Nicola Holden Designs – Contemporary Interior Designer, London.

I have talked quite a bit recently about how using colour in our homes can affect the way we feel, and how we behave.  But there is one vital element that needs to exist in order for us even to see colour, and that is light.  Without light, everything is just black.  It is light reflecting off the surfaces that enables us to see colour in the first place.  As Ingrid Fetell Lee puts it so succinctly, “Light is colour’s power supply”.

Except in very hot climates, people naturally gravitate to sunny spaces.  Sunlight brings us joy, and helps to keep our circadian rhythms regulated.  The blue colours found in morning sunlight stimulate the production of serotonin (the ‘happy’ hormone), and the red light that we get at sunset stimulates the production of melatonin (the ‘sleepy’ hormone).  Getting the right balance of serotonin and melatonin is linked to sleep quality, mood, alertness and depression to name a few things, and so it’s vital that we light our homes correctly so that they support our circadian rhythm, rather than working against it.

Our first priority for light is, of course, natural light, and so it is important that we design our interiors around our windows to ensure we can take full advantage of them.  Make sure your curtain tracks are long enough that your curtains don’t overhang the window glass when they are open.  And mirrors are great for bounding light around our spaces.  And if the light streaming through your windows is too bright, then consider ways of diffusing the light to create a more dappled effect.

Sunlight streams through this window

However, in the absence of sunlight, we need to have alternative lighting options available – to provide lighting that stimulates us, and produces a positive psychological or physiological response.  And to achieve this, we need control over our lighting so that we can vary its intensity at different times of the day.

The design of lighting schemes is one of the most common aspects of an interior design projects that I get asked to help with.  So, when it comes to lighting we need to think of it terms of the four ways that lighting is used:

1. Ambient Lighting

This is the essential basis of lighting for any room, and is there to produce general illumination.  Ambient lighting should fill the room with a glow of light and soften the shadows, and is best achieved by reflecting the light off walls and ceilings to soften and diffuse the light.  Think about uplighters, and an LED strip around a coffer ceiling.

2. Accent Lighting

This is where you are lighting a specific object, for example a piece of art, a textured wall or some beautiful drapery.  The focus becomes the art, the wall or the curtains, rather than the source of the light itself.  Accent lighting can also be used to great effect in bathroom niches, or within shelf displays.

The lighting of this niche puts the focus on the patterned tiles

3. Task Lighting

Task lighting provides light for carrying out specific tasks, such a reading, cooking, desk work, and putting on your make up / shaving, etc.  The positioning of the lighting here is important to get right, as the light should ideally be between your head and the book / work surface in order to illuminate the task at hand.  For reading and desk work, choose a light with a solid shade that will give out a focused beam of light.  In the bathroom, position lights either side of the mirror to give you a shadow-free reflection.

This bedside wall light provides task lighting for reading

4. Decorative Lighting

Often referred to as ‘architectural jewellery’, decorative light comes in the forms of beautiful chandeliers, wall lights and table lamps.  These lights provide the glimmer and sparkle that bring us joy.  Chandeliers can also be offset, to add a sculptural element to the space.  Decorative lighting in itself doesn’t emit much light in a room, but is great for providing that low level glow of soft warm light in the evenings when you want your body to start getting ready for sleep.

An off centred decorative pendant adds a sculptural element to this living room

Good lighting requires more than just thinking about the different types of lighting.  It is also about how we control our lighting. Putting your lighting on different, dimmable circuits will give you maximum control, allowing you to set the mood for different occasions.  Lighting is also a great way to zone an open plan space

And don’t forget to think about layering, balance and proportion.  Small lights can look lost in a large space, so introduce oversized lights, or hang smaller lights in multiples.  Having different types of lighting will also help us to layer our lighting, using a combination of ceiling lights, wall lights and table lamps.  Also think about the colours and shaped in the room, and choose your lighting to work with these.

Layers and zoning work to complete this lighting scheme

So that is lighting in a nutshell.  Please do get in touch if I can help you with your lighting scheme.

