When you think of interior design, what comes to mind? Many of us picture paint chips and fabric swatches, but there is so much more to design than achieving a certain aesthetic for your home. In fact, design psychology is growing in popularity as a field of study. In the 1990s, Dr. Susan Lee Painter developed a ground-breaking course for UCLA entitled “Human Factors in Design,” where she helped students create spaces that are psychologically fulfilling for clients. The students used observation and interview methods based on psychological research to truly understand the purpose of each room. Dr. Painter explains that design psychology is especially important when creating spaces for people who may be under a lot of stress, such as schools or retirement homes. By focusing on people’s needs, designers can look beyond trends and create a space that is both aesthetically and emotionally pleasing.
Design Psychology may be a relatively new field, but the concept of external environments influencing our internal well-being is not. Feng shui, the Chinese system of designing and orienting spaces to complement the flow of energy, has been around for approximately 3000 years. Practitioners of feng shui use an energy map, known as a bagua, to choose the best colours, fabrics and spatial arrangements for a room. Even if you are not trained in the art of feng shui, you can still borrow certain ideas to create a calmer, more inviting home. For example, arrange your furniture so that the doorway is clearly visible, and focus on de-cluttering each room.
Colour is one of the main design elements influencing our mood. In the 19th century, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe published Theory of Colours, where he examined the symbolism of different colours. Although his work is not scientifically supported, modern designers and researchers agree that colour carries meaning. For example, red conveys passion and power, while blue is perceived as calm and clean. The symbolism of different colours can be applied to design in several ways; when designing an entranceway, you may choose green accents to ease the transition from the outdoors.
Design also influences how others perceive us. When you visit someone’s home, do you sometimes leave feeling as if you know them better? Whether consciously or unconsciously, we see a person’s design choices as an extension of their interests, tastes and priorities. From the art we hang on our walls to the colour of our couch, décor tells a story. On a similar note, design can influence how we perceive physical space. Designers often employ tricks to make a small room appear more spacious. For example, they may choose a couch that blends in with the paint colour or add a large mirror to one of the walls.
Interior design makes a statement. From the way we feel to how others perceive us, our décor choices are a powerful psychological tool. And with new research coming to light on both design and psychology, these fields will certainly become even more intertwined. Do different rooms in your home affect how you feel? Tell us about it in the comments.