Millions of us have been forced to isolate in our homes this year. And while lockdown is easing across the UK, many people are still spending far more time within their private interior spaces than ever before.
Whether you’re still self-isolating, shielding or just being careful, chances are you’ve noticed just how much our interior spaces affect your mood. From the colours we surround ourselves with to the fabrics, textures and finishes we choose, every part of our interior spaces affects us.
Boosting our wellbeing by creating interior spaces that work with nature
The global pandemic has thrust health and wellbeing to the forefront of our collective consciousness in an unprecedented way. COVID-19 forces a shift in thinking about how and where we work, how we live and what helps us maintain a healthy outlook.
For some people, being restricted to their residential interior spaces is a whole new experience. For others, recognition of the importance of everyday comfort for mental health and wellbeing is growing. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that COVID-19 will continue to influence the way we all choose to decorate our design our immediate surroundings.
Wellbeing to most people means a healthy diet, exercise, meditation and activity levels. Focusing on our outward appearance and the internal physical health of our mind and body are, of course, essential for wellbeing. But so is everything that we surround ourselves with on a daily basis. And while we often have no say in the interior design choices of our office, factory, or other place of work, we can control our own interiors.
The rise and rise of biophilic interior design
This link between the importance of design and wellbeing is now widely accepted. Scientists and researchers have been studying the impact of the interior design of healthcare spaces on their patients for years. And in homes and living spaces, we’re increasingly seeing biophilic interior design. This fast-growing design aesthetic is all about nature and merging the health benefits of the outside with our interiors.
Lockdown has thrown even more of a focus on the affect of nature on our wellbeing. Think about the last time you just stepped outside, breathed fresh air and immediately felt your spirits lift. Or the pleasure you get from being out in your garden. Even people without any immediate outside space often surround themselves with potted plants.
We instinctively crave the benefits of nature, and the positive feelings it engenders even has a name – biophilia. This concept was first mooted by biologist and writer Edward O Wilson in 1984 and aims to explain that elusive but essential contact between human beings and nature. And it’s the interior design ethos that is far more than a passing trend.
Connecting with nature within our own spaces
By 2030, the UN predicts that almost two-thirds of the entire global population will be living in urbanised areas. And for many, that means living in a way that’s largely disconnected from the benefits of the outdoors and nature. The growing understanding of this symbiotic relationship and its importance for mental health and wellbeing is driving architects and leading designers towards crafting biophilic spaces.
But what does this mean for interiors? It’s about combining the best of nature within our living spaces through the curation of natural materials, objects and pieces, along with judicious use of natural light, plants and muted, calming colours.
- Connect with nature with the view
Looking outside at the natural world is the next best thing to being out in it. There are actual physical benefits of taking the time to really look at the natural environment, including lower stress levels and a slower heart rate. Of course, whether you have a view available to you at home depends on where you are. Not everyone is positioned so that they can see vast swathes of countryside. But the key with your interiors space is to make the most of what you have.
When you renovate, consider changing windows to French doors, incorporate window seats, keep curtains and blinds open so natural light floods into your space. Open the windows, breathe the air and even if all you can see is the sky, take the time to enjoy the beauty of nature.
- Let the natural light in
Talking of natural light, this is one of the most important aspects of your interior space. Every one of us needs natural daylight to feel healthy and well. Many people suffer in the darker months due to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which is clinically recognised depression caused by a lack of sunlight. It’s also vital to maintain good levels of vitamin D. We absorb this from sunlight and too little in our system can affect our immune system.
Working from home for many people means staring at a screen for hours on end. Often sunshine glares off the screen and as darkness falls, we switch on artificial lights. The answer here is to ensure you position lights well in your living and working space, again make the most of windows and bringing the outside in.
Put in bigger windows and fit special glass designed to let light in but keep the heat and cold out. Special thickened glass with various coatings can also ensure privacy while allowing light in – no need for old-fashioned curtains or drapes.
- Bring the outside in
Indoor plants are more than just a personal taste or passing design fad. They can actually help to heal us mentally and physically. Being surrounded by plants makes people feel calmer, more relaxed and more creative. And of course, they also purify the air in our homes and make everything altogether nicer.
I’d always encourage real plants and as many of them as you can. With expert design, you can incorporate them into your living space in a way that feels naural and organic. Incorporate with natural materials that also give us that connection with nature – think lots of sustainable wood used in creative and beautiful ways. Wood, stone and natural finishes are not just about the ‘look’. How they feel to our touch is also important. It can bring us ever closer to the natural environment that soothes our senses and boosts wellbeing.
Our homes are now so much more than a living space
COVID-19 is refocusing interior designers and architects towards purposefully creating bespoke designs that will boost people’s mental and physical health. Designers of all kinds have a certain responsibility to incorporate this awareness into their pieces, designs and suggestions.
Our interior spaces at home have had to be everything to us this year – a school, office, family and relaxation space. Interiors need to be flexible, harmonious and aware of their impact on people’s wellbeing. Interior designers are now incorporating the design elements known to protect health, whether that’s natural materials, colours, interaction with objects and the space available.
Homes no longer have a ‘home office’ in the corner, but a fully functional office space at home. Remote working is no longer an afterthought or unusual. So we all need to reconsider our living space to create the kind of multi-functional yet beautiful, calming yet practical, space we need.