“In nature, light creates the colour. In the picture, colour creates the light.”
Hans Hofmann   



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Happy 2020 to you all!  I hope that you’ve had a good and restorative holiday season, and are ready to tackle this new century head on!

Whilst 2020 is still shiny and new, I thought I’d share with you some design resolutions that you can adopt in 2020 to make a positive chance to your life, as well as to our planet, to make 2020 your best year yet.

Less is More
In a world where our seas are full of plastic, and our land is suffering from ravaging wild fires and devastating floods, it is time we all looked at what we are spending our money on, and to buy wisely.  We need to be considering quality rather than quantity.   We need to be choosing sustainability over depletion.  And we need to adopt an environmentally conscious mind set.

Upcycle and Reuse
Vintage pieces are imbued with nostalgia and memory, and help to create more interesting spaces. And of course they come with the added advantage of reusing something old, rather than just buying new.

A reupholstered chair, and a mix of new and old pieces create a homely feeling in this living room

Get Personal
Personal collections are one of the best ways to turn a house into a home. Moments that draw you in and add narrative to your space – telling your story. These are the little things that make you smile.

Objects collected over time are displayed on this mantle piece

Add Some Colour
Adding a splash of colour to a room can instantly liven up the space, giving it a new perspective and completely changing the way that we FEEL and BEHAVE in the space.

Play with Pattern
If you’re nervous of adding colour, or unsure what colours to together, then look to patterns instead. Mix up geometric prints with florals for balance and harmony.

Brightly patterned curtains bring this living room to life

Flower Power
Don’t underestimate the effect of flowers on our well-being.  Flowers signify renewal.  They add colour, shape and texture to our spaces.  They help us to connect with nature.

Fresh flowers add the finishing touch to this dining room

Choose Natural Materials
The air quality in our homes is generally 10x more polluted than the air on a busy high street, largely down to the invisible off-gassing of the products that we fill our homes with.  It’s time we started placing as much emphasis on what we put into our homes as what we put into our bodies.

Wooden floors and a wool rug bring natural materials into this space

Banish the Clutter
Clutter creates stress, filling our homes with negative energy.  There is something gently meditative about sorting through our excess stuff, while turning chaos in to order.

Invest in Relaxation
In the fast-paced world that we live in, it is so important to give as much weight to downtime as to action time.  We need to design spaces in our homes where we can unwind, relax and recharge our batteries

This bathroom provides the perfect relaxation space

Let’s make 2020 the year where we transform our homes into spaces that support our health, happiness and well-being!

“The home should be the treasure chest of living.”
Le Corbusier

A couple of days ago the doorbell rang.  It was a delivery driver asking if I’d accept delivery of a parcel on behalf of my neighbour.  Before she left, she turned to me and said “Your house has such a happy feeling to it”. 

What colour, or combination of colours, we chose to use in each room directly affects how we feel, think and behave.  So, following on from last week’s post about using colour in our homes, today we work our way through the remaining colours, as we think about how we want our spaces to FEEL, what sort of behaviours we want to see in each room, and the different effects that each colour has on us? 

Purple
Purple has the shortest wavelength on the colour spectrum.  Being a mix of blue and red, purple is associated with spiritual awareness and reflection.  Purple hues include lavender, lilac, mauve, violet, magenta, plum and aubergine.

Purple can be used to great effect in bedrooms to create a quiet, reflective space, and in meditation rooms.  Avoid using purple in kitchens and dining rooms, as the blue elements of this colour will negatively affect the appetite.

Blue
Blue is the world’s favourite colour, and is the colour of the sky and the sea.  Blue includes powder blue, periwinkle, duck egg, teal, cerulean, turquoise, cobalt, indigo and ultramarine.

Light blue is mentally calming, and is a great colour to use in bedrooms, to help you relax before sleep, or in a home office to stimulate creative thinking.  Dark blue is mentally stimulating, and is a great colour to induce focus and concentration in a home office.  Blue is not the best choice of colour for a kitchen as it causes appetite suppression.  It’s also best avoided in any space that already feels cold, and too much blue can result in a space that feels depressing.

