Perhaps it’s in the Telegraph…

As it’s a short week this week with the Easter Bank Holiday and the majority of our time has been spent on meeting prep and project admin, rather than write a brief notebook post of our goings on, this week I thought I’d share with you some notes I have written for The Daily Telegraph.  Sometimes we receive Press Referrals from the BIID when journalists are looking for quotes, information or opinions on anything to do with Design.  This week, Soo Kim from The Daily Telegraph is writing a piece on the link between Design & Architecture, and the effect this has on the health and wellbeing on the users.  When we receive these referrals, we never know if they will use just a line, a paragraph, the whole piece, or sometimes nothing at all, but it’s good to contribute if we are able.


The role of an Interior Designer is to create spaces that enhance the experience of living for the users, on a practical, sensory and emotional level.  We spend a great deal of time at the start of a project gathering information on the function of the space and who the users are, so we are able to determine how best to tailor the interior to create the mood and physiological response we’re trying to achieve.  The interior of a classroom where the main objective is to aid the concentration of students and inspire their appetite for learning, would be very different to the interior of a spa treatment room, where the main objective is to encourage the user to feel comfortable enough to relax and switch off in the presence of a stranger, for example.

Humans experience their world through the five senses, and this has a dramatic effect on their emotions, health and wellbeing.  By understanding human psychology and the effects that different textures, materials, colours, lighting and surface finishes have on people, we can use these to our advantage when designing.

Many scientific studies have been conducted over the years that prove the link between a person’s environment, and their health and wellbeing.  Colour impact theory for example, is not only used by Designers, but also by market researchers when determining what colour packaging to use for a new product, it’s so powerful, that just the colour of the label on a product can make you subconsciously decide to choose one over another.  However, it isn’t just a case of ‘yellow is warm and stimulating’, ‘blue is fresh and tranquil’, or ‘red is aggressive and passionate’ when it comes to interiors.  Natural lighting has a huge role to play when choosing colours.  A blue Kitchen in a North facing room with small windows, will have a very different feel to a blue Kitchen in a South facing room with large floor to ceiling windows.

Colour temperature, measured in Kelvins, determines how warm (yellow) or cool (blue) the light is.  The midday sun is roughly in the middle of the scale at 5500K, whereas clear blue sky is up there at a cool bright 10000K.  Candle flame is low on the scale at only 1800K, thus creating a warm and intimate atmosphere.  This is why most spaces that are designed for relaxation or a slow pace of being, from a meditation room to a private dining room, have dimmable low lighting to create a warm glow, and spaces that are designed to enliven and stimulate such as an office or a supermarket have cooler, brighter lighting.  An excellent example of clever lighting design that creates an intimate atmosphere in a public place is The Kensington Pavilion.  By using layers of soft warm lighting to highlight the bar, large pieces of artwork and pillars, the tables are cleverly zoned to give the feeling of intimacy and relaxation, despite many tables being situated close together in one open space.

Humans crave natural light.  One particularly interesting study from back in the 1970’s, tested patients recovery time from surgery depending on the placement of their bed.  Not only did the patients whose beds were closest to the window recover quicker and with fewer complications that those who’s bed wasn’t near a window, but also those who looked out onto natural scenery recovered quicker and with fewer complications than those who looked out onto a brick wall.

Acoustics also play a huge role in the enjoyment and usability of a space.  Cinemas use a combination of strategically placed speakers and acoustic panels to create a surround sound atmosphere that enhances the users experience of the movie they are watching and stimulate the auditory senses.  Churches, with their high vaulted ceilings constructed from hard dense materials, are designed to create an echo, which helps the speaker to project their voice and amplifies the unison of singing voices and music to create a rousing atmosphere.  The reverberation of the sound being bounced around the interior also passes through the body, which can have a profound effect on the users’ experience, like a tuning fork, or a meditation bowl used in Yoga.

Touch is also an extremely important element of design and influences our choice of all materials and textures.  A fabric may have a nice pattern, but if it feels harsh and scratchy there’s no way we would choose it for upholstery, because touching it would be the users main experience of the fabric, not just looking at it.  Surface temperatures are also of crucial importance and can have a profound effect on the mood of a user.  A study conducted at the University of Colorado, determined that just holding a warm cup of coffee was enough to influence people into thinking strangers were friendlier and more trustworthy, whilst holding a cold cup of coffee had the opposite effect.  In the same study, participants were asked to handle a cold sports compress or a heat pad for several minutes.  They were then offered a free drink, or a voucher to give to a friend, an overwhelming majority who had handled the cold pack chose the free drink, whilst most who had handled the heat pad chose the gift voucher.  Knowing what a huge impact our senses have on our behaviour, helps us to create interiors that have as positive an impact as possible.  We would never recommend installing a tiled floor in a bathroom without underfloor heating for example – just imagine how starting your day standing on a freezing cold tiled floor could have a negative impact on not only your perception of other people, but your own generosity and kindness too!  If you haven’t got underfloor heating in your newly tiled bathroom, don’t panic, just invest in some slippers…

Jenny Quinlan

Senior Designer