Over the last few years the topic of wellbeing within architecture and interior design has gained momentum, fuelled by the research of neuroscientists, psychologists and urban planners. You may have noticed books on the science of sleep, writings on wellness at work and social media feeds filled with images of green garden cities.
In line with this, the days when interior design was about advising the new season’s wallpaper so that clients are ‘on trend’ are fast fading. Clients want spaces that last longer than a single season, finishes that will stand the test of time and pieces with provenance. Our spaces are an extension of ourselves and our businesses and as such a reflection of our brand values.
Today, interior designers are trained to have regard for all aspects of interior environments, from making the best use of space, light and colour to achieve balance and harmony, to considering the appropriate use of materials and architectural finishes before specifying the interior decoration. Many forward thinking interior designers are taking a people-centred approach rather than letting products drive their designs, beginning with asking clients the question: how would you like this space to make its inhabitants feel? Relaxed, inspired, uplifted, safe, creative?
There are many interior elements of a space that can positively affect our mood. Keeping abreast of current research and having an understanding of the age-old principles such as feng shui can prove useful tools in guiding the interior design process to create spaces that make us feel relaxed, want to linger longer and work more productively.
The Psychology of Colour
It’s widespread knowledge that colour can affect mood and behaviour. Bright hues such as orange and red promote socialising, however too much red and energy levels can be raised such that we feel anxious. Green on the other hand can make us feel calm and relaxed while at the same time it can help promote productivity. Blue is associated with clear thinking. Dark, rich colours can have a cocooning effect and make us feel grounded and secure, while flesh tones are said to aid restfulness and promote sleep. Assessing the function of a space, the natural light entering a room and the desired outcome of a space will help direct choice of colour palettes and the balance of colours in a space.
Getting the Lighting Right
Natural light should always be the starting point in any lighting design scheme for space. Structurally there are windows to consider, beyond that a lighting design scheme should be people centric – what are a room’s inhabitants trying to achieve, what are they doing and does the lighting support or hinder that? Feelings of warmth are increased when we are exposed to bright light with reddish hues (warm light) and we feel anxious when a blue light prevails. Both light intensity and colour have the ability to affect the way we feel. A lighting scheme that mimics circadian rhythms is thought to stabilise our hormones and in turn, make us feel well.
Space Planning & Placement
When planning the layout of a space, there are many things to consider, from window and door placement to circulation space and the arrangement of furniture. Refuge and Prospect Theory draws on the notion that because our field of vision is to the front (prospect) we need protection from behind (refuge). This goes some way to explaining: why nobody likes sitting with their back to the door, for fear of what might be approaching; why we have a more restful nights sleep when our bed is positioned diagonally across from the door; and why we work more productively in work spaces where we can see who is coming.
With regards placement, balance is more important than symmetry. Take a tip from nature – things are rarely symmetrical, rather you find fractals and fibonacci sequences, odds rather than evens in nature. With this in mind, the appropriate placement and balance of objects in our spaces can help us feel at ease.
Part psychology, part industry knowledge, part creativity. Interior design is about taking the time to understand clients’ requirements and interpreting those through the tools in our interior design toolbox to create interior spaces that lift us up and improve our wellbeing. In my mind, anyway.