Image: Consort

Green
Green is the colour of balance and harmony, and we find it a very reassuring colour on a very primitive level.   Green ranges in colour from lime, pistachio, mint, aqua, pea green, bottle green, olive, khaki, avocado, sage, emerald, jade, chartreuse and verdigris.

Green works well in a few different spaces in a home, but particularly in bedrooms, living rooms and home offices.  However, be aware of using too much green in a space as this can lead to feelings of stagnation and lack of motivation.

Brown
Brown is the colour of the earth and wood, and is dependable and reassuring; cosy and warm.  Brown ranges from beige, buff, tan, sepia and taupe, to rich umber, chocolate, coffee and chestnut browns.

Brown conveys a feeling of understated refinement, and is great for living rooms and home offices.  However, the adverse heaviness of this colour means that it’s not so good to use in nurseries, and too much brown in a space can leave you feeling stuck.

Black
Black is glamorous, elegant and sophisticated on the one hand, but can feel aggressive, heavy and suffocating.  This is a colour to be used sparingly, and it can make small spaces feel smaller and more claustrophobic.  Shades of black include kohl, obsidian, charcoal, jet and pitch black.

Image: Splinter Society Architecture

Grey
The recent popularity of grey is on the wane, possibly due to the adverse, draining effect of using too much of this colour. 

In the home, grey works well as a backdrop colour, but it should be avoided in nurseries and bedrooms, where you are likely to wake up feeling tired, as well as any areas where creativity is needed.  Being surrounded by too much grey can leave you feeling depleted and drained.

I hope that these two posts have inspired you to think about how you use colour in your own home.  Do leave a comment with any questions you might have.

I’ll be back in 2020 with lots more posts to help you to create a home that encourages wellness.  In the meantime, happy Christmas!

  • Posted in Interior Design | Comments Off on How to use Colour to Set the Mood in your Home – Part 2

A large part of designing a home for well-being involves thinking about how we want our spaces to FEEL!  What sort of behaviours do you want to see in each room?  Do you want your living room to be a space where social conversations are held, or is it somewhere to watch TV?  In your home office, do you need somewhere that helps you to think creatively, or a space that nurtures focus and concentration?  And if it’s a space for children, should it calm them, or encourage noisy play? 

What colour, or combination of colours, we chose to use in each room directly affects how we feel, think and behave.   In this two part post, I’m going to look at the main colours in our world, and the different effects that they have on us.

White
White is the colour of purity, simplicity and peace.  It can clear a cluttered mind and provide emotional safety.  However, too much white and a space will begin to feel cold, sterile and isolating.  White includes ivory, chalk, cream, oyster lead white and pure white.

Image: Build by Design

Yellow
Yellow is linked to our nervous system and is emotionally stimulating.  Yellow boosts our self-esteem, helping us to feel more confident and optimistic.  Popular yellows include buttermilk, daffodil, lemon, sunflower, saffron and mustard.

Yellow is a great colour to brighten dark spaces, such as hallways which don’t often get much natural light.  And a yellow front door creates a friendly welcome to your home.  However, avoid using yellow in a bedroom, especially a children’s bedroom, where it can result in you waking up feeling irritable and anxious.

Image: Elements at Home

Orange
Orange combines the physical properties of red and the emotional effects of yellow, resulting in a colour that feels fun and playful, warm and secure, and sensual and passionate.  Orange includes peach, apricot, salmon, pumpkin, terracotta, amber and burnt orange.

It is also a great colour for stimulating the appetite, so is perfect to use in kitchens and dining rooms.  The softer tones of orange are also good colours to use in a bedroom, but avoid using orange in a study or meditation room as it can be difficult to concentrate when surrounded by this colour.

Image: Best Home Design

Pink
Pink is a much softer version of red, and is associated with empathetic love and nurturing care.  Pinks include bubble-gum pink, blush pink, nude, shell, rose and dusty pink, through to strong pinks such as puce, magenta, fuchsia and shocking pink.

Pink is a great colour to use in nurseries (due to its soothing properties), and bedrooms, however the adverse effect of too much pink will result in a space that is physically draining, leaving you feeling emotionally fragile.

