The Psychological Impact of Interior Design

What is interior design? How is it different from interior decorating?

Both disciplines work together to create functional and beautiful interior spaces. Yet, there are significant differences at the fundamental level.

Interior decorating is the art of achieving a client-specific aesthetic while maintaining a space’s functionality and beauty with intelligent furnishing and decorative adornment.

Interior design is the art and science of understanding human behavior, both individually and in a group, to develop creative and technical solutions for functional and attractive interior spaces that benefit occupants emotionally and mentally.

Through observation alone, architectural design industry professionals have widely recognized the psychological impact of interior design for decades. However, it was not until recently that we had officially accredited data to share with clients.

Keep reading to learn how interior designers use neuroscience and psychology to create comforting spaces for your subconscious.

Psychology of Space

Space (environmental) psychology studies our behavioral responses to the surrounding built and natural environment and how those spaces impact solitary and group settings.

The subconscious and conscious minds influence our behaviors in any given space.

When interior designers look to create functional solutions, their goal is to tap into the subconscious of the future occupants. This is easier said than done.

The human subconscious is an incredibly complex puzzle that neuroscientists and psychologists are still working to complete.

Our subconscious elicits emotional and behavioral impulses associated with perceived threats, including stress responses (fight, flight, freeze, or fawn).

Human Instinct & Neuroarchitecture

While everybody has unique subconscious reactions to a space, the scientific community confidently theorizes that the brain’s ability to catalog perceived threats, calming colors, or stimulating patterns stems from the environmental factors of modern human ancestors.

The oldest known existence of modern humans is estimated to be around 300,000 years old, along with the appearance of specialized tools that allowed our ancestors to hunt more evasive and dangerous animals.

Thus, our altered means of survival and way of life shifted our brain chemistry and how we perceived our environments.


Neuroarchitecture, in combination with neuroaesthetics, is the practice of architectural and interior design to create engaging spaces that illicit positive psychological responses.

Developing an effective neuroarchitectural process relies on our current understanding of human evolutionary cognitive adaption and how that translates to modern environmental triggers and behavioral responses.

Explaining Neuroaesthetics

Interior designers use neuroaesthetics, alterable psychologically influential spatial characteristics, to create inclusive, comforting, and joyful interior environments:

  • Amplitude
  • Art
  • Coherence
  • Color
  • Complexity
  • Identifiable
  • Lighting
  • Shapes
  • Social
  • Sound
  • Temperature
  • Texture

Professionals focusing on neuroarchitecture consider all the above sensory characteristics with an inclusive lens to fit the needs of future occupants. Thus, producing an interior that appropriately includes the function of the space while providing an emotionally and mentally supportive environment that promotes calmness, happiness, peacefulness, and productivity.

Interior Design Choices That Comfort Your Mind

Generally, specific interior design choices that scientists have researched and interior designers have observed to be beneficial to overall health induce positive sensory processing by adopting and enhancing instinctively preferred characteristics of the natural environment:


When possible, spaces should rely heavily on natural lighting rather than artificial. Strategic designs will produce as much natural light as possible within the parameters of a structure’s overall architectural design while allowing the space’s light to follow the sun’s movement throughout the day.


Whether someone can listen to music for hours or if they prefer to go without it, everyone still has a biological reaction to the sounds around them. Designers can alter dimensions, materials, and shapes to manipulate the general cadence and volume of the sounds that occupants, street traffic, etc., may produce.


Our brains naturally prefer patterns, particularly fractal imagery. Fractals, never-ending complex patterns, pictures of “chaos.”

The natural environment consists of fractals both visible to the human eye and at microscopic levels (trees, mountains, clouds, etc.). Our brain chemistry evolved just as the world evolved around us.

Fractal imagery is a subconsciously familiar and pleasing sight!

The conscious brain may not directly acknowledge the perceived fractals as specific patterns. However, you will not consciously produce a negative response without a subconsciously triggered stress response.


Researchers have identified that the subconscious often perceives curved edges, rounded shapes, and spheres as approachable and friendly, promoting balance, comfort, and softness.

This natural use of shapes creates a peaceful and calm environment beneficial to the general population, particularly individuals who experience anxiety and those prone to sensory overload.

From rounded entryways and windows, interior designers may purposefully construct a space to match and enhance décor such as:

  • Round Mirrors,
  • Circular Coffee Tables,
  • Curved-Edged Furniture, and
  • More!

Neuroarchitecture Hits the Mainstream

Designers have been practicing and implementing neuroarchitecture and neuroaesthetics for decades. Unfortunately, it was only possible to incorporate the concepts into the marketed services with significant scientific evidence.

Today, we finally have accurate data and lived experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The psychological repercussions of the prolonged severe isolation, stress, anxiety, and more, compelled many homeowners to reevaluate the select spaces they were forced to limit themselves to.

That significant influx of client design requests for interiors promoting and maintaining psychological and physical health and wellness continues to persist.

Design A Home That Works for You!

At Mitchell Wall Architecture & Design, we approach our projects with functional and thoughtful lenses. We’ll give you everything you always wanted and never knew you needed.

We dedicate our energy to refining each detail of your design, ensuring the spacial dynamics address your functional and aesthetic must-haves that provide feelings of comfort, joy, safety, and satisfaction.

To learn more about our quality interior design services, please visit

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