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How to Reduce Stress and Anxiety with Interior Design

After a hard day, can you relax and re-energise once you close your front door?

If the answer is no then your home may be out of balance.  If our built environments are out of balance with our human experience they will affect us subconsciously either manifesting as, or contribute to stress and anxiety.

Interior Design Benefits our Wellbeing

There is increasing recognition that good, considered interior design intrinsically benefits our wellbeing – it is not just about the aesthetics!  Thankfully, the difficult job of studying, theorising and evidencing has been ongoing for centuries so there is a wealth of knowledge, experience and expertise enabling us to create beautiful and healthy interiors with practical and enjoyable solutions.

Perhaps the best way to explain this is to start with a message received from a client following the extension and redecoration of their family home.

Reducing Anxiety

Admittedly it was an extensive project but implementing any one of the following elements will make a significant difference to a sense of wellness and help reduce anxiety.

Ann said ‘The unexpected side effects have both stunned and delighted me. Redefining the rooms and giving each room a clear function not only has changed the look and flow of the house, but also family life!

The children used to rarely play computer games together, but now they play games, watch a film together in the den and use the study for their homework which they also do together. It may take longer but judging by the chatter and laughter it’s a lot more fun.

The transformation is stunning, and the positive impact on our way of living downstairs is amazing’.

The house was out of balance in every way:  each room had multiple uses, treasured items were not noticeable, the colour scheme used throughout was dated and ‘old’ and not a reflection of the young, fun loving family at all. They loved the location but not the house and felt very unsettled and wanted to move. This alone was causing anxiety for everyone.



reducing anxiety, stress, anxiety

(Image by Oliver Pullmann Photography)

So what did we do that created such a transformation?

We began by applying the first principal of interior design: ‘balance and proportion in all things.

Starting with Function each room was given a clear identity and purpose restoring the balance of activity, so one person watching TV was not distracted by someone else doing their drum practice!

  • Bedrooms should be a sanctuary, ideally make them TV free or limit screen time on portable devices.
  • Keep furniture appropriate to the room, maintaining as much free floor space as possible to create flow and ‘airiness’.
  • Plan the furniture and layout of family spaces to create sociability. A space feels more comfortable and harmonious when we are able to move freely around a room, open doors fully and have unobscured views of the outside.
  • For multi function rooms make sure that the zones are defined and furniture layout well planned. Incorporate sufficient and appropriate storage as it’s very easy to for one activity to creep and take over.
  • Careful design to ensure that the kitchen space is efficient and keep counter surfaces as clear as possible.
  • For all other surfaces think about what you want to display, treasured possessions that have meaning to you. Also allow the surface to show so that you see the beauty of the wood, stone or glass.

Restoring balance with colour, what colour to use, why and in what proportion?

Reduce Stress and Anxiety with Colour

Why because colour has a direct psychological effect on our mood and energy.

The proportion of one colour with another is important to create balance. Simply painting equal amounts of two colours is not necessarily a balanced scheme.

To lessen anxiety, select the colours that will provide you with the positive benefits that you seek. The best colours for reducing stress and anxiety are those relate to the natural world:

  • Blues including aqua and turquoise are proven to create a sense of peace, stability, calmness, confidence and tranquillity.
  • Greens are naturally associated with life, growth, healing, safety and relaxation.

Green can be used with most other colours subject to tone and of course balance and proportion. Sharp lime is great with turquoise or pink for a fresh, invigorating pop of colour.  If combining colour is a challenge, a safe approach is to use tones of a single colour to create harmony or look at the combinations in nature; lavender plants are a perfect example of mauve hues with soft grey/ green.

  • Reds associated with danger and urgency can also increase heart rate so best avoided to aid reducing anxiety. Pink however, is a great colour as it’s cheerful without the forcefulness of red and can be used 50:50 with greens. Orange is also an energetic colour and when used as an accent colour (no more than 30%) with a blue scheme has a very positive impact.

Privacy reduces Anxiety

De-stress and build resilience.

Sense of privacy is a very important aspect to gaining confidence and reducing anxiety to provide the shelter and sanctuary that you need from the world around you to make you feel safe, warm and protected.

Overcoming the sense of lack of privacy can make a huge difference to our sense of well-being.  We can’t always change or influence the architecture of our home but it is possible to make ourselves literally feel more comfortable on the inside. The use of privacy blinds is a very economic and chic way of providing privacy allowing light to filter in to the room, often the quality of light is improved as glare is reduced.

One of my clients did not like using the bedroom during the day as he always had the feeling that he could be seen from the houses opposite and by passers-by. With the privacy blinds he now feels comfortable and relaxed, able to use the bedroom freely to take some quiet time to lay on the bed and read during the day.

Back to Nature Promotes Wellness

As with colour, having connection with nature and out-doors makes us feel better and satisfies our senses. Incorporating natural materials and textures in our interiors in a sustainable way has benefits at all levels.

Many studies conclude that we don’t even have to be outside simply looking at a picture of trees in particular can make us feel better. Using indoor plants can be hugely beneficial improving air quality by using up CO2 during the day and improving humidity. However, not all interior spaces provide enough light or you may be better at killing plants than nurturing them so it’s good to know that good quality false plants provide the same wellness benefits!


nature, wellness, stress, anxiety

(Images by Joanne Tolner Photography)

Using natural materials in this dining room has the added benefit of improving the acoustics by counteracting the bouncing of sound off the hard, shiny glass, plaster and stone surfaces, a large wool rug, solid timber furniture, upholstered chairs and wall covering with a tree bark pattern. There is no TV in this room to detract from the pleasure of dining together.

stress, wellness, healthy, destress, anxietyImage by Joanne Tolner Photography

Balance and Proportion Promotes Wellness

In conclusion, our sense of well-being just like nature is at its best when it is in balance.

Apply balance and proportion in all things to de-stress our built environments and ourselves by editing, simplifying and incorporating natural elements.

Without exception, irrespective of the original reason and motivation every client has cited that they have gained enormous emotional benefits and improved well-being personally and as a family as a result of changing their interior.

Many thanks to Claire Tull for this amazing article.

Please leave a comment and share with your friends.

Claire Tull BIID Registered Interior Designer

Claire can be contacted on                       [email protected]

Studio 12 Designs established in 1998 by Claire Tull provides a unique interior design service influenced and informed by her hospitality industry experience and training. Whether for residential or commercial clients, each design brief forms the menu – to be devised, planned, tested for balance, colour, texture, scale and proportion and then executed to perfection.

















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