Image: Tamara Magel Design

Red
Red is the most visible colour on the spectrum (as it has the longest wavelength), and has a physical effect on us.  Red is a colour that wants to get noticed!  Reds range in colour from watermelon, strawberry, raspberry, and cherry, through to russet, burgundy, maroon, cochineal and scarlet red.

Red is a great colour to use in a bedroom to invoke feelings of passion, and in a dining room it will stimulate conversation, although be careful not to use too much red as this can cause conversations to become heated.

Image: Design by Martyn Lawrence-Bullard

I hope this has given you a few ideas of how to use colour in your spaces to create the desired mood and behaviours.  I will continue working though the colour spectrum in my next blog post in two weeks’ time.  Until then, have a colourful couple of weeks!

“The whole idea of certain colours conflicting violently with others was nonsense dreamed up by a lot of genteel women in the 1930s. Colours do not clash — they vibrate… So do not be afraid to use colour freely. Have courage. As with drawing, painting, acting or any creative activity, you must attack with strength.”
David Hicks

  • Posted in Interior Design | Comments Off on How to use Colour to Set the Mood in your Home – Part 1

Sustainability is another hot topic these days, and I think it’s probably fair to say that we are all choosing to be more sustainable in our day-to-day lives.  However, how do we extend that sustainable mind-set to an interior design project, where quite often we just want to get rid of the old, and bring in the new.    As designers, this is definitely something that we need to become more mindful of.  As Albert Einstein so rightly said, “The world will not evolve past its current state of crisis by using the same thinking that created the situation.”

Rapture and Wright hand print their fabrics using traditional methods, and a pond system filters, treats and disperses waste water from the printing process.

But, where did it all start?

To answer this question, we need to go back in time to the industrial revolution – a period of massive and rapid change, but also one of great optimism and faith in the progress of humankind.  Prior to this, agriculture had been the main occupation for centuries, and industry only consisted of craftspeople working individually as a side venture to farming.  But, with the invention of the spinning jenny, patented in 1770, this was all to change as industrialists, engineers and designers worked to make products as efficiently as possible and to get the greatest volume of goods to the largest number of people.  The result was huge economic growth and a more equitable standard of living to both rich and poor.

Benchmark’s solid timber furniture is free of  harmful chemicals and meets the standards for WELL certified buildings.

However, for all its good, the industrial revolution has also resulted in billions of tonnes of toxic material being put into the air, water, and soil, requiring thousands of complex regulations to keep people from being poisoned too quickly, as well as eroding the diversity of species and cultural practices.  Early industries relied on a seemingly endless supply of natural resources. 

Earthborn Paints were awarded the first UK licence of the EU Ecolabel for Indoor Paints and Varnishes.

Many of the raw materials used in modern manufactured products are actually harmful to humans, and the off-gassing from these products (appliances, carpets, wallpaper adhesives, paints, building materials, etc) results in the average indoor air quality being more contaminated than outdoor air, leading to a general decline in health.

Artisanne baskets are are made using traditional Senegalese weaving techniques, sustainable ndiorokh grasses and long strips of repurposed plastic.

Today our understanding of the natural environment has changed dramatically, and many companies are starting to implement processes that look after the environment – from resource management to the products they make and the way they make them.  Sustainability also considers the way companies manage their workshops and surroundings as well as how they look after their employees.

Skinflint find, salvage and restore vintage lights.

Artisans are producing unique pieces made using natural and reclaimed materials.  Sustainable materials are being introduced.  Upcycled and vintage pieces, imbued with nostalgia and memory, are being specified.  And under-privileged communities around the world are being supported by these collaborations.  Design is becoming environmentally conscious as the world embraces taking responsibility for the environment.  And our homes are becoming safer places for us to live in!

A Rum Fellow work with Maya weaving cooperatives in Guatemala to create works of art on cloth, supporting the female weavers and promoting their incredible textile art. 

And as a designer I try to make it my business to know which companies are striving to produce sustainably, and to work with those companies.  But I also work with clients to see which of their existing possessions can be reused in a new scheme, whilst still giving them the interior of their dreams.

“Glance at the sun.
See the moon and the stars.
Gaze at the beauty of earth’s greenings.
Now, think.”

