In order to design a calm enjoyable environment where one can focus and be creative, certain things like avoiding using very bright energizing colors may seem obvious. The truth however is far more complex and relative than we may think. Even though there are certain research findings which seem to help us by offering certain guidelines to create environments conducive to relaxation and concentration, the truth is highly subjective and relative.
For example, we know that that the color yellow is mind stimulating and thus would not be the ideal color for a bedroom or for the home of a hyperactive person. We also know that blue is calming and lowers the blood pressure. So what could be the ideal color for a study?
Well, yellow may help certain people concentrate as it stimulates the mind but it may be too stimulating depending on the hue and brightness of the color. Blue on the other hand may be too calming or depressing for certain individuals and not the ideal color to be productive in.
In short there is no one size fits all answer here and one needs to explore each individual’s needs and effects of color.
Even though walls are the largest surfaces of our space along with the ceilings, whether they will be overpowering or not depends not only on what color they are painted in but also on how much of their surface is bare with color or covered with art, tapestries or photographs, shelves, upright furniture etc. It is the general overall effect that matters most in creating a soothing or a more energizing environment more than the color alone of the walls.
Usually the safest bet is using neutrals and accessorize with other more stimulating colors in order to give some interest and vibrancy to a space. Contrasts work well in creating clear boundaries and bringing forward features that would otherwise be lost in the background of a monochromatic color scheme which may feel too bland or uninteresting to some people.
To make matters even more complicated, colors can be classified as warm or cool depending on their ‘temperature’. Cooler neutrals usually give a sense of peace and calm and warmer neutrals offer an added sensation of ‘warmth’ that may be more soothing for some people than the cooler tones. Warmth is associated with life and activity, whereas coolness is more associated with rest and calm, sometimes too much so that it may feel depressing to some.
Yet even in so called cool colors there may be warmer tones and in so called warm colors, there may be cooler tones. For example a bright orange red for example will be highly stimulating and warm whereas a cool wine red even though it will still feel energizing it will also feel more soothing than the orangey red.
Same with blues, some blues are warmer or cooler than others and will have very different effect from one another. Really cool blues like Ultramarine blue for example may get depressing for some people, whereas a Cerulean blue may not. Having said that, warm tone colors can feel more overpowering than cooler tone colors.
Additionally muted colors of whatever range, usually those shaded with black, can blend very well with almost most neutrals and create a rather soothing and calming effect.
Apart from colors, shapes themselves can be extremely important in creating or not a calming or soothing effect. A highly modern, high tech home for example with sharp angles and irregular shapes will feel less relaxing and soothing than a more traditional one, with less angles in the space and more regular shapes thus creating a more familiar and predictable environment.
For example, a space with irregular, sharp angle room shapes, white or vibrant colors, with several cutting corners protruding into the space, with lots of glass surfaces and metallic furniture in sharp shapes, will feel very different to a more regular room shape, with traditional windows, muted neutral colors and wooden furniture in softer shapes. Even though aesthetically the design of the first one may be interesting and pleasing to some people, by its very nature it is not an environment conducive to soothing feelings and relaxation, but more so its shape and materials are more dynamic and conducive to mental stimulation, alertness and high energy.
In order to have a good concentration most people need an environment that has few distractions, that is sensibly tidy and organized. One that is not too stimulating but not too soothing or too boring either. By distractions I mean things like clutter and general mess, yet again it depends on the person. Some people cannot sit down and get to work if their room is cluttered, others cannot feel comfortable in a super tidy or bare environment.
One needs to have some level of self awareness and know what works best for them. If you know clutter and untidiness in your environment is causing you stress and it distracts you, obviously the solution is to first clear it out and tidy the room up before engaging in any activity that requires concentration.
If on the other hand you are a person who needs to feel enveloped by your belongings and have them all around you to feel cosy and nurtured, you know that a clinically bare environment will be too sterile and cold for you and act as a distraction you won’t be able to take your mind off. For some people having an environment filled with objects acts like a background noise which helps them concentrate. We are all different, with unique needs, the key is to know what these are.
Similarly some people need silence, whereas others need a background noise such as music in order to focus and concentrate better. Sometimes just a soft white noise can do the trick, other times one needs something louder. Personally I love nature sounds like a trickling stream and bird songs in the forest when am working on the computer. It helps keep me in a relaxed state but not too much so as to want to fall asleep.
Textures are another important thing. Rough, sharp, cold and hard surfaces are obviously not conducive to relaxation because to the body and mind they feel uncomfortable and aggressive. Unless you need to be able to stay awake all night, such an environment will feel too harsh and unfriendly.
On the other hand a room with heavy velvet drapes, chenille covered deep sinking couches, thick carpets, rich deep colors, will not probably keep you on your toes and will incite you to lounge, indulge in a cookie or a scotch or two and be much more relaxed and laid back, perhaps far more than you might want or need to in order to engage in highly focused and productive work.
As with everything balance is key. That along with self awareness and some basic knowledge about the effects of colors, textures and materials, shapes and forms, will