The Psychology of Space: How Design Affects Mood and Behavior

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The Psychology of Space: How Design Affects Mood and Behavior

How aware are you of your surroundings when you’re home? Whether or not you’re consciously thinking about it, the design of your space likely impacts how you feel. That’s one reason why we’re so passionate about what we do here at Avec: we know the positive effect good design can have. When done well, design can influence our emotions, productivity, and well-being for the better. 

In today’s post, we’d like to explore the fascinating interplay between interior design and human psychology, emphasizing the importance of intentional design in the spaces where people live and work. There are so many factors at play when it comes to the psychology of design, but we’ve narrowed it down to the most important elements and principles to consider.

Color: The basic idea behind color psychology is that different colors can evoke specific emotions or behaviors in people. In design, these colors often come into play through paint choices, but other furnishings or accessories like artwork can also contribute to the colors in a room. There are general theories about each shade: orange can evoke feelings of playfulness and cheer, blue brings about serenity and reflection, and brown is associated with wisdom and solemnity. Using the ideas of color psychology, you can tailor each room to how you’d like to feel in it. Paint your office white, for example, and you’re more likely to feel orderly and productive. Or, paint it green for an affirming and nurturing environment to accomplish your work in. Cultural context also matters in color psychology, and makes the study all the more fascinating.

Lighting and Mood: Light has an extraordinary impact on how we’re feeling. Natural light tends to boost productivity and positivity, while too much artificial light can make us feel tired or depressed. At the same time, artificial light is still far better for human health than no light; individuals with seasonal affective disorders, for example, use lamps that mimic the sun for a positive therapeutic effect. Mood lighting in a home–especially at night–can help promote relaxation and sleepiness. When the lighting in your space is designed with intention, you’ll find you will sleep better, have more energy, and increase feelings of optimism. 

Furniture and Ergonomics: If you didn’t already know, ergonomics is the study of how people interact with their working environment. When design elements such as furniture are comfortable, your psychological well-being improves–although an overly comfortable chair in the office might send you into nap zone. As with most things, there’s a fine line, but it’s important to be generally comfortable in the space where you work to avoid physical or mental strain. 

Space and Layout: The overall layout, flow, and organization of your space can also have a great impact on your mental state and well-being. Too much clutter will cause stress and inner chaos, which can increase over time. A space oriented with Feng Shui principles, on the other hand, is intended to promote peace. Closed spaces can contribute a feeling of safety or constriction, whereas open floor plans may encourage creativity or social interaction. The broader context is really important here: in a work setting, open spaces are meant to encourage collaboration and community, but studies have shown they can actually raise blood pressure and increase conflict. But mileage may vary–meaning each individual’s preferences and personality traits will impact their experience in a messy, or organized, or open floor space.

Nature and Biophilic Design: In biophilic design, natural elements are integrated to contribute feelings of connectivity to the environment. By incorporating plants, water features, and other natural materials (think stone countertops or wooden furnishings), you can reap a variety of psychological benefits like lowered stress and better concentration. This is an especially important design concept for those living in urban settings where positive benefits from the natural world are harder to come by. 

Acoustics and Sound: While sound may not be something you often associate with interior design, it is certainly impacted by your space. The best designers will think about how to soundproof certain rooms if its inhabitants are sensitive or if the location warrants it. Ambient sounds and the quality of sound in your space can impact human health, which is why acoustic design should ideally come into play within internal spaces like the home or office–and not just auditoriums.

All in all, the psychological factors in design can be hugely impactful on your health, especially when it comes to the places you spend the most time. If you haven’t already, we encourage you to reflect on these elements in your own space: What’s already working to promote productivity or peace? Which design elements–or lack thereof–may be bringing you down? Maybe jot down a list of what’s working and what’s not. (In spaces you share with your family, roommates, or coworkers, you can ask them to do the same, and then compare notes.) Once you evaluate the design choices in your spaces and their unique effect on the individual level, you can begin to adjust your design accordingly. You deserve a space that lifts you up, revitalizes, and inspires–so you can be your best self.

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