By Yasmine Dehimi | Solvid
Notions of good fortune, happiness, mental and physical health, all come to mind when considering the abstraction of wellbeing. Upon thinking about the underlying fundamentals of the concept, it becomes clear that all components of wellbeing can either be enhanced or diminished by the internal space in which we choose to exist. Designers of the interior space effectively manipulate surrounding aesthetics to evoke positive or negative emotional response.
I invite you to step into an enclosed room with no natural lighting. To your left is a dark wall lined with cluttered shelves and framed by a low ceiling. On your right is an empty wall, aimlessly dividing the space behind it- an unused and empty storeroom. The clock on the cluttered shelf it ticking loudly and the lack of ventilation is producing a peculiar stench. Your desk is straight ahead, it is 9 o’clock in the morning, you have four reports to complete before lunch. Now, i invite you to leave the room. I can’t imagine the wellbeing of a stray cat being enriched in such a room.
The direct correlation between interior design and wellbeing cannot be denied. Over the past decade, this area of research has received impending attention, and it is clear as to why.
- MANIPULATION OF LIGHT
Natural light plays a vital role in elevating interior ambience. Consequently, it possesses the power to control our mood, functionality and health.
Natural light has been found to alleviate symptoms of depression. Upon spending 80% of our times indoors, it can be difficult to source an appropriate amount of natural light. Interior designers bare this in mind, make full use of natural light sources and contribute to the enhancement of our moods.
Ambience lighting can affect our energy levels. When considering the function of the room and its occupants, successful interior design can make good use of coloured lights to energise or relax us. Blue lighting has been recognised to increase energy levels, however, at nighttime, it interferes with sleep.
Not only should ample lighting complement other design aspects, if considered practically, it should serve the purpose of the people existing within the given space. The level of comfort at which a person operates should be enhanced by the ease of vision.
Sustainable lighting contributes directly to wellbeing. Unsustainable lighting compromises the ability of future generations to maximise their wellbeing.
Carefully variating light is critical to the maintenance of humans natural daily rhythm (circadian rhythm). We should be exposed to natural light during the day and sleep at night, in the dark. The only problem is, we spend 80%-90% of our time indoors.
Whilst interior designers cannot necessarily manipulate the sun, their role is to make the most out of what the sun has to offer. By filling a room with as much natural light, the sun and other variables may allow, the health benefits of maintaining a rhythmic cycle allow for better productivity during the day and better sleep at night.
- PSYCHOLOGY OF COLOURS
When deciding to change the colours of our walls, most of us will just slap on a pretty colour or perhaps pick our favourite without realising we may not have our best interests at heart. Interior designers on the other hand, are fully aware of the implications colour plays on wellbeing.
Depending on the nature of the space- colours can evoke different emotions. The bedroom for example, in most cases, will strive to invite feelings of warmth, comfort and naturalness, in which case the colour brown might deliver. Shades of yellow have been found to spark creativity and energised ambiences.
Colours of wellbeing are mostly associated with pallets of blues, yellows and greens. If the quest for optimum wellbeing lays within productivity in the office space, an interior designer will put the power of colours to use by stimulating energy, productivity and happiness.
- PHYSICAL ENHANCEMENT OF WELLBEING
The state of physical wellbeing exists not only in the absence of disease and unwellness. Rather, it is a collective notion of lifestyle behaviour choices. Many of these choices are to be made in our internal spaces and can be made uncomplicated when the space in which we reside provides access to sources of food, movement and visual stimulants.
People can be subconsciously persuaded to make certain decisions by their environment. If physical wellbeing is feeling good and functioning well, interior design has the capacity to promote physical wellness.
Being physically active has been shown to reduce symptoms of physical (and mental) ill-health. Reduced physical wellbeing has been associated with overcrowded rooms. With this in mind, design strategies should consider the ‘space’ in which we operate to include appropriate indoor physical movement.
Key design strategies:
- Introduce shared spaces for interaction and movement
- Separate keyspaces with stairs
- Encourage movement and exercise in offices
- SOCIAL ENHANCEMENT OF WELLBEING
Social relations are key to wellbeing. If elements of seclusion and isolation are significantly associated with depression and ill-health, interior design strategy has the capacity to be directed at filling the void between ‘people’ and the space’.
The quality and quantity of social connections can be tailored to the purpose of the space in which they take place. Design strategy can implement space to talk, listen and build upon social relations which ultimately underpins wellbeing.
- PSYCHOLOGICAL WELLBEING
If we accept the meaning of wellbeing to be a conjuncture of physical and mental health, we must appreciate the significance of the built environment on the psychological factors that shape our moods, feelings, energy levels, productivity and mental stability.
How can interior design affect my health and wellbeing? Well, let’s begin with the consideration of mental health; often accompanied by the wellness of the mind, spirit and body. Environmental implications are grounded in each, and provide answers to questions such as: what makes us feel happy? What lifts our spirits? What energizes us?
Creativity is an invented social construct used to describe the psychological element which allows us to ‘think outside of the box’. The elixir to this element is often found within our internal spaces. Low ceilings provide the optimum internal environment for reading, studying and relaxation. Psychological stimulants of creativity can be found in rooms with high ceilings generating more space to feel free and explore more abstract conceptions- outside of the box.
- ECOLOGICAL ELEMENTS AND BIO-DESIGN
Bringing the outdoors in. If what we are lacking most in order to enhance our wellbeing is the ability to spend more that 10%-20% of our time outdoors, what’s the solution? To incorporate natural elements like wood, stone, water, plants and organic textiles to the interior of our living spaces.
The integration of interior design with the Earth's natural elements is a growing research field, characterised by the collaboration of biologists and designers who are recognising the benefits merging their fields.
What are the benefits?
- Creating a sense of calmness associated with nature
- Promotes happy and optimistic outlooks on life
- Being around nature reduces stress, heals and soothes
- Can create a feeling of revitalisation and restoration
If the stress of an unpleasant environment contributes to feelings of anxiety, fatigue and depression, one sure way to alleviate this is by introducing natural elements to the indoor space.
You may remember our visit to the enclosed room with no natural lighting or ventilation, a wall of cluttered shelves, a desk and a pile of work to do. If you wouldn’t mind, i’d like to ask you to come inside once more. This time, to your right is a large window with a clear view of a busy street lined with trees. On your left, you find a floor-to-ceiling Ficus Tree waiting to be fed by the watering can beneath it. Ahead of you, as before, is your desk. A room size appropriate oak wood desk. You cannot hear the clock on the shelf tick, instead the soft trickles of the water feature. You get to work.
The unique ability of interior design techniques to manipulate what occurs in the ‘space’ between the people and the place makes it one of the most central professions in the interest of wellbeing.
The four components to mental and physical wellbeing; physicality, psychology, sociology and ecology, each with their interchangeable conditions have been shown to be enriched or diminished by our environment.
If the second half of the 21st Century is anything like the first, we can expect a continued surge of interest in promoting wellbeing. What we can also anticipate, is that interior design will be at the forefront of the discussion, leading the mission.