Interior design is the practice of planning, supervising, and executing the design of architectural interiors and their furnishings.
You may have heard about restaurants and stores that use interior design to elicit specific responses. For example, some businesses may use interior design psychology to boost sales. In addition, some companies use it to support mental health or increase productivity. However, you may be wondering whether interior design can impact mental health or has any evidence-based psychological background. While it is not a replacement for appropriate mental health treatment, research has shown that certain interior design elements can reduce anxiety and stress and induce feelings of tranquility.
Understanding how psychology, color, and interior design combine can help you know how to decorate your home to improve your mood and understand why businesses might make particular design choices. Ultimately, learning about design psychology and the psychology of space can help you create your own peaceful space that’s conducive to better mental health.
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The color scheme in an interior space can impact mental health and behavior. It's linked to a field of research known as color psychology, which examines how specific colors may impact thought processes and emotions. Below are some common associations with different colors:
- Blue: Calm, productivity, reduced anxiety, reduced depression
- Red: Energy, higher heart rate, increased appetite, increased aggression
- Green: Creativity, broad thinking, calm, harmony, reduced anxiety
- Yellow: Happiness, innovation, optimism, increased appetite, creativity
- Brown: Grounding, strength, professionalism, harmony
- Pink: Calm, energy, happy, increased appetite
- White: Clean, modern, cold, reduced productivity, increased risk of errors
Color associations may help you understand the built environment around you, and can also give you a deeper understanding on how color psychology is used to improve the spaces that you interact with. For example, green and brown are said to promote feelings of harmony, and yellow can create a sense of happiness – this could be why people tend to use earthy tones in their homes. Additionally, yellow and red are said to promote appetite, which may be why interior designers often suggest a restaurant use this combination within their dining spaces.
You might want to use these associations to make purposeful choices about the colors in your home or surroundings, with specific colors for different spaces. For example, you may add green to an arts and crafts room to enhance creativity. Color can change your perception of space, so use a lighter, cooler color to make a small room feel less cramped.
Greenery and Indoor Plants
Studies show that people’s interactions with indoor plants can reduce physical and mental markers of stress. In environmental psychology, house plants have been shown to promote concentration and positive moods. This information correlates with research demonstrating the positive effects of outdoor activities and the mental health impacts of lives spent indoors.
For example, one study found that kids who grow up closer to nature and plants have a 55% lower risk of developing a mental health condition. For this reason, you may notice that therapists use the color green or incorporate nature into their office spaces. Plants also need natural light to thrive, incorporating another design element that can positively impact your mental health.
Minimal Clutter and Cleanliness
Decluttering your home could be a fast and inexpensive change you can make to support your mental health. Research on environmental psychology shows homes that feel cluttered or unfinished may lead to depressed mood and higher levels of cortisol, which is often known or referred to as a primary stress hormone. In addition, psychology research shows that cleaning may also have mental and physical health benefits.
Various interior design choices and styles, such as minimalism, can make it more manageable to maintain a clean, uncluttered space. However, some individuals experience challenges cleaning or decluttering due to mental health concerns. In these cases, therapy can be beneficial. Research has demonstrated that therapy can reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety, and hoarding concerns.
Natural or Bright Light
Natural lighting and exposure to bright light may promote mental health. For example, one study examining the impact of natural light on hospital patients found that exposure to natural light decreased depression, pain, and distress within two weeks. It also showed a reduced need for painkillers with adequate natural light exposure.
Daytime light may also help improve sleep quality, while a lack of exposure to natural or bright light sources can be detrimental. For example, studies on workers who are only exposed to dim light during the workday showed higher stress levels, higher depressive symptoms, and negative impacts on sleep. Bright light– either direct or indirect– is also necessary for most indoor plants or greenery.
While it may be more challenging to change or control than other elements of architecture and principles of design, ceiling height can impact how we think. Increasing ceiling height may boost creativity, attention to detail, and free-form or abstract thinking.
Limits of Interior Design for Mental Health
Interior design can impact mental health and behavior, but it isn't a treatment for mental health conditions. Having a well-designed space won’t necessarily fulfill your social and psychological needs alone, and it doesn’t detract from the importance of counseling, social interaction, self-care, and other key factors that can support your mental health.
However, using interior design in conjunction with mental health support and treatment can be beneficial if you find it helpful. You don’t have to be a professional interior designer or environmental psychologist to start engaging with your space, creating feelings of balance or calm, or playing with your own design process. You can even start just by noticing how different styles of architecture in public spaces make you feel.
Therapists, counselors, and other mental health providers can help you address symptoms of anxiety, depression, or other mental health conditions. You can work with a therapist in person or find a provider who offers online sessions, which may be more convenient and affordable, depending on your needs. In addition, online therapy often allows many clients to get a more diverse range of professionals.
Research indicates that online therapy is as effective as in-person therapy and can be a safe place to discuss mental health conditions. If you're interested in receiving support from a licensed therapist online, platforms like BetterHelp can allow you to match with a therapist within 48 hours after signing up.
When you sign up for an online therapy platform, you can choose between phone, video, or live chat sessions with your therapist. You can also message your therapist whenever you need to, and they'll respond as soon as possible.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Below are some frequently asked questions about psychology and interior design.
How Is Psychology Used In Interior Design?
Psychology often plays a role in interior design. Interior designers may choose specific spaces based on what emotions the space is meant to produce or elicit in people. For example, suppose an interior designer is designing a workspace or office. In that case, they might use bright blue colors to promote productivity in workers. If someone is opening a hair salon, they might choose colors like pink or purple if they want a fun vibe, whereas they might choose white and beige for a "modern" and "sophisticated' vibe.
How Does Interior Design Affect Behavior?
Interior design can lessen or increase stress levels, affect mood and nervousness levels, and impact productivity. It can also influence perceived pain levels or a person's ability to cope with pain, influencing behavior.
What Personality Type Do Interior Designers Have?
Personality types and traits may vary across people in various professions, but interior designers might have similar traits. For example, many interior designers tend to be creative individuals. Some individuals use personality tests like the MBTI (often used in career counseling) to understand the personality traits common in specific careers. If you're an interior designer, this test can help you learn why you might be drawn to your career.
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