Hildegard von Bingen

Image credits from respective companies.

  • Posted in Interior Design | Comments Off on Sustainability and Well-being

When you think about your home, does it make you smile?  Does your home inspire you; fill you with energy and creativity?  And how can tangible things create an intangible feeling of joy anyway?

Research has shown that there are certain properties that define the way an object looks and feels that give rise to the feeling of joy.  These aesthetics speak directly to our unconscious minds, without us even being aware of it.  Here are some of the ways that you can start crafting more joy in your home:

Introduce Colour and Light

All over the world, bright vivid colours are associated with joyful occasions – from the Carnival in Brazil, to India’s Holi festival.  In Ingrid Fetell Lee’s book Joyful, she says “Colour is energy made visible.  … [It] is an indication of the richness of our surroundings.”  Lively colours seem to radiate optimism and sunshine, and help us to marshal the energy we need.

However, in order to see colour we need light.  “Light is colour’s power supply.”  Humans are intrinsically attracted to light, and naturally congregate where the brightest spots of light are.  Think of the joy that is sparked on seeing steaks of sunlight coming through the window.  But what is also important is to have lighting that is variable, rather than uniform.

Layer Texture and Pattern

I don’t know about you, but when I visit places such as Morocco, India, Barcelona, Turkey and Thailand, as a tourist taking in the architecture around me, it is the buildings that are the most gaudily decorated that grab my attention and make me want to pick up my camera and capture that feeling to bring home with me.

This layering of colour, texture and pattern provides a sensorial richness, and a sense of abundance that is not only pleasurable, but vital to healthy neural development.  An environment that is too minimalistic acts as an anaesthetic, numbing our senses and emotions.  Pattern also brings with it the structured repetition of elements.  It enables us to feel abundance without it feeling overwhelming.

Group Items Together to Create Symmetry and Harmony

Try to arrange similar objects in geometric configurations to bring a sense of order and feeling of ease to a space.  Order is the tangible manifestation of harmony through balance, rhythm and repetition.  Repeating colours, shapes or textures in different parts of a room helps us to view the room as a whole, and brings structure to the complexity. 

Having order allows energy to flow around a space, and creates good visual flow as well, and will allow your body to relax, rather than getting sub-consciously stressed by obstacles and clutter.  If your environment makes you feel stable, balanced and grounded you’re more likely to reflect these behaviours too.

Incorporate Curved Forms

Circles and spheres are implicitly associated with safety and positivity.  There are no sharp angles to risk injury.  Round shapes subconsciously open us up to our playful impulses.  Think pom-poms sewn along the edge of a cushion, round side tables, or the Ball chair.

A round dining table creates a much more social dining experience, allowing guests to come together in a single conversation, and interact in a much more personal way.  And a spiral staircase brings a powerful kind of dynamism into a space.

Create Negative Space

Negative space is the space around and between objects.  Having more space allows for a greater freedom of movement.  It also reduces the visual weight of a space, so objects with perforations will appear lighter than solid ones.  Think slender legs on furniture, translucent materials and lighter colours.

Draw the Eye Up

Drawing the eye up by highlighting the vertical dimensions of a room will create a space that feels uplifting.  Think of your ceiling as the fifth wall, and pay as much attention to its decoration as you would your walls.  Think of painted ceilings in churches and mosques.  Incorporate decorative light fittings.  And if you’re stuck with low ceilings, then opt for low-slung furniture instead.

The height of a room can also be accentuated by using tall plants / sculptures, built-in bookshelves, full-length curtains, and wallpaper with a vertical pattern.

Add Some Magic and Sense of Celebration

A mobile that sways gently on a breeze, prismatic glass that creates rainbow reflections, mirrors that  create the illusion of a larger space, and mirror balls and surfaces that shimmer and sparkle all add a sense of magic to a space.

Shapes that burst out from the centre, like fireworks, have long been a part of celebrations around the world.  Think tassels and juju hats, a starburst mirror, or a chandelier that captures the bursting quality of light in static form.

