9 June 2021

The importance of interior design and mental well-being

The past year has been an onslaught, but one positive thing that the last 12 months has been a catalyst for is a more frank and open discussion about mental health issues. This is a discussion that should be actively encouraged and that should occur without shame or judgement. We all now agree that it is ok not to be ok. *Collective sigh of relief* More than ever before we are able to have this conversation openly and we have been given a platform through the pandemic that allows many more of us to empathise with this particular struggle. We have been shown how critical it is to look after our minds as well as our bodies. As interior designers we are not exempt from this conversation. We are in it together.

What does this mean for design? Does it mean that we steer away from trend-based aesthetics, that are easy on the eye, but do nothing for the soul?

Perhaps it means creating spaces that are specifically designed to evoke feelings of joy. Spaces that are designed to make us feel considered when we move through them.

Picture a space that encourages you to stop, breathe and be present. What does that space look like to you? What are the elements that best support this?

I think it would be difficult to argue that nature aligns hugely with a positive psyche. How good does it feel when we get out for a walk, when we get fresh air or when we get chance to reconnect with nature? Our craving for nature, even though perhaps heightened by the pandemic goes way, way back. Maybe the key to preserving our mental well-being is to try and echo themes of nature, and to try and bring some of the outside, in.

Cue biophilic design. Biophilic design is a design philosophy that uses elements of nature to provide respite and joy in man-made spaces. Adopting these principles is now becoming as prevalent in interior design as it is in external architecture. Studies have shown that spaces with a visual connection to nature have a positive effect on our cognitive function and sense of wellness. Biophilic design in the workplace has been shown to boost morale and increase productivity.

More than just a couple of well placed plants, although greenery is a must, the best way to utilise light from windows and skylights should be carefully evaluated. The use of natural materials that echo themes of nature such as woods, stones, marbles, all in neutral and calming palettes are being implemented. Shapes that occur naturally in nature are being considered with the avoidance of anything too angular or severe.

More and more employers are becoming mindful of some of these principles too, and are opting to delineate their work places and move towards spaces that are open and fluid. Bleak rows of desks are now sofas, hospitality style booths and pods, as well as the utilisation of natural softer materials in furniture and fittings. Tons of vegetation. Even hexagonal floor tiles, hexagons seen in nature in snowflakes and in beehives for example, to encourage team cohesiveness and productivity.

Our needs as human beings are no longer being overlooked, and it is our responsibility as designers to support people emotionally in their environment, and to make sure this is integral to very ethos of what we do.