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Interior design, wellness and mental health: connecting the dots between our brain and our home

The psychology of spacial design and wellness is no small business – in fact it has been studied for millenia. Transform your exterior and interior world today.

Minimalist fireplace with plants
July 26, 2022
Sergey Makhno Architects

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Where we live is where we want to feel our safest. It is a space to let ourselves be comfortable, develop our interests and wind down after a hectic day. If you’re a designer, it’s one of your missions: creating an atmosphere where inhabitants can thrive. However, many of us don’t feel like our spaces serve us or our clients’ mental wellbeing… Why? How can we enhance wellness in a home? 

The studies behind it all

In recent years, there’s been a growing preoccupation with mental health and how to handle it better as individuals and members of society. When it comes to interior design in particular, this preoccupation has been with us for centuries. Talk about an advanced subject!

For example, Feng shui, sometimes referred to as Chinese geomancy, is the study and practice of creating harmony in a home. In the simplest of terms, and this is glossing over 3000 years of history, practitioners of feng shui believe that energy must flow freely within a home to create balance with the natural world. To achieve this, there are certain rules they propose following, such as leaving a diagonal line from the door to the furthest corner without any furniture, or using the colour purple to attract wealth. It is believed that breaking such rules can unbalance the inhabitants of the home, even affecting their mental health.

Vastu Shastra (vāstu śāstra) is another ancestral science that focuses on architecture and design of temples, homes and buildings. Traditionally, Indian culture sustained that houses were living organisms, and that the construction of them was a sacred process. Because our world is said to be run by Earth (Bhumi), Water (Jala), Air (Vayu), Fire (Agni), and Space (Akasha), those elements need to be balanced and in harmony in the home too. 

Science in the west is also picking up steam. Dr Roger Ulrich, an expert in stress-reducing interior design in healthcare contexts, identified three main elements that can soothe inhabitants of a home: a sense of control; access to social support; and access to positive distractions, and lack of exposure to negative ones. 

As you may be able to tell, there are spiritual and scientific practices that deal with the effects of interior design on our mental health. Despite their differences, they all have startling similarities… And we have them all listed down. Are you ready to transform your mind and home?

01. Get into biophilic design

Pre-existing rocks extend into the interior of Casa Atibaia by Charlotte Taylor and Nicholas Préaud

Nature is not an outdoor element any longer. Coined by Pinterest as one of the big trends of 2022, many interior designers have begun to create plant-first spaces where the outdoors seamlessly blends into the home.⁠

Aesthetic reasons aside – and there are too many of those to count – including plants in your interior design can have profound energising and healing effects on the inhabitants of a home. ⁠

As humans, we strive to connect with living beings and form emotional connections to our surroundings. It may seem obvious to some, but many interior designers combine natural, local elements into their designs to capture this feeling. A thoughtful use of stone, wood and colour can immediately transport you into another world, and exactly the same can be said about nature itself.⁠

If you can’t connect patios or backyards into your design, you can get creative with the use of plants inside the home. For example, you can make a potted tree the centre of a room, giving the illusion of centrality and nature in your living space. You can also use moss walls or sculptural terrariums to introduce nature into the very architecture of your design.

02. Choose your colour palette thoughtfully

Beach Hotel in Odessa by Sivak and Partners

A harsh use of colour can render some sensitive people overwhelmed. Instead, adopt colours that bring you peace and let your eyes rest – and it can even affect the efficacy of your studies, according to this study. Whites, light beiges, light warm greys are great options, and if you’re open to some colour, soft sage greens and powdered blues can add some calmness to your design. We have a great paint selection where you can get started.

03. Create a calm atmosphere through lighting

Bedroom by Sergey Makhno Architects

Of course, one of the most important aspects of lighting is the natural kind – sunlight. South-facing homes receive the most sunlight, so make sure to check out your home’s orientation before purchasing or renting. If this element is outside of your control, there are many other ways you can create a cosy lighting environment.

First of all, remember that direct, vertical light can be a sure spell for headaches and tired eyes. Instead, use indirect sources of light, such as chandeliers with dispersed bulbs, wall sconces and floor lamps. You can find wonderful options from Empty State and Allied Maker.

If you’re looking for a subtle change and not a direct revamp of the lighting design, you can create a truly comforting place by changing the light bulbs. Anything below 2700k will emit a warm light, adding a cosy feel to your design. If you want to go the extra mile, 2400k bulbs are normally reserved for hospitality, but they may be an appropriate choice for you and your desired ambiance.

04. Design the space with storage in mind

OD House by Jorge Bibiloni Studio

A designer’s best friend and foe – pragmatism. Although storage can seem unnecessary and bulky in some cases, it is truly needed if you want to create an uncluttered space. To clean our mind we need to clean our space, and it is in the hands of the designer to make this a painless, enjoyable experience. To make sure the “bulk” factor is minimised, create your design with storage in mind from the get-go, so you can never go over the top with your furniture choices.

05. Finally, use each room for one purpose at a time

Acro Suites, Palma

Have you ever felt like your bedroom is your studio, living room, library and nursery? You’re not alone, and it might be affecting you more than you think. As much as possible, it is recommended that every single space is used for one function at a time. If this is not a possibility due to space or budget constraints, it might be a good idea to introduce dividers to create an illusion of space and privacy.

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