Design is everywhere, in everything we see and in what we don't see. It permeates every aspect of our lives. Design should be inherently optimistic and used to improve the human experience, not just in making things pretty for prettiness' sake.
Designing spaces that consciously encourage creativity, peace, happiness, and inner calm should be a priority, especially at this time.
First of all, it's good to establish what things can make us happy, sad, or even angry? We appreciate beauty, even in small doses. We love to visit beautiful places, to see and experience beautiful things – they make us feel good.
Imagine the last time you experienced the feeling of happiness, something that made you smile, feel awed, amazed, or joyous. Maybe it was triggered by a scent or music, but more often than not, the stimulation is visual. We are all affected by our surroundings, even if we don't realise it.
Well, designed spaces bring us peace. Sadly, often the rooms we need to be tranquil and that we spend most of our time in are the messiest. Kitchens, hallways, bedrooms, home offices, they all tend to collect clutter. "We'll deal with it later," is a familiar cry.
Research has shown that colour inherently plays a role in our approach and moods, as do many objects and elements inside our homes. They all significantly impact our mood.
Colours can create or enhance specific emotions – it is so deeply rooted in our subconscious that we even use it in our vocabulary. For example, we say, "we feel blue," that "we are green with envy", or we are "in the pink", as a way of saying we feel good.
Vibrant shades such as orange, yellow, and green encourage socialising and communication. Whereas purple, deep blues and darker shades of green and red, can make us feel a bit downhearted, while yellow evokes creativity.
Bright colours suppress melatonin (the sleep hormone) and boost energy, so try to avoid these in your bedroom or rooms you want to feel relaxed in.
Lighting is a crucial aspect of interior design and one that can promote our wellbeing and affect our mood. In the home or at work, good levels of lighting are essential. When it's dark and gloomy outside lighting helps us feel alert and energised, as does in the mornings, it sharpens our minds and helps us prepare for the day. Dimming lights at night cues us to go to sleep, and having blackout curtains or blinds in the bedroom keeps the light out, helping us to stay asleep, which is essential to our wellness. Just as computer and phone screens are known to keep us awake and alert.
Exposure to short wavelengths, the high energy blue light from our phones and pads, and computers can make us feel more energetic and alert during the day, helping us complete cognitive tasks more efficiently during its exposure. This effect lasts up to an hour after the blue light exposure has ended, therefore using them before bedtime or in bed is not good as it suppresses our bodies' production of melatonin – the sleep-inducing hormone, making it harder for us to drift off to sleep. In turn, this can lead to sleep deprivation, impaired judgment, stress, and high blood pressure.
Light even affects our appetites, in how much we eat, how fast we eat, and even what kinds of food we feel we are in the mood for, as well as in our perception of flavour. In places with soft lighting, we tend to eat more slowly and consume less food. Apparently, we are more likely to order unhealthy food in darker restaurants – just think of the loud design in junk food joints! The thinking behind this is that softer lighting makes us less alert and relaxed, therefore not so guarded with healthier food options.
Good lighting in the workplace is crucial - and this is especially important at the moment as many of us are working from home. The light intensity can influence our ability to sustain attention and cognitive performance. There are also indications that light exposure during daytime working hours can positively impact sleep during the subsequent night. Therefore, ensuring you have the right light intensity can improve both health and productivity in workplace settings.
Making your mark:
Putting your own mark on things is also known to increase satisfaction in the workplace and your home. When you first view and move into your new home, you often visualise it with your personal belongings in it, as they make it feel like "your space", creating a more homely vibe where you can feel relaxed and content to restore and re-energize. And a haven when you aren't feeling up to facing the world.
It may not be easy for some of us to live in an organised home without clutter, so making it easy for ourselves is extremely important. First up of course – practise your inner Marie Kondo and get rid of what you don't need, and if you can't remember when you last wore it or used it, its time to swap or pass it on.
It's also much easier to keep a clean and tidy home neat and tidy. Make some space by recycling what you don't need, if you haven't used it in ages, pass it on, there is nothing more liberating than clear surfaces and the feeling of space.
Spending time streamlining your rooms by decluttering, means it will look and feel less busy. Rearranging furniture, so it works better, and you have more space to move around can make a massive difference in the anxiety, helplessness, and unhappiness you may feel.
Arranging your drawers and cupboards, so you know where everything is, sounds easy, however, we know it's not. Sounds easy; we know it's not. Making a landing zone, somewhere you put "everything" when you get home is a great start. It keeps the clutter in one place, all things coming into your home go here, and can be distributed later. You can file them away into "their home".
Streamlining and decluttering and clearing surfaces helps alleviate chaos and bring a bit of zen into our daily lives—a little bit of "light" feng shui.
There's usually a dumping space, but as that fills up, spreads out. It's all too easy to get swamped. Piles of laundry, drawers, and files bursting with "things", papers, bills, and "must keep in case", clutter kitchen drawers. Piles of dirty laundry, bookshelves collecting dust, are not a recipe for happiness. They overwhelm you making you feel you lack control. However, if your space is well designed and well thought out, it can help you move through life more easily.
Start by creating a "landing zone", a place to offload all your belongings at the front entrance — a place to unload keys, bags, coats, and shoes. There may not be room for a cupboard, but wall hooks will do the job.
Aesthetics is the philosophical study of beauty and taste (style) is a term that stems from the Greek word "aisthetikos", meaning "of sense perception". It is related to the study of sensory values. In design, aesthetics refers to the visual attractiveness of a product. Studies have proven that creating good aesthetics leads to better usability and user experience.
Firstly, it creates an attractiveness bias - we're drawn to beautiful things. We all make quick decisions on whether or not we like something. And if we like it, we are more likely to use it – because their attractiveness elicits pleasant emotions in users. Pretty tools are a pleasure to use so surrounding ourselves with everyday objects that are aesthetically pleasing and well-designed, and a joy to use. Making chores less onerous. The difference adding some flowers to a room makes is undeniable. Adding flowers to a room, a new rug, a painting, paint a wall, add a new cushion or two to keep the space fresh, and pleasing to look at and be in.
Think too about the quality of air in your home. Adding plants and opening your windows regularly to freshen the air, and adding air purifiers. Maintaining air conditioners, adding dehumidifying air-cons and using dehumidifiers will all help to maintain a healthy living environment.
Working from home. Setting up your home office:
Due to Covid-19, many of us may be working at home, which impacts us significantly. It's essential to keep your work life and leisure time separate, by setting up a dedicated workspace, a place to physically go to at set times. Try to keep boundaries in place by not working from bed or the sofa and not overlapping leisure and work. It's essential to switch off and not work all the time, as it is not to work from bed, or the sofa, keep some boundaries and don't let work and leisure overlap.
If your family is home too, it might be a good idea to put up a sign to say if you are not to be disturbed, and just as if you are at work, switch your mobile phone and don't do social media. You can get an app to control your use.
Anji Connell is an interior architect, garden designer and self-proclaimed nomad who regularly writes about art, design, lifestyle and travel from her globe-trotting adventures. Known for her bubbly persona and even more exuberant sense of style, Anji's portfolio spans everything from interior styling to furniture and landscape design for some of the world's most beautiful spaces. For now, you will find her @anjiconnell_acidplus and anjiconnellinteriordesign.com bingeing on future travel plans from her designer chair.