The world’s recent shift towards prioritizing wellness has influenced people to seek healthier lifestyles by understanding the body and the mind collectively. External factors such as the geographic location, the environment, the community, financial status, and the relationships with friends and family have all shown to have considerable impacts on an individual’s health. However, it became evident that ensuring physical and mental health was not limited to having access to medical facilities and professional treatments, but was also determined by several factors related to the quality of the built environment.
Architects have a choice to design better and consequently, help people make better choices. So what is considered a good interior design, and what are the factors that make any interior space a good one? In this interior focus, we will explore this “good” side of design, looking at how architects ensured the needs of users by acknowledging accessibility, demographic diversity, economy, and the environment, regardless of aesthetic.
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In most cases, spaces that serve its designated purpose are considered to be successful. Although functionality may seem like a restriction to the creative process of designers, there’s rarely a successful interior designer who doesn’t fully acknowledge the need to ensure functionality when making every spatial decision; every space has a purpose, and to achieve that purpose, the space must be designed to accomplish specific functions. But as people became more aware of the importance of wellness and made choices towards having a more successful existence, it became crucial that architects design with a more holistic approach, supporting human behaviors through spaces that rehabilitate the mind, body, and soul.
Today, the World Health Organization defines health not as the absence of ill-health but as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being”. Although its definition has been changing over time, the general aspect of health now includes the correlation between social and psychological, alongside the commonly known medical factors. And what that, strategies and resources for greater equity and pertinence are being evaluated and implemented.
Essentially, designers should achieve physical health parameters that target a benchmark that is considered ‘good enough’ to avoid illnesses. Fortunately, architecture, through the design of form, space, and materials, can organize users’ relationships with each other and the environment by creating interactive settings. The principles of good design in the 21st century are various, as there are no universal design solutions to ensure that every health parameter is optimized. However, it is believed that the notion of well-being mainly consists of two key elements: feeling good and functioning well; put briefly, design, in all its aspects, should ensure health, comfort, and happiness.
To ensure the physical health of a space’s occupants, designers mainly look into the air quality, thermal, visual, and acoustic comfort, as well as materials that prevent growth of mold or harmful bacteria. The term “comfort” is commonly defined as a “condition of mind which expresses satisfaction” with the environment, whether it being thermal, visual, or acoustic. But what is considered physically comfortable or healthy for a university student, for instance, is not necessarily comfortable for a middle-aged employee. This is where good design comes into play; design that is flexible and adaptable, and caters to each of its users without compromising the other. For kids, designers build their interiors with toxin-free and non-slip materials, curved edges, as well as scale down all interventions and fixtures to match their size. In the case of elderly, interior spaces have little-to-no stairs, easy circulation with more open spaces, as well built-in fixtures that support their mobility.
Another element under the well-being umbrella is the emotional well-being, which often goes hand in hand with the physical one. This describes interiors that exude feelings of happiness, positivity, curiosity, serenity, and engagement, moving towards a more subjective and psychological environment. Emotional well-being is often the result of an abundance of natural sunlight, integration of nature, moderate indoor temperature, comfortable and cozy material selection, and a duality between intimate and common spaces. Some designers also implement the principles of Feng Shui to create a holistic and balanced life in the interior spaces they occupy.
Mental Well-Being and Productivity
A recent research demonstrated connections of key physical design characteristics with the Five Ways to Well-Being (Connect, Keep Active, Take Notice, Keep Learning and Give), which have been associated with positive mental health and productivity. Above all, offering occupants personal control over the interior environment allows them to create conditions that suit their behaviors and patterns, whether it being through light, temperature, sound, spatial organization, or building with materials that have a natural appearance.
Orienting rooms used mostly in the morning, such as the bedrooms and kitchen, towards the east stimulates the circadian rhythm, whereas key family rooms should have access to direct sunlight for at least 2 hours per day. Installing windows with high head heights provide better daylight distribution in the room and an increased visual access to the surrounding landscape. To ensure regulated sleeping patterns, it is recommended that bedrooms have effective blackout options such as thermal shutters or adjustable louvers, which also ensure night time ventilation.
In commercial interiors, particularly in working and studying environments, acoustic comfort is essential for productivity. Since these spaces are often occupied by several people with diverse preferences, having a few secluded quiet spaces for reading or studying, or sound-proof rooms for activities such as music or leisure prevents disturbing others. In parallel to these private spaces, it is advised to have windows or distributed gathering zones so that occupants have the opportunity to socialize with their colleagues. When people are in a low-ceiling room, they tend to focus more on theoretical tasks, whereas more vast spaces exude a more liberated feeling, which automatically forces people to engage in more creative thinking activities. The same approach is applied to furniture as well. Curved forms are often perceived as pleasant; people are more likely to choose spaces if they feature curvilinear fit-outs and furnishing instead of rectilinear.
Taking into account the urgency of the current climate crisis, a set of strategies have been introduced to help fight climate change through architecture and design, promoting interaction with nature and creating an enjoyable environment. Along with the critical measure of minimizing the carbon footprint that results from the construction and manufacturing processes, designers have spared nature and allowed it to organically take over interior spaces through biophilic design elements, as well as by building and/or covering their surfaces with local materials.
Find more “good” interiors in this My ArchDaily folder created by the author.
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