What gives you tingles when you open the front door and step into a model home, a shop you can’t resist, or your favorite café? Is it the presence of abundant natural light? Or is it the cozy and comfortable sofas that envelope your entire body? Maybe it’s the right plants in the right places with a soothing waterfall tucked into an unassuming corner. What’s driving that ambiance that makes you want to be there all the time? It might have something to do with the marriage of health and interior design.
That good, good feeling might be more than off-the-cuff judgment of some astute interior designer. It might be much more than a lucky guess. And maybe it’s not just clever marketing. Apparently, there’s legit science behind the connection between health, happiness, and room and building design. A field known as neuroaesthetics delves into the intricate mechanisms by which our brains respond to stimuli like art, music, and various elements in our surroundings offering valuable insights into architecture. It sounds a little spooky, but the layout of homes, offices, rooms, stores, shops and buildings can subconsciously influence positive (and negative) emotional responses in most of us.
This isn’t a new thing – you’ve probably experienced this in hospitals and various healthcare environments in an effort to help alleviate feelings of fear, stress, or illness. Although a well-designed building itself may not be a real cure for anything, there is legitimate evidence that it can contribute to positive outcomes. As much as grumpy grandpa might try to deny it when you suggest moving his La-Z-Boy closer to the window, doing so might result in him being a little happier. The truth is room design can influence well-being.
So, how can we cultivate positive emotions within architectural spaces? Research indicates that exposure to nature can alleviate stress, bolster the immune system, and even enhance your mood. Greenery, flowers, the sound of bubbles and running water, fish swimming around in aquariums, service animals, and natural light can all influence serotonin levels. This has propelled interest in biophilic design, a concept that establishes an indoor connection to nature. These designs integrate natural illumination, cascading fountains, rooftop gardens, and the incorporation of materials with a wood or stone look. Although integrating room and design patterns including more natural curves, Mandelbrot sets, and even Fibonacci-inspired fractals may result in less usable square footage, we’re learning the benefits may outweigh the sacrifices as clever nature-inspired designs are becoming more popular in homes and businesses.
In spaces devoid of natural sunlight, a rooftop fiber-optic system can effectively capture daylight and channel full-spectrum sunlight indoors. Specific hues of light can assist in regulating the circadian rhythms of those working night shifts.
Aroma and color choices can positively impact mood, appetite, and the desire to purchase. Why do you think Bath and Body Works ——–
Beyond the scope of nature, there are other methods that may foster more positive atmospheres. Elements such as color, dimensionality, and the concept of compression (a narrow entrance leading to an open space) can evoke a sense of welcome in contrast to the clinical and angular nature of stark lobbies. Even seemingly minor design revisions, like the much nicer seating arrangement in our primary physician’s waiting area, or open spaces in airports or bus stops can empower individuals with a sense of comfort in their environment. These principles extend to educational institutions, workplaces, and the integration of buildings within communities. This integration may encompass street art, statues, parks, landscaping, and public events like farmers markets and even free health screenings.
So, if you find yourself stressed in your office environment, maybe start with a pretty indoor plant in the corner of your space.