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You probably put a lot of thought into your furniture choices, and you likely try to make good decisions regarding your mental health… but, do you ever consider the two together when making your decisions?

The Link Between Mental Health & Interior Design

Making the connection between your mental well being and your interior design choices may seem tedious (at best), but the deeper you get, the more it actually does make sense. Consider a sterile building like a hospital, or the airy emptiness of a new state-of-the-art condo with huge windows. Now picture, on the other hand, a cluttered studio apartment with one tiny window, mismatched chairs, and scraps of paper strewn about.When you’re enveloped by certain color schemes, interior décor, and lighting environments, your mental and emotional states are affected – in both positive and negative ways.

Emotional associations aside, there have been psychological studies done to prove that different colors affect our mood in different ways; as well as the mental toll of too much clutter in one’s home.

With the psychology of aesthetics in mind, what are some of the best (and worst) choices for interior design? If we look at storied principles – such as fengshui – as well as our deeper human instincts, there are actually some clear-cut answers.


The Impact of Color and Light

Unless you have a particularly unique sense of style, you’ve likely stayed away from painting your living room walls cherry red,or your bedroom walls black. It may feel like common sense, but have you ever wondered why you don’t see these colors often used in interior design?

Other than the fact that certain strong colors can overwhelm a room, they can also have a detrimental effect on your mood. The same goes for the layout of a home – particularly when it comes to the amount of light flowing in, the angles of a room (low ceilings lead to a subconscious feeling of being trapped), and the interior layout of furniture, windows, and doors.

San Francisco-based architect Barbara Stewart makes a firm connection between human beings and our ancestors, the chimpanzees. She explains that “interiors should be designed with humans in mind, who understand space at an intrinsic level as a savannah. The ground should be darkest, like a path, whereas the mid-range, eye-level colors should be neutral, and the ceiling should be light, like the sky.” Wood panel floors and shades of green nicely fit the biophilic nature feel.There’s even a preferable type of art to use – landscape images with sun and sky (reminiscent of“good weather for hunting and gathering and no predators”), rather than massive landscapes that provide “uncomfortable viewpoints.” As strange as it sounds, appealing to the basic and primal nature of the human mind goes a long way towards making you feel comfortable in your home space.

These findings offer plenty of takeaways for interior designers and architects working on office buildings. Given that many of us spend more time in the workplace than at home, it only makes sense to structure the office’s interior design in a way that promotes good feelings and a positive agenda (and far fewer gray cement walls in the break room).

Numerous studies have examined the effect of color on the brain, and find that warm colors such as red and yelloware “activating,” while cool colors like blue and green are “calming”. Keep in mind the idea of color activation when putting together interior color schemes for an office – not only should the colors align with the company, but they should also inspire different emotions, and forms of energy. Decorate meeting or brainstorming rooms with more energizing colors, and human resource offices with calming colors.

One study found that workers with access to natural light outperformed those without the same lighting – in fact, workers under artificial light showed symptoms of poor sleep, and lackluster energy. Light sourceshave a direct impact on the mental health of employees, causing them to produce lower quality work and feel generally unhappier in the workplace.

The Form and Space Effect

For architects and interior designers striving to create comfortably pleasant spaces, there’s more to consider than just color and light: the form of the internal space is actually important to mental health, as well.

Angledwalls and ceilings, or visually unsupported forms, often increase feelings of anxiety. The center focus of a room should be the door, as people can become tense – even subconsciously so – if they don’t know where the exit is. Keep the entrance, and area surrounding the door, free from distracting or busy patterns.

Equally important is the ability to perceive open space in the surrounding environment. People don’t like feeling cramped or shut in – whether by furniture or the layout of their home – and this can lead to an inability to concentrate, and a negative mental state. This is especially a problem when it comes to basement apartments; although inhabitants may be generally comfortable, living in a darkened underground space with low ceilings can have an adverse effect on emotional well-being.

You can employ a few mind tricks through interior design choices, to mentally regain control over your perceived environment. In order to make a small living space seem larger, interior decorators can employ mirrors, wall hangings, and slim furniture to create what’s known as “perception of space.”This can relieve some stress individuals may feel living in a smaller space, without requiring major renovations.


The Background of Your Life

It’s easy to dismiss interior design as something that doesn’t do much besides “looking pretty.” The furniture, artwork, layout, and lighting choices that sit in the “background” can actually have a psychological impact on you. If you’re living in a low, cramped space with strange angles; or if your office has the same uninspiring gray walls throughout, it could be a literal background setting for poor mental health. Do some research and experiment with color, natural light, and biophilic décor to see if you feel more energized, or more at peace. Perhaps fengshui had it right all along.

Hannah Tucker is the mastermind behind product management at TheBackStore.com. Hannah has a (healthy) shoe obsession and resides in the beautiful and sunny San Diego. She has a fascination for ergonomics and its effect on workplace culture and productivity.