Have you ever walked into a room and immediately felt like you didn’t belong? What about a setting where everything seemed to exactly in its right place? How did it make you feel? Were you comfortable and pleasant or did you feel a sense of deep unease and angst?
Regardless of how you felt, your feelings may have been due to the interior design.
According to a new article by What Is Psychology, studies have shown that interior design has several observable effects on emotional balance and communication. In the article, titled “3 Room Décor/Interior Design Tips for Improving Interpersonal Communication,” the blog’s author cites various studies which examine the importance of color, furnishings and the presence of natural elements (plants, pets, flowing water) to personal comfort and open communication.
A 1996 study by B. Manav entitled Colour Research and Application concluded that colors such as black & grey “tend to evoke negative feelings such as anxiety, boredom and sadness.” Brighter colors on the other hand, such as green, elicit “positive emotions such as happiness” as well as “confidence, relaxation and comfort.”
A 1976 study by Chaikin, Derlega and Miller examined the effects of two dramatically different furnishing styles. Researchers noted that when interviewed in two rooms with contrasting furnishings and accessories (one room filled with decorations, cushioned chairs and a rug vs. a bare room with cement block walls and straight black chair) interviewees in the highly decorated room nearly always responded that they felt more comfortable, and conversations with their interviewer grew more intimate.
These results could be explained through a concept known as place identity, which states that a person incorporates their understanding of space into an understanding of themselves. People react more positively to environments which fulfill their social and psychological needs.
As a person matures, they come to associate various experiences and memories (positive or negative) with the settings in which they took place and the design of these spaces. Various experiences mold a person’s perception of space, which ultimately leads them to form preferences for broad types of physical settings, normally in no way that he/she might be aware.
The results of 1976 study combined with this understanding of place identity would suggest that the majority of the interviewees were accustomed to comfortable, decorated spaces whereas bare, sparse spaces were intimidating or unaccommodating. This may explain negative reactions to other typically bare spaces such as police interrogation rooms, hospitals and the Department of Motor Vehicles.
This model would suggest then that human reactions to various types of spaces vary across cultures based upon the customary design of home interiors. According to this logic, would people who grew up in sparse environments feel cluttered and crowded by heavily decorated interiors?
To the best of our knowledge, the jury is still out on exactly why different settings produce different emotional reactions. But if you have any knowledge of the matter or would like to add to the conversation, please feel free to leave a comment and give us your perspective.
Photo Credit: Ambro