Flowers are also a great of capturing so many of the elements listed above.  Flowers come in different colours, and their shapes vary too – from cups to cones, stars to clusters.  Floral forms are found on fabrics and wallpapers.  As Fetell Lee says, “Flowers bring an element of nature’s dynamism into the more static context of the man-made world”. 

Ingrid Fetell Lee  sums it up so beautifully – “The problem is that without joy, we may be surviving, but we are not thriving.  If we rarely laugh or play, if we never have glimpses of magic … or bursts of celebration, then no matter how well fed and comfortable we are, we are not truly alive.”

  • Posted in Interior Design | Comments Off on Does Your Home Bring You Joy?

As an interior designer, often when I first visit my client’s house, I find spaces completely devoid of personality.  Rooms full of furniture, but nothing that grounds the space to create a relaxing, cosy environment.  Things just feel a bit off key, lacking those final finishing touches.

Whether you’re a minimalist, a maximalist, or somewhere in between like me, our homes should be our personal sanctuaries – spaces that restore our equilibrium in this world and remind us of our journey through life.  They should be a reflection of your success and individual lifestyle, and represent your style and passions. So how do you ensure that your home tells your story?  Here are my top tips:

  1. Don’t Rush It

Think of your home as a giant cabinet of curiosities.  Allow your collection to evolve organically, so don’t rush out and just buy everything in one go.  Take your time to shop from different stores.  Pick up mementos from your travels.  Leave space to buy that item you’re going to fall in love with next month, or next year.

  1. Bring in Some Vintage

Balance newer items with some vintage pieces to ensure the space feels full of character but also fresh.  Vintage accessories and furniture seem to add a historic presence to a space that new objects cannot, giving your home warmth and complexity.  Vintage pieces also have the added advantage of being very sustainable, from an environmental perspective, and can be updated and painting if necessary. 

  1. Add Colour

Add some of your favourite colours to your rooms.  Don’t be scared to experiment – if you paint something and you don’t like the colour, you can always paint over it.  Or start small, with some colourful accessories.  However, be sure to keep everything within the same colour tonal family, otherwise the colours will jar, and the space won’t feel restful.  And think carefully about what colours you put in what room, depending on how you room to feel.

  1. Mix it up with Pattern

Pattern is a great way to add colours to a scheme, as it can be much more subtle than plain blocks of colour.  Try to mix in small scale, medium scale and large scale prints for the best effect.  If having a patterned sofa is too much for you, then have a plain sofa with patterned cushions, and a smaller patterned chair. 

  1. Layer in Texture

Layering in textures is an easy way to add a feel of luxury to your home.  Think a soft rug on a hard floor, glossy metallic accessories mixed with matt, a velvet sofa with silky cushions.  Adding in different textures to a space creates visual and tactile diversity.

  1. Create Interest at Different Levels

Think about how your eye will travel around your space.  You want it to move up and down and it moves around your room – from that beautiful rug on the floor, to the collection of cushions on your sofa, to the art above, to the statement decorative pendant, back down to that cute little chair in the corner, and so on. 

  1. Add your own Personal Touches

This is the final piece to the puzzle.  It’s time to add your art and family photographs, display your collections, and showcase your books and ornaments.  Group pieces in odd numbers and mix up materials and heights.  Display things symmetrically for a balanced feel, or play with scale and position to add an element of play and surprise.

Most importantly, remember that you are creating a home for you and your family to live in, not just a neutral space to resell at some point in the future.  Keep your choices personal to you, and use the language of design to tell your story!

“Serious is a word that must be entirely avoided when it comes to decoration.”
Kathryn Ireland

  • Posted in Interior Design | Comments Off on Seven Ways to Transform your House into your own Personal Sanctuary

Yesterday was World Mental Health Day, so I thought I would spend some time on today’s blog post looking at the affect that our homes can have on our mental health.  With humans increasingly spending up to 90% of their lives indoors, there is a growing body of scientific evidence showing that how we design our spaces has a direct impact on us psychologically and physically, and therefore on our overall health, happiness and well-being.

