The One Word Real Estate Agents Hate—& Homeowners Love

Ask any real estate agent which words tend to be red flags on listings, and one word will come up before you can even finish your question: cozy. It’s long been code for conveying how small (and, potentially, cramped) a home can be, but it seems attitudes toward the word are starting to change. When design service Modsy surveyed more than 1,500 people on the hallmarks of a well-designed home, one word was uttered the most: cozy.

So, what changed? Our entire view of our homes, thanks to the pandemic. As the world felt more uncertain than ever, we turned inward, craving a sense of sanctuary (just see the rising interest in creating spa-like bathrooms and escapist decor). “Just as the fashion world is all about coziness, with athleisure taking center stage for what we’re wearing, people are asking the interior design world to create environments that promote comfort as well,” Modsy explained in its 2021 Wellness Report.

We’re all looking for a place where we can feel at ease, so it’s fitting that the word “calm” was a close second as a sign of a well-designed space (followed by “organized” and “relaxed”). The challenge, though, is striking a balance between the two: How do you make a space feel comfy without looking cluttered? Or Zen without skewing stark? We have a few suggestions.

How to Make a Room Feel Cozy in 2021:

cozy home design green color
CreativaStudio/Getty Images

1. choose Enveloping Colors

Going too hardcore on cottagecore can lead to shelves crammed with ceramic frogs, candles and tchotckhes that (1) require a ton of dusting and (2) can overstimulate your senses, ruining that whole “calm” factor. For a cozy feel, focus on incorporating colors that feel safe and nurturing to you, says Lindsay T. Graham, a social psychologist at UC Berkeley who partnered with Modsy in the wellness report. Since the pandemic started, we’ve seen rising interest in two areas: deeply saturated blues, like the night sky; and 2022’s it color, a rooted-in-nature pale green.

cozy real estate layout

2. avoid “vulnerable” Floor Plans

To truly create a comforting space, consider how you’ve arranged your furniture. You want to make sure that no matter where someone’s sitting, “no one feels vulnerable in this space,” Graham says. Move around the room: Is there a seat where your back is to the door, or you feel like you could be caught off-guard? Consider moving it.

cozy real estate ben moore lounge

3. give Yourself A Get-away-from-it-all Nook

Along the lines of rearranging your furniture with comfort in mind, consider creating at least one nook that “encourages one to curl up and read a book or have long, deep conversations,” says Alessandra Wood, Modsy’s vice president of style and design historian. That intimate setting goes a long way in giving a space a cozier feel.

She suggests positioning a large armchair and ottoman next to a window, or a pair of chairs angled toward each other by a fireplace, if you have one. “These little layout tricks will make the space look and feel welcoming for those who live there and those who are just visiting,” she explains.

cozy real estate japandi
Courtesy of Modsy

4. incorporate Japandi Design Principles

Just because your style leans minimalist or contemporary doesn’t mean it can’t be cozy. The entire Japandi movement focuses on incorporating elements of the outdoors while maintaining clean, sleek lines, so there’s no visual clutter, but things don’t feel sterile and dull. Think: Ditching the drapes for a more open, airy look; adding a few potted plants and light wood accents; choosing simple, low-profile furniture that isn’t too ornate.

These four ideas can make you feel more comfortable at home, and if you are putting your house on the market, they can be a great way to convey that sense of coziness—without putting the dreaded four-letter word on your listing. (Because despite its more positive connotations, experts still suggest avoiding it. Plus, isn’t it better to show, not tell?)

candace davison bio

VP of editorial, recipe developer, kitsch-lover

Candace Davison oversees PureWow's food and home content, as well as its franchises, like the PureWow100 review series and the Happy Kid Awards. She’s covered all things lifestyle...