By Audrey Tan
Have you ever walked into a room or space and immediately felt an overwhelming sense of calmness? Or went into a messy space only to feel lost and confused? Some people may consider the work of interior designers to be superficial, that it’s all just about organising or arranging things, placing items in specific places to make a space look beautiful. But there’s more to interior design than what meets the eye.
The intricacies of interior decoration can profoundly impact our mental health in ways that we sometimes do not entirely comprehend.
Interior design elements that can affect our mental wellbeing
Because we spend so much time inside, it’s crucial to think about how interior design affects our mental and emotional wellbeing. Some interior design incorporates psychology into the design process to enhance the space’s emotional impact. A variety of design methods and approaches can alleviate stress and depression.
One of the most well-known design elements that can instantly alter our mood is colour. We often refer to reds, yellows, and oranges as “warm”, and greens, purples, and blues as “cool”, depending on how they make us feel.
Additionally, each colour’s saturation and brightness are significant components of their emotional powers. Saturation refers to purity; less saturated colours have more grey or black hues. Meanwhile, brightness refers to the amount of white or how light it seems. Bright colours also tend to be less saturated.
Light, paler tones can have a calming or soothing effect, such as blush pink, which is both bright and less saturated. True red, on the other hand, is thought to trigger anxiety. Emerald green, which is not as bright but is highly saturated, can have a powerful or energising effect.
The function of a space is another aspect to consider. It affects how easy or comfortable it is to do certain things, from simply moving around to having a proper space to sleep or work. For instance, if you always need to squeeze through furniture or tiptoe through hazardous steps just to get to your workspace or to get to bed, it can affect your mental wellbeing in the long run.
Most of us prefer spacious rooms rather than closed quarters. However, not all of us understand that cultivating a sense or feeling of spaciousness is enough to elevate moods and that it’s a fundamental component of happy environments. Healthier mindsets are enabled in “open” and free of clutter houses.
This sense of openness comes from a combination of good design, decluttering, and intelligent organisation. On top of clever colour utilisation, these aspects all play an essential role in creating the illusion of space and lightness.
Depression and anxiety can be exacerbated by a lack of sunlight. A room bathed in natural light is not only a sight to behold, but it has been scientifically proven to minimise feelings of sadness and depression. Sunlight positively affects our mood, and it doesn’t matter whether we obtain it from the outside or through a window. In general, the more sunlight there is in a room, the happier we feel. It also has an energising and motivating effect when it comes to working.
Thus, when designing spaces, it is crucial to introduce plenty of natural light. This can be done by installing large windows, skylights, or arranging your workstation to catch as much sun as possible to foster good mental health.
Another impactful design principle is balance, which essentially means that everything in the space feels like it belongs. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you should go out and get a bunch of matching sets or pieces. As long as the spaces and furniture are cohesive and work in harmony, it gives us a sense of belonging, making us feel good and comfortable.
Our brains try to pare everything down to its most basic, recognisable pattern when processing visual information. So, when we enter a room where the design elements are all cohesive, our brains can sort out the repeated details and similarities far more quickly than they would if they weren’t. This subconsciously calms us when we’re in the space.
It’s possible that the shape of furniture in a space can impact our emotional wellbeing too. Used excessively, sharp points and jagged edges can elicit feelings of anxiety. A table with rounded edges, for instance, allows our nervous system to relax as opposed to one with jagged or sharp edges, which elicits a nervous response.
There have long been theories linking good interior design to better mental health, even before the arrival of the pandemic. And current research shows that these are more than just mere conjectures. It is possible to design spaces that consciously manipulate decorative components to promote creativity, calmness, and happiness.