctuary. What I longed for as a child, I’ve been able to manifest and give life to as a womxn.

I feel safe, calm, grounded, creative and connected. I feel the vibrations of the years of inner work and the communities who have offered their care. I hear the welcoming whispers that I first heard when I began designing this space:

“breathe. let the light in. home is here and here you are. worthy of it all.”


Photos were mindfully captured in collaboration with Hannah Shaw, a fellow Social Design Graduate. She told jokes, made me laugh, and I’m so glad we were able to experience this creation together.

I send my love and gratitude to the communities of people reflected throughout my home space from gifts given and travels to home goods stores to purchase beautiful things. Your generosity helped create the sanctuary that is now my home, within me and around me. Thank you.

Denise Brown