Psychology of Design

I’ve always been fascinated by the connection between interior design and psychology. It is possible to shape a user’s mood and experience through color, lighting and layout, among other elements. I really enjoyed reading this article that is in support of the link between interior design and psychology: .

As an example, think about how a restaurant or bar might use interior design elements to shape your experience there. Did you know that red and orange enhance your appetite? They also happen to be popular colors within restaurant design. Not a coincidence. Are the chairs uncomfortable? The restaurants probably knows because they may hope that your sore bum will help turn the table faster. The lighting is used to achieve a feeling, whether it is low and dim lighting to encourage an elegant, relaxed environment or highly contrasted lighting to encourage a lively, energetic environment.

Architects and designer’s attempt to not only provide an attractive, function interior environment, they also shape the interior to encourage desired actions and feelings.

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Granite is ubiquitous

An article in today’s Washington Post talks about an interesting reality: granite has become the standard for countertop material. It describes that homeowners connect with granite on an emotional level, which I truly believe. It has become a status symbol within a home. Homeowners often select the specific piece(s) of granite that are installed in their homes, giving them an even greater bond with the material.

While it has it’s drawbacks (it is possible to crack and chip granite, to stain it with oils and liquids, and to pit it with acids), it is still extremely durable and scrubbable. It complements all styles of decor, from contemporary to traditional, and it has a wide range of price points, from $30/ft and up. It is not surprising that it has become such a popular product because it is darn gorgeous and instantly elevates a kitchen’s attractiveness.

But the question that the article implies (will granite become obsolete and out of style?) is interesting. As a product it has become more and more affordable with time. Extraction and installation methods have become more streamlined and thus, less expensive. But eventually the supply will become more limited, and the product would become more expensive. Perhaps then the alternative slab materials of quartzite and resin materials will begin to gain more steam. There are many man-made products, like Silestone and Zodiaq, that have ideal qualities but aren’t currently as appealing to homeowners. The glitter and gleam of granite and marble are more appealing from an aesthetic viewpoint. But then again, as Formica and other laminates were all the rage for a long time, granite is bound to go out of style at some point. So it is really a question of when and what will replace it?

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Pantone’s 2012 Color

Photo / Pantone

Wow! Pantone’s new color for 2012 packs a punch. Tangerine Tango “is a play on the current global economic status. As the economy slowly but surely turns around, Tangerine Tango is a bold, spirited hue, that, in essence, is meant to offer a boost of energy and encouragement to keep forging ahead.” In small doses it will really liven up a space.

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Biophilia and the importance of interior design

I just read an interesting blog post on It discusses biophilia which is ” the apparent instinctive preference we have for certain natural geometries, forms, and characteristics within our environments.” It gives examples in which research proves that connections to the outdoor environment and elements of the natural world within an interior have positive effects on users.

It is logical that humans have a desire and need to have an ordered, attractive environment – otherwise there would be no jobs for interior designers! But it is fascinating to think about the effect that certain additions (and subtractions) can have on the experience and psychology of the end-user.

We all know that sunlight benefits moods and productivity. The article also points out that “researcher Koen Steemers and colleagues at Cambridge University found that the presence of vegetation increases thermal comfort. In principle, that means that simply by adding plants, it’s possible to raise or lower the thermostat and still maintain perceived comfort, while significantly reducing energy loads.” Who would have thought that a little bit of green could make you feel warmer not just in spirit but also in body?

The article cites a study by psychologist Roger Ulrich in the 1980s where he found that having a scenic landscape view rather than a view of a building facade “accounted for significant differences in post-operative complications, recovery times, and need for painkillers” in hospital patients. The visual environment is just as important as the physical environment.

The most interesting aspect of biophilia to me is the idea that “construction is not fundamentally driven by utilitarianism but is instead a contributing factor for our continued health.” If construction was only necessary from a utilitarian standpoint, we wouldn’t have such a rich history of different architectural and design styles. It’s an interesting way to interpret the design field.



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Chemicals in Crib Mattresses

The Washington Post ran a small article on Thursday that caught my eye: it discusses the “suspect or dangerous” chemicals that are found in the majority of crib mattresses and the steps that are being taken by various organizations to enact more stringent regulation regarding chemical components in children’s products. But more needs to be done to ensure the safety of the innocent bystanders of our inadequate product safety standards.

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Wine Cellars

Photo / Charles River Wine Cellars

While wine storage can be simple wooden racks in a cabinet, true cellar storage is climate-controlled. Keeping wine bottles at a consistent temperature and humidity allows the wine to age properly and keeps the corks from drying out. Undercabinet or freestanding refrigerators have surged in popularity in recent years with homeowners often including them in renovations.

Photo / Galambos Architects

Custom wine cellars, however, are typically only seen in luxury homes with sizes ranging from a small cabinet under a staircase to a large, walk-in wine room dripping with custom wine racks and cabinetry. Custom wine cellars usually start at $20,000, and because it is such a high price point, most homeowners who install a cellar can afford to use the high-end finishes that really add to the ambiance. Wood remains the finish of choice, usually medium to dark in color, accented with stone elements. Wood gives off that warm, rich feeling and is evocative of the barrels in a wine cave.

Photo /

There are so many possibilities for wine cellars, and the only constraints are space and, of course, budget. I enjoyed looking at some of the examples shown on AGBeat. I particularly like cellars that have areas and furniture for gathering. I imagine that a wine cellar would be a great place to relax with a glass of wine or entertain guests, and the addition of fabric or leather on seating pieces helps to soften the hard surfaces in the room.

I feel the most successful wine cellar designs are those that incorporate adequate general lighting and attractive accent lighting. With such heavy finishes it is important that the lighting helps to brighten and visually enlarge the space.





One really cool kind of cellar is a pre-cast spiral staircase from Spiral Cellars out of the UK that is sunk into the floor, and it holds wine bottles all around the sides of the staircase. It is accessible via a trap door in the floor above! The trap door can be finished with the adjacent floor finish, or it can even be clear glass. I suppose some people want direct access to their cellar without have to take the extra steps of walking down and through a basement to get to the cellar.

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Live Home Front Chat

I had the pleasure of joining The Post’s Jura Koncius and Terri Sapienza for today’s live Q&A! It was fun, and their readers had some great questions about draperies, flooring, and more. Click here to see the transcript of the chat. It was a fun follow-up to participating in Megan Buerger’s article.

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