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What you surround yourself with matters

How home interiors are designed, furnished, and decorated impact a person's emotions and behaviors.

indoor design

Welcome to our first blog post! Since we studied developmental psychology and child development, it only felt right that our first post discussed the psychology behind interior design!

The Space + The Mind

“Features of a space can affect what people think about and how they feel when in that space (Graham L., Gosling S., & Travis C., 2015).

The interior of a home is important. Research studies have found that residential spaces affect people's emotions and behaviors. In particular, the arrangement and decor within those living spaces plays a significant role in people's emotional responses and mental well-being.

Take a second to think about your house, your bedroom, or a space within your home where you frequent. Is this space inviting? Do you enjoy being in this space? Do you feel calm in this space? Or, are there some things in this space that you would change?

From Chaos to Sanctuary

If you grew up similar to me, in a crowded home with multiple family members and so many things that your parents didn't throw away because "some day they would use it", then it can be difficult to get up and change a living space! Growing up, I always shared a room with my sister. Regarding personality and personal interests, we are both on the total opposite ends of the spectrum. I love a clean, tidy, and minimalist room! And lets just say my sister does not. When I started college, I realized that I needed a designated space to focus and retreat when life became overwhelming. That designated space was my half of a shared bedroom. Yes, even with my sister as my roommate! I had a wall, a bed and a night stand. I needed to make it work. And I did! This is when I realized that you can do so much with so little! I personalized my wall by painting it white and light blue. I added a dry erase board calendar and a cork board with pictures of my significant others as well as some art. That wall felt like me! It was me! On overwhelming days, I would stare at my wall and it would bring me so much comfort. After every couple of months, I would remove and add new things to reflect current interests and stages in my life.

When designing or decorating a living space, it is important to be aware of different elements in the room that can influence your emotions and behaviors. For example, different colors affect people's mood. Personally, too much color or really bright colors overstimulate me! I prefer white color tones and neutral earth color tones because they elicit feelings of calmness and happiness.

Take a second to reflect on how certain colors make you feel? Or, what other elements in your living space elicit some type of feeling or mood?

Elements in a Living Space that Impact Feelings, Mood, & Behavior

Modifying even the smallest feature in your home environment, can alter your perception and emotion. When designing living spaces, one must not only consider the function of the space but the occupant of the space and how the space is intended to make the occupant feel (Spear, 2018). When designing and decorating your living space, it is important to be aware of the following elements that can impact your feelings, mood, and behavior.

  1. Light

  2. Color

  3. Nature

  4. Space + Clutter

  5. Personalization


Lighting has been found to affect much more than style and design. Research has shown that adequate amount of light in a room improves people's mood and energy levels, while inadequate lighting may play a role in poor mental health. Furthermore, a few studies have found that interior lighting has the ability to affect psychological factors such as attention and emotional processing as well as a multitude of human behaviors (Spear, 2018; Hedge, 2000). Specific aspects of lighting such as the color and intensity are important factors in determining its influence on mood, behavior, and emotion. The color of light sources has been found to affect people's mood and mental state. Graff (1978) found that decreased levels of anxiety and increased levels of relaxation were associated with blue and white light, whereas negative psychological experiences were associated with red and orange light. In addition to light color, light intensity has been shown to affect behavioral responses. For example, lower light levels has been found to reduce noise level and interpersonal interactions as well as support rational decision-making (Sanders, Gustanski, & Lawton, 1974; Carr & Dabbs, 1974). Lower light has also been found to have positive effects on sleeping. Contrarily, brighter lights has been found to intensify emotions but contribute to higher energy levels. Overall, interior lighting can influence mood, behaviors and emotions in various ways. Therefore, it is important to learn how the different aspects of lighting affects you in order to incorporate the best lighting in your living space!


The relationship between color and emotion has been explored by various researchers. It has been found that different colors have the ability to elicit different emotions. In particular, the shade, brightness, or tone of colors can change the way you feel. According to a study conducted by Kaya (2004), it was concluded that specific color tones are associated with different emotional responses. For example, bright, warm colors, such as yellows, oranges, pinks and reds, are associated with happiness and having an uplifting effect on mood. Dark and cool colors such as blues, purples, greens, and browns are associated with sadness but can make people feel calm. Pastel colors also elicit calming and relaxing effects, while strong colors such as neon colors are associated with irritableness and have stimulating effects.

As discussed above, color plays an important role in people's mood, behaviors, and feelings. However, it is important to note that colors can be subjective. A color that might make one person feel happy or calm can make another person feel irritated. Nonetheless, colors and emotions are closely linked, so you need to take their effects into consideration whenever you are using colors to decorate your home. Now that you know how colors and emotions are connected, you can choose colors accordingly and get the results you’re looking for. So, the next time you think about changing the color of a wall in your home, think about how you want that room to make you feel?


Incorporating elements from nature into your home has been found to have increasing benefits to your health and well-being. Studies have found that plants not only help reduce stress, depression, and anxiety, but they also help increase attention (Min-sun et al., 2015). Additionally, several studies conducted by NASA between the 1970s and 1980s have demonstrated that plants improve air quality. Natural elements have a calming influence on many people and keeping them around the home environment is an excellent way to promote one's health. It is important to note that although most studies have only considered the effects of plants on health, you may incorporate others forms of nature into your home such as flowers, rocks or stones, wood, sunlight (open those curtains!), and ecological textiles.

Space + Clutter

Decluttering and expanding the space of a living area plays a role in elevating the occupant's mood and increasing productivity. When thinking about expanding the space of an area, it doesn't necessarily mean expanding the space by a couple square feet. You don't need to tear down walls and expand your home to obtain more space in your home. What you can do is achieve a sense of spaciousness by decluttering overcrowded spaces, rearranging furniture to maximize the space of a room, and organize all the elements in your living space. According to UW Health psychologist Shilagh Mirgain, clean, open homes with minimal clutter facilitate better moods. Overall, room organization is a major component of a peaceful, soothing home. Well-organized spaces that are easy to navigate foster social interaction, reduce anxiety and feelings of being overwhelmed. In any room size, the use of furniture arrangement, the function of room decor, and amount of elements in a space, play a role in a person's health and well-being.


The most important aspect of creating a living space that reflects your personality is to make sure you incorporate all the things that best describe you! Whether you or someone else is designing and decorating your living space, ensure that your essence is captured and conveyed in that space. Add quirky, colorful and fun textiles! Incorporate art pieces inspired by your favorite movies or artists! Display your favorite rocket engine models! Paint a sunset on your ceiling or add a wacky wallpaper! Ultimately, design your living space to make you feel at home.

Final Thoughts

A home and all the spaces within that home, should support your health and mental well-being. If your current living space is not where you want it to be, make some changes. Consider all the elements discussed in this post. Ask yourself, do you get sufficient lighting in your home? Are the lights too bright? Are the colors of your walls too dark and creating a somber mood? Are there some rooms that need to be decluttered? Can you bring life into your house by adding some plants?

If you wish to incorporate these elements or make modifications to existing elements but are not sure how, we have some suggestions and examples to help you out. Stay tuned for our next post!

-Maria Gutierrez


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