Understanding The Psychology Of Interior Design

By Sparklle Rainne (They/Them)|Updated June 23, 2022

As told by the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the definition of interior design is “the art or practice of planning and supervising the design and execution of architectural interiors and their furnishings.” Many of us have heard about restaurants and stores that use interior design to elicit responses from consumers. For example, it is common for experts who design these spaces to use interior design techniques to boost sales.

Get Quality Mental Health Care Online With BetterHelp

Some people and companies also utilize interior design techniques in their homes or office spaces to support mental health and influence the behavior of themselves or their employees. All of that said, you might wonder, how much influence does interior design have when it comes to psychology? Does it truly have the potential to impact your mental health and behavior, and if so, are there interior design principles that you can use to support your well-being? Let’s talk about what the research says and the practices you might implement to better your mental health.

Interior Design For Mental Health Challenges

As much as it may seem as though one doesn’t relate to the other, we have a significant deal of research on the connection between interior design, the space you’re in as a whole, and mental health. Some interior design choices are more likely to make someone feel nervous or face challenges in their productivity, whereas others are more likely to make someone feel calm and productive. Furthermore, some are related to mood and depression levels. What interior design choices can have a positive impact, and what are the specific effects of each? Here are some interior design choices to consider, as well as the specific impacts they might have:

Colors And Color Scheme

The color scheme that one uses is often one of the first things a person may think of when they discuss interior design and the impact that it can have on mental health and behavior, and this is indeed something that researchers have investigated. There is something called color psychology, which refers to how specific colors or color schemes may impact our actions and minds. Here are some examples:

  • Blue is said to promote productivity and a sense of security.
  • Green is said to support decision-making and a sense of harmony.
  • Purple is said to support problem-solving skills and promote creativity.
  • Orange and yellow may promote optimism.
  • Like the color green, brown is said to support a sense of harmony. This combination, along with the effects of oranges and yellows, could be why some people opt for earth tones to support mental health.
  • Red promotes appetite and a sense of urgency, which may be why so many stores and restaurants use the color red.

Virtually any color or shade can influence, including black, white, and pink. With the potential impacts of these colors in mind, you might make purposeful choices about the colors in your home, office, or another area you wish to design. You may even make mindful choices for specific rooms based on the feelings and behavior you want to provoke when you’re in those spaces. For example, you may add purple to an arts and crafts room or space.

Get Quality Mental Health Care Online With BetterHelp

Greenery And Nature Items

Plants, flowers, and other nature items can aid in making the space you’re in one that supports your mental health. Studies show that interaction with indoor plants can reduce physical and mental markers of stress, and they are also known to promote concentration and positive mood. This makes sense with great research on the positive effects of spending time outside. For example, one study found that kids who grow up closer to green spaces have a lower risk of developing a range of mental disorders. In fact, their risk is lowered by 55%, even with other factors, like socioeconomic status and family history, controlled for.

Minimal Clutter And Cleanliness

Decluttering your home as much as possible is not only one of the fastest, most inexpensive changes you can make to support your mental health. Similar to light, it’s well-researched. Research shows that when homes feel cluttered or as though they are unfinished, it may lead to depressed mood and higher levels of cortisol, which is often known or referred to as a primary stress hormone. Cleaning in and of itself can also have mental and physical health benefits.

As for how this relates to interior design, clutter and cleanliness are topics you may want to consider when creating a space or hiring someone to do so. Some interior design choices can make it more manageable to maintain a space that appears and feels uncluttered and clean. It’s also known that some mental health concerns, such as depression and hoarding disorder, can lead to difficulty with cleanliness and clutter. This is nothing to be ashamed of, and it’s something that many people face. Mental health support in the form of therapy is one research-backed treatment for both of these concerns.

Natural Or Bright Light

We talked a little bit about the impacts of stimuli found in nature, like plants, and natural light can be a part of that. This might even be one of the most studied aspects of interior design and its effect on mental health, though perhaps unintentionally. One study, which looked at the impact of natural light on hospital patients found that exposure to natural light:

  • Decreased levels of depression within two weeks. It’s worth noting that morning light had a stronger positive impact than afternoon light.
  • It decreased pain levels and distress. This study even found a reduced need for painkillers with adequate natural light.

Daytime light is also known to improve sleep. What if you can’t access natural light from your home? With the increasing number of small apartment homes, some of which have few windows and little natural light, you aren’t alone. That said, lighting can still have an impact. Research reveals that exposure to natural light and artificial bright light, especially in the morning, can relieve depression, aid sleep at night, and reduce agitation. On the other side, studies on workers who lack exposure to light during the workday showed higher stress levels, higher depressive symptoms, and negative impacts on sleep. So, if you can access natural daylight in some capacity, consider doing so to support your mood and other pieces of your well-being. If not, try to increase your exposure to bright light at appropriate times of the day.

Ceiling Height

This one may not be quite so easy to change or control. However, studies suggest that ceiling height can impact how we think. More specifically, ceiling height may boost creativity by increasing attention to detail and free-form or abstract thinking. 

Limits Of Interior Design For Mental Health

Although interior design can impact mental health and behavior, there are most certainly limits. Although it may be advantageous, interior design is not considered a mental health treatment for mental health conditions, which is crucial to keep in mind. That said, the space around an individual is shown to impact their mental health and behavior potentially. If you find it helpful and supportive for your personal life and well-being, it is valid to use interior design in conjunction with mental health support and treatment. If you have a mental health condition, think that you might, or if something else is affecting your mental health, such as life stress or challenges in interpersonal relationships, it’s important to reach out to someone who can help, such as a mental health therapist or another provider. You can work with a therapist in person or find a provider who offers remote sessions, such as those who work with clients through online therapy platforms, or offer it as an option in their practice.

Online Therapy

Online therapy is a convenient way to get quality mental health care from the privacy of your home or anywhere else with a stable and reliable internet connection. Research indicates that online therapy is effective in helping people with various mental health concerns, and it’s a safe space to discuss what’s on your mind. The online therapy plans at BetterHelp are often more affordable than traditional, in-person therapy or counseling without insurance, and financial aid may be available for those who need it. BetterHelp has improved continuously throughout the years, and currently, there are well over 20,000 licensed, independent providers with various specialties who offer therapy on the platform. You can connect with a professional in the best way that suits you, and we have several different plans. When you sign up, you’ll take a quick questionnaire to help us match you with a therapist. Even better, it’s backed by research, and if you need to cancel services or change therapists at any point in time, we make it easy.

Are you ready to try online therapy? Click here to sign up for BetterHelp, or read our therapist reviews and FAQs to learn more about the platform. No matter how you find support, you deserve to get the help you need.

Helpful mental health resources delivered to your inbox
For Additional Help & Support With Your Concerns
Speak with a Licensed Therapist
The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.