In recent years, there has been a significant increase in awareness of how our well-being is inherently linked to many aspects of the world around us – what we eat, how much we exercise, how we factor relaxation into our daily routines, and how much sleep we get.  Yet, if you visit your GP / psychologist / therapist, how often do they talk to you about your home or work environment?

In my view, there are four main ways that we can change our homes to improve our state of wellbeing.

  1. Eliminate Clutter

Marie Kondo’s The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up has climbed bestseller lists all over the world as people have embraced the awareness that clutter has a negative effect on our state of mind.  In fact, I have heard it said that being surrounded by clutter is as stressful to us as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder!  So, it goes without saying that the first thing we should do, when it comes to making improvements to our homes, is to de-clutter. 

One way to help achieve this is to have adequate storage for the possessions that we chose to hold on to.  Storage is the one thing that my clients consistently ask for as it is often distinctly lacking in homes, both new and old.  Storage ranges from having a stylish box on your coffee table to hide those ugly TV remotes, to a large bank of built-in cupboards, and everything in between!

  1. Introduce Elements of Nature

I have talked before about the importance of using biophilic design in our homes as a connection with nature has been scientifically proven to reduce stress, enhance creativity and clarity of thought, improve our well-being and speed up healing.

  1. Use Colour

Colour is an incredibly powerful tool to use in our homes.  As Karen Haller, author of The Little Book of Colour says, colour “… communicates feeling, creates a mood, affects our energy, our appetites, our sleep, and has a profound effect on our emotional wellbeing and on the behaviours of everyone we live with.”  

Colour has the power to positively support us emotionally, yet so often we chose to decorate with so called ‘neutral’ colours on behalf of the future buyer of our home, or because of what our friends and family will think if we don’t.  This results in us living in places we don’t really like, in the hope that others will.

However, it’s important to note that when choosing our colours, we need to be mindful to choose the right colour for how we want the space to feel, as well as picking the right shade for our own personalities. 

For example, red invokes a physical response – energy, excitement and passion.  Therefore you might want to use it (sparingly) in an adult’s bedroom, but not so much in a child’s bedroom or in a meditation space.  Yellow stimulates an emotional response – happiness, optimism and confidence, however too much yellow, or using the wrong tone, will lead to us feeling irritable and anxious.  Yellow should be avoided in bedrooms, but is great for hallways where it will inject a burst of sunshine and warmth.  And the so called neutral beige and grey that so many of us surround ourselves with – well, it can become heavy and draining, and make you feel stuck, non-committal and sluggish!

  1. Add Personality

This is the final item that really turns a house into a home.  Stamping our own mark on our space restores our equilibrium in this world, reminds us of our journey through life, and inspires us.

Bringing personality into our homes involves layering in pattern and texture, adding in sparkle with metallic objects, and displaying art, decorative items and collections.  It is about choosing furnishings that play with scale or proportion, and adding in items with quirky, offbeat designs.  It’s the little things that make you smile.

Your home should always tell your unique story.

With these four tips, you can transform you space into one that nurtures you psychologically and physically, contributing to your overall health, happiness and well-being.

“The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.”
Maya Angelou

  • Posted in Interior Design | Comments Off on How Do Our Homes Affect Our Mental Health?

Colour is a major element when it comes to designing our homes for well-being.  Colour imbues a space with energy, and the more energy we have, the more we are able to create, to be productive, and to engage with the world around us.  Think about the sort of things that make you smile.  That makes you pick up your camera and take a picture.  For me it is definitely brightly coloured objects – flowers, food, candy coloured houses and spectacular sunsets.  Colour literally pulls joy to the surface.

As Ingrid Lee Fettell says in her book Joyful, “Bright colour operates like a stimulant, a shot of caffeine for the eyes.  It stirs us out of complacency.”

According to Lee Fettell, in 1810 Johann Wolfgang von Goethe wrote that “savage nations, uneducated people, and children have a great predilection for vivid colours,” but that “people of refinement … seem inclined to banish them altogether from their presence.”  This mind-set has led us to believe that colour is a bad thing!  How sad is that?  When all around us, we’re surrounded by the vivid colours that nature paints, and yet too afraid to bring it into our homes.

