top of page

What's design got to do with it?

Updated: Jun 14

I'm about to get a little deep on you here...

There's a phenomenon, proven by science, that states that the simple act of smiling, when you aren't feeling very happy, can lift your mood, lower stress, improve physical health, and more.

It seems counterintuitive. Usually, when we smile, it's because we are already happy; so how does smiling first cause happiness? In a nutshell, the smile itself signals the brain to release "happy hormones" such as dopamine and serotonin.

Now... what does interior design have to do with this?

Well, I have a theory... There's an old saying: "the interior of your home is a reflection of your mind." I find this quote to generally be true. But, I believe that it is possible to change the state of your mind, by changing your surroundings first.

The environments in which we reside, exist, and pass through-- have an immense impact on how we feel, both subconsciously and consciously. This can outwardly effect our mood and how we respond to people or events, as well as inwardly-- influencing our own sense of peace or the ability to focus. Most astonishing of all, is the effect it has on our physical wellbeing and even our rate of healing when we fall ill. Therefore, the space where we live and work, and it's design, is highly important, and not as frivolous as some might suggest.

There's a whole discipline of psychology which studies the relationship between humans and their environment, and while I'm not a psychologist, I have read a little about the cause and effect of interior design on the human psyche-- but mostly, I believe I have a natural "sensitivity" to the idea, and a general intuition about it.

Emily Athen's book "The Great Indoors" explains the science of precisely how specific design changes in public spaces, the workplace, schools, housing, and hospitals can have a positive or negative effect on our overall wellbeing. Pretty neat stuff, if you ask me.

"Surgical patients with plants in their rooms have lower blood pressure and use less pain medication than patients in plant-free rooms. Patients in sunny rooms fare better than patients in shady rooms. In one study, patients treated in rooms with sound-absorbing tiles were significantly less likely to be readmitted within three months."

When it comes to our own homes, our spaces of sanctuary, it's beneficial to have at least a basic understanding of the concepts of environmental psychology, and to make an effort to implement them. Clear lines of sight, lack of clutter, and especially lots of natural light an inclusion of views of nature can make all the difference in your day-- or your life!

Clutter can overwhelm the senses, cause distraction or even anxiety. But, this can be avoided. The old adage "a place for everything, and everything in it's place" is a key component for peaceful living, but it is not achieved by accident. You have to plan for that. The spaces must be designed with intent. What this entails is really looking inward. Observe your own patterns of behavior, and those of your family as well. Where are shoes kicked off and piled up upon entering the home? Where are bags and jackets tossed? Build around that-- make that area your mudroom, create storage spaces right there.

Do you have trouble finding your keys? Glasses? This is definitely something I struggled with at one time (okay, I still do sometimes haha). But, I installed a mail slot with key hooks on it-- and I keep my sunnies in the mail slot, and my keys on the hook, and voila, a hectic morning of looking around for my missing items is avoided, and a calm start to my day ensues. Thus avoiding a rushed, panicked morning commute, and a more peaceful me. That's just a small example, but still, it shows how a little planning can go a long way.

In terms of rooms with a view, I have always felt strongly that a kitchen sink without a window above it is a mortal sin. I mean it, to me, it's that serious. Nobody wants to stare at a wall that's a two feet from your face-- that's how they used to punish children back in the day, so that should tell you something!

All of our senses are invoked when we experience our surroundings, not just sight. There is, of course, touch-- so textiles and surfaces are important to consider. A heated floor in an entryway or bathroom will certainty boost my mood! Then, there is our olfactory senses. The scent of pine when you enter a log cabin is so grounding. Of course, if little house on the prairie isn't your style, you can always light a candle, or perhaps a log fire-- whatever floats your boat. Sound can be dampened with layering of textures, or thickness of walls and doors... but alternatively, sound can be brought into the home through the use of whole house speaker systems-- great for just enjoying ambient background music, or hosting a lively event! Taste? Well, you've got me there... unless we're talking "good taste" ( I jest.. )

I could go on and on with this subject. I feel passionately about it. The way I see it, if a thoughtful design can change just one persons mood, and that person's energy is reflected back on the people around them, it is possible that it will have a ripple effect, and who knows, even change the world! Too bold? nahhh...


Don't forget to smile (●'◡'●)

14 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page