What is the link between wellbeing and interior design?

By Elina Grigoriou
August 8, 2019

Have you or someone you were with ever purchased something entirely on impulse? Assuming that you have witnessed this instance, you will have seen the effect of something physical on human emotions.

You may have also have experienced entering a waiting room with a number of people already seated to then find yourself quickly scanning the empty chairs, working out which to sit in. You may consider issues such as adjacency to others, what those people around each chair are like, the view and noise around the available seats, the type of seating, and the location of the seating in relation to wall and door locations. You are likely to do this in split seconds and then view others in turn doing this also as they enter. The assessment is being done with expectations of comfort and joy. What location is going to be the most comfortable and least disturbing? Which location is going to support you in that simple task of waiting?

Throughout our daily lives, we react, assess, enjoy or adapt to our physical environments, specifically our interiors, on a constant basis. How these have been created will dictate how much comfort and joy is actually possible and how little time it requires of us to be comfortable.

Let’s go to basics first though; interiors themselves do not contain ‘wellbeing,’ people do. So, the description of ‘wellbeing’ refers to the person and not an interior. Wellbeing is a state of being, a conscious choice each person makes about their attitude to life and is not a given state such as health. Health can be removed through life styles and instances or through ideas we hold. With health, a human can then have comfort.

But comfort can be removed too through temporary settings of spaces, ideas and stimulants. When humans do not have comfort, they are not able to achieve their wellbeing. A human’s general aim is to be comfortable and happy, to live a good life. Our comfort is achieved through all three aspects that make up people: our mind, our body and our emotions. If any of these is not in health and then in comfort, people are not able to be well.

The issues that affect health and comfort through interiors and generally physical spaces, fall into 5 main categories:
• Air quality
• Lighting
• Acoustics
• Design characteristics
• Layout and facilities

These categories contain between 5 to 12 issues within each that become tangible details of the design. As with anything performance based, the more the issues are designed for comfort, the better the design’s performance will be.

There is also a hierarchy in the issues and a need to understand user preferences and needs to ensure wellbeing. A design’s details need to harmonise with User Profiles and acknowledge issues such as stimulation, colour profile, tasks in spaces, time exposure and biophilia levels amongst others. Beauty is also a core aspect of designing for wellbeing and occupants will tend towards one of two generic types: Realistic or Abstract. Understanding this key issue and not dictating a personal style as a designer or wider design team, supports emotional comfort and wellbeing.

So, the way an interior design can ensure health, and support the comfort of occupants is to support and allow occupants the ability to flourish and be well. When designers take care to design comfort into every part of an interior, we ensure that occupants will spend all their energy and resilience towards flourishing in their lives. What better reason is there to do the job we do as designers?

Elina Grigoriou is a London-based Interior Designer, sustainability specialist and wellbeing expert. With 18 years’ experience in the global commercial interior design sector, Elina works at the heart of the latest industry developments and initiatives regarding sustainability, partnering with national and global institutions to drive and support collaborative approaches for systemic change. Her book Wellbeing in Interiors: Philosophy, Design and Value in Practice is available from RIBA Bookshops now. http://bit.ly/2EIJGz2