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Holistic approach to interior designing

- Pooja Srivastav

Holistically designed rooms serve a higher purpose. Some aspects in the process include creating eco-friendly spaces and adding a touch of nature. These guide the flow of energy to create a peaceful and organic home. 

Pooja is a Dubai-based holistic interior designer and geopathic consultant

With almost 90% of our time spent inside four walls, it is obvious that the spaces we occupy have a huge effect on us – physically, emotionally, as well as visually. Bad interiors in an office could lead to employees being disengaged from tasks and even left feeling undervalued as they find their work environment ‘depressing’. Similarly, poorly designed homes could also make its occupants feel stressed. Families might find it overwhelming to manage a house that lacks storage and is cluttered. Often, owners of restaurants and shops run out of business as the visitors find the places ‘uninviting’.

A quick swab of paint is not enough to give an actual facelift to such spaces. You need to dig deeper to understand the connection between spaces and how we feel in them. We have to be mindful of the design aspect and adopt a holistic approach. Wellness in buildings is gaining momentum with media expert Oliver Heath, who is also a pioneer in the field of sustainable architectural and interior design, and Johnny Grey, British designer, author and educator who specializes in kitchens, leading the way.

Holistically designed rooms serve a higher purpose. Some aspects in the process include creating eco-friendly spaces and adding a touch of nature. These elements guide the flow of energy to create a peaceful and organic home.

There are three aspects to creating holistic interiors:

1. Physical ambience

We need to think of how the occupants of a selected space (home, office, shop, restaurants, etc) flow from one thing to another, understand their lifestyle and routine. Only then can we start planning the layout.

The designers need to be mindful of the various spaces that the occupants might find themselves in and how they might ‘feel’ physically at that moment. For example, when creating a client’s workspace or home, we have to keep in mind if they feel uncomfortable with their back to the door. Even the smallest factors need to be considered in the process of designing a comfortable space.

2. Emotional engagement

This is the hardest of the three to address but also the most exciting as it deals with colour psychology, and even neuroscience. This is what mainly influences the moods and decision making of the occupants. The research in this area is quite fascinating, but it is difficult to quantify this aspect as it is subjective. For example, individuals mostly know what they are feeling but they cannot pinpoint or relate the feeling to their environment. Therefore, it is the designer’s job to assess the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats in the environment and blend good elements into the design.

3. Visual essence

The design, texture, colours and decorations speak about who we are and our style. The aura that we fill our homes with is what tells our story. For example, we pick hotels and restaurants based on their visual appeal. The elements that we find beautiful make us happy. Thus, the visuals aspect is very important.

Role of five elements and senses in interiors:

Water is associated with the conception of new ideas, clarity of thoughts, attracting new opportunities, healing energy, providing immunity and restoring health.

It is also associated with the taste senses which govern the flow of growth of your taste in life. What we attract in life is based on this element.

Imbalance in the element results in issues related to kidney and liver and other symptoms such as water retention, low blood pressure, sleep disorder and runny nose.

Air represents growth in our life. It is also associated with movement, especially rotational movement. Thus, it brings refreshment, fun, joy and happiness in life.

Air is associated with touch senses.

Imbalance of this element leads to illnesses such as colds, cough, asthma, jaundice and eye issues.

Fire is the driving force behind all life processes and is thus equated with money in the modern era. It adds confidence and enthusiasm to one’s life.

Fire is associated with sight senses. It governs how farsighted and goal oriented a person is. It also affects the warmth in relationships and flow of income.

If fire is not balanced, one might have skin allergies, weight issues, high blood pressure and anemia.

Earth provides stability, balance, patience and maturity in character. It dominates the centre and diagonal directions in every built space.

Earth is associated with the sense of smell.

When balanced, there is stability in body, health, joints, income and relationships. If unbalanced, it could lead to depression.

Space represents expansion, enhancement, extension, communication and even thought processes (mental space).

Space is associated with the hearing sense. It governs mood swings, new ideas, conceptions and growth. To conclude, the vision behind holistic interiors is to create user-friendly spaces which nourish the body, mind and spirit and have the least possible negative impact on our community and environment.

To conclude, the vision behind holistic interiors is to create user-friendly spaces which nourish the body, mind and spirit and have the least possible negative impact on our community and environment.

Holistic interiors’ vision for body, mind and spirit is integral for creating interiors which breathe. Below are some of its attributes:

Body needs the environment and interiors which are functional and in harmony with people’s lifestyle and purpose and when holistically designed, the structure empowers individuals with physical limitations

Mind requires stress-free and organized environments where people can be productive and have limited space-related distractions

Spirit needs beautiful, warm and welcoming spaces to relax and enjoy. These spaces energize people and revive their spirit

Designing points to consider:
  • The intention needs to be to tune with the space as per solar, potential or kinetic energy
  • Holistic designing takes into account what the occupant wants to feel when they are in the room and how they want to express themselves in that surrounding
  • The interior should simply translate what the occupant needs to express on a soul level to feel at peace in their home
  • Holistic interiors re-energize the occupants after a long day of work by boosting their mood or making the process of relaxation easier or finally creating a space to help pursue the hobby they had been pushing aside
  • Holistic interiors put all of the pieces together and strive to bring wellness and contentment to the people using the spaces we design for them
Oliver Heath on Workplace Wellness

The environments we spend so much of our time in can surely play a role in how we feel in our daily lives. The right environment should make us feel comfortable and support us in our activities. With the distractions we face today from technology, it’s no wonder some of us might be finding it difficult to ‘get into the flow’ of things. Turning off your notifications and signalling that you are concentrating, by perhaps putting in headphones, could be a quick fix. However, designing our workplaces to support a range of activities, from quiet work to group meetings, would be a better solution.

Human-centered design standards focus on physiological and psychological wellbeing by discussing factors such as ‘mind’ and ‘comfort’ to improve our daily experience of the spaces we spend so much of our time.

Connecting with nature has been found to have a range of positive effects on our mood and mental health. In fact, time in nature is now being prescribed by healthcare experts as a treatment for depression and anxiety. Of course, going for a country walk every day may be unrealistic for most of us, however following Biophilic Design (bringing nature and natural elements into the built environment using design principles) can improve health, overall wellbeing, productivity, and, well, happiness!

Studies have found that 10% of absenteeism can be attributed to offices with no connection to nature. However, incorporating living elements (such as daylight, greenery, views, water, natural materials, and patterns, textures and colours that mimic nature) into the workplace can:

• Reduce attention fatigue

• Increase wellbeing by 15%, productivity by 6% and creativity by 15%

• Lower heart rate and blood pressure, reduce stress, and enhance positive emotions, concentration and memory restoration

• Increase the feeling of comfort

• Reset our Circadian Rhythms which, in turn, increases wellbeing and performance

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