Interior Design Tips for Mental Wellness
By Thiyashi Koththigoda
It is said that the state of your room or house speaks a lot about the person. Interior designers have known for a while that the look of a living space can significantly impact a person’s mental state. Now this idea is being supported more and more with an increasing number of scientific studies establishing links between a person’s mental wellbeing and how their surroundings have been designed or decorated.
This is not to say that painting the room with a certain colour will cure depression and accelerate productivity. But rather, that certain consciously made interior design choices and living practices could contribute to an overall better state of wellbeing. With the pandemic in full swing, we’re all spending a lot of time at home. So, it’s a great time to start making these changes, big or small, to make sure you still feel happy and healthy. Here are some basic guidelines and tips to help you start:
Space and organisation
What better place to start than the foundation of your living space? This is where a balanced layout is crucial, with furniture and décor that won’t overcrowd the room. The ‘less is more’ approach is the way to go here. Weed out furniture and décor that does not serve a purpose. Try switching up the layout of the room so that there’s ample space for movement and flow. Don’t be afraid of open space.
Once the layout is as optimal as you can get it, make sure to incorporate organisational systems to keep your space tidy and clutter free. It’s been shown that clutter and excess stuff can contribute to feelings of anxiety and agitation. So, take the minimalist approach here too and clean out unnecessary items. Also make use of good storage and make it a habit to clean up yourself and put things where they belong. Research has shown that clean and clutter free environments can lower stress levels and tidying up can even provide a sense of achievement. The key takeaway - Keep your space open and clutter-free.
You may have noticed that in interior design, natural elements are often added for a soothing and calming touch. This has been linked to the biophilia hypothesis. This idea centres on the facts that humans have an innate connection to nature and will always seek it out. Many studies have found that biophilic design can be beneficial. Just having plants in a room have shown to reduce stress and anxiety while boosting productivity.
Indoor plants can also purify the air and help stabilise humidity. You can simply add some nature into your space by bringing in some low maintenance houseplants. Philodendrons, snake plants, succulents and cacti are great for beginners. Many are even pet friendly. You can also incorporate natural elements into your décor. With organic materials and textures like bamboo, wood and stone, the choices are endless. The key takeaway - Bring houseplants and other hints of nature into your space.
A light touch
Letting some light into the room or space can do wonders. It’s no secret that sunlight is essential for humans, with most of us getting our required vitamin D from it. Natural light can also make one more focused and boost alertness. It also helps in regulating the circadian rhythm which is like the biological clock, ensuring that one gets to sleep well at night. A lack of sunlight has been linked to an increase in depressive traits and can trigger low moods. So, it’s important to have ample light in the house to feel mentally well.
One simple change that can be made is to the curtains. If the house has dark curtains, switch them for sheer ones. Mirrors could be added as décor pieces to help bounce more light around. If a big change is required, paint the walls white or any other light colour like beige for light to pick up to illuminate the room. It’s also important to know what type of artificial lighting to use too. While places like kitchens can have bright overhead lighting, this is not ideal for a bedroom. For a more restful, relaxed and less aggressive lighting condition, use ambient light sources such as lamps and smaller light fixtures. The key takeaway - Let in natural light and be considerate of artificial lighting.
Be colour conscious
This is probably another no-brainer to many. Colour psychology has always been an important part of interior design and how certain colours can be better for mental wellbeing. It’s been shown that colours such as red, orange and yellow with longer wavelengths can have a stimulating effect while colours such as blue, purple and green can have a relaxing effect. By taking into consideration the colours that we put on the walls, furniture and décor, we can contribute to a space that’s conducive to wellbeing.
A go-to is a neutral room (like tan) with some pops of stimulating colour (like red or blue). One could even go for green décor or blue accents for a feeling of calmness and tranquility. This really depends on the person and should be customised to reflect what they feel is best for them. However, there are some things one should avoid when it comes to dealing with colours. Many experts advise staying away from making a space overwhelmingly dark.
Colours such as black, dark gray and navy blue should not be too dominant and be reserved for accents. Such dark and dull colours are not too beneficial in creating positive moods. On the opposite side of the spectrum, too many overly bright colours can also be detrimental. Much like the dark hues, they should be reserved for accents or as secondary shades since too much of it has been shown to cause anxiety and agitation. The key takeaway - Pay more attention to how colour in the surroundings can affect personal wellbeing.
Right under your nose
An oft-forgotten sense, scent can have a powerful effect on the state of mind. Aromas have been found to significantly impact memory, mood and concentration. Certain aromas can even reduce stress levels especially, if they’re of a nostalgic nature and linked to happy memories. This is why you can add a final touch to your house or space with relaxing scents using diffusers, candles, essential oils and even potpourri.
Pleasant smells can also be an easy step to promote self-care and relaxation within your own space. The key takeaway - Don’t underestimate the effect that scents can have within your space. Taking these ideas into consideration can help you make your living space more likely to contribute to a better state of wellbeing. Whether you make a small change like buying a scented candle or decide to remove that extra sofa piece, do so with the intention of letting yourself feel your best.