I have previously blogged about getting colour inspirations from nature, and so this week I was delighted to receive Farrow & Ball’s new colour card – a collection of 16 colours in collaboration with the Natural History Museum.

Image © Farrow & Ball

Around 200 years ago, in the days before photography existed, Werner’s Nomenclature of Colours was published.  This book recorded in painstaking detail the exact hues and corresponding parts of animals, vegetables and minerals from across the natural world.  It became a treasured resource for scientists and artists alike, and was an indispensable tool for Charles Darwin, as he recorded his findings from the 1831–36 voyage of HMS Beagle.

Emerald Green

Working with the Natural History Museum, where a copy of this rare book sits, Farrow & Ball have developed their 16 new colours.

Broccoli Brown

For example, Broccoli Brown is the head of a Black-headed Gull and the mineral Zircon.  Ultramarine Blue is the upper side of the wings of the small blue Heath butterfly, the plant Borrage and the mineral Lapis Lazuli.  Emerald green is the beauty spot on the wing of a Teal Drake and also the colour of the mineral Emerald.

Ultramarine Blue

And of course, being a lover of nature, it’s good to know that all Farrow & Ball’s paints are eco-friendly water based paints, which was also a paramount factor for the Natural History museum entering into this collaboration

You can see the full collection of colours here.  Let me know what your favourite colour is from the collection?

“Colour is a power which directly influences the soul.”
Wassily Kandinsky

Biophilic design is increasingly becoming the buzz word of the moment, but what exactly is it?  The term Biophilia refers to our innate biological connection with nature.  It helps explain why crackling fires and crashing waves captivate us; why a garden view can enhance our creativity; why shadows instil fascination and fear; and why animal companionship has restorative, healing effects.

But why is this important?  The answer to that question is because humans are now spending around 90% of our time indoors.  And as we become more urbanised and depend more on technology, we are becoming increasingly disconnected from nature.  We exist in highly controlled spaces, with even lighting, a constant temperature, and straight lines everywhere.  But if you think about it, this is not how nature operates.  In the natural world, the light levels change throughout the day.  Shadows move around.  There are breezes, and birdsong, and not a straight line in sight! 

Biophilic design has been scientifically proven to reduce stress, enhance creativity and clarity of thought, improve our well-being and speed up healing.  And it is essential for providing people with healthy places in which to live and work. 

So how can we bring nature into our spaces?  And is there more to biophilic design than simply adding pot plants to your home?

One of the strongest aspects of biophilic design is having a visual connection with nature.  And yes, pot plants or a green wall are a part of this, but so is a water feature / aquarium, artwork depicting nature scenes, and ensuring that your furniture is laid out so as not to impede visual access to nature through the window.

Two other important aspects of biophilic design are those of Prospect and Refuge.  Prospect ensures that we have an unimpeded view over a distance, for surveillance and planning, while Refuge gives us a place for withdrawal from the environmental conditions and offers us protection.  Think of a cave man standing at the entrance to his cave, or Refuge, and surveying the surrounding countryside, or Prospect.  Our homes should include open plan layouts, balconies and landings where we can stand and survey or using transparent materials so as not to close off our views.  But these should also be balanced with intimate refuge spaces – a snug, or a window seat – where we go to relax or meditate, to read or to think.

Other ways of bringing nature into our spaces include:

  • Air movements, nature sounds and scents;
  • A combination of highly textured, diffused and natural (leather, stone, bronze, wood, etc) materials;
  • Using lighting to create pools of light, shadows and dappled light all of which can be changed throughout the day;
  • Architectural, furniture and furnishings detailing with forms and patterns suggestive in shape of a living organism;
  • A combination of complexity and order to create spaces that are engaging and information-rich – a balance between boring and overwhelming;
  • Adding a sense of mystery that entices people into our spaces.

As our world becomes ever more urbanised, the need for our designs to reconnect people to an experience of nature becomes ever more important.  For our health and well-being, biophilic design is not a luxury, it is a necessity.  If we want to create homes that are inspirational, restorative and healthy, this needs to be considered during the planning stages of building or renovating our homes, not as an added after thought once everything is complete.

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