Happiness, Wellness and Interior Design

The link between interior design and emotions may have sparked interest in the last decade, but this type of environmental psychology has being around for thousands of years now as evidenced in the Vastu Shatra—a traditional Hindu system of architecture and the Chinese Feng Shui. Developments in neuroscience have occasioned a lot of research in this area and have led to remarkable findings.

The results have cleared the way for designers who seek to evoke happiness, creativity and peace by deliberately manipulating decorative elements. Different objects and features in our living spaces can significantly impact our mood.Different colors can invoke different emotions. Most people are conscious of this fact, and it’s no wonder that we even use it in our vocabulary. For example, we say we feel blue when we’re sad and green when envious. Color psychology associates different colors with different emotions.

While green, yellow and orange provoke communication and socializing, darker shades such as dark blue and purple reflect sadness. When used appropriately, however, they can also bring a sense of comfort. Red tends to appeal to both sides depending on how much of it we use. Small amounts of red can raise energy while using it as a dominating color may appear threatening and can increase anxiety.

Lighting also contributes to the overall ambiance of a room. The sun is the best lighting source. How much of it you let in will depend on the number and size of the windows. Enough sunlight or lack of it can increase one’s happiness or evoke sadness and enhance anxiety. According to a study conducted in 2002, the presence of daylight helps to increase sales volume proving that natural light has a positive effect on human performance as well.

A survey published by the Association for Psychological Science proves that particular rooms can evoke real emotions. The 200 people whore participated in the study were asked to pick two ambiance descriptions for a list of hypothetical rooms from a typical home. Their answers corresponded with what we have believed all along. For example, most agreed that the entryway should appear inviting while the master bedroom should have an air of romance.

The size of a room and sense of space can affect somebody’s mood. According to a study published in InformeDesign, the ceiling’s height influences our perception of freedom and confinement. Additionally, the study proved that people in rooms with higher ceilings tend to be more creative and focused and tend to be in a better mood.

Numerous studies have proved that the presence of plants in our living spaces can help improve one’s mood, memory retention and concentration. The sight and presence of such natural elements help in reducing stress. Work done under the influence of plants tends to be of a higher quality and is performed with better precision than that done in the absence of nature.

The shapes and textures of the furniture in a room can trigger particular emotional responses. As the ancient Chinese practice—Feng Shui taught us: Shapes and textures should represent nature’s elements (wood, fire, metal, earth and fire). A shaggy rug’s rich texture will evoke a sense of comfort and happiness. Wooden items are associated with health and personal growth while having a wall clock, vase or other decorative elements will enhance strength and independence.

How we organize furniture in a room matters, too. For example, arranging furniture against the wall is discouraged since it creates “dead space,” which promotes negative energy. We should organize the elements in a room seamlessly. That will allow energy to flow equally seamlessly. We should always favor balance over symmetry.

It shouldn’t surprise us at all that interior designers are borrowing heavily from psychology to come up with better ways of using space to provoke emotions. One example of techniques employed is persuasive design (introducing persuasive elements to physical objects), e.g., sitting around a table rather than in front of a TV to boost communication.

Other examples include stimulation of natural elements (introducing elements of nature into the room to promote health and relaxation) and spatial perception (creating more space to develop a sense of freedom). In any case, it was the designers who initiated this debate. The scientists only proved them right.

The universally accepted idea that home is a happy place is indeed correct. However, we should not take the love of wellness phrase literally. It doesn’t mean that homes promote happiness per se. But they can be fashioned and designed in a manner that enhances good mood and improves health. Both interior designers and psychologists seem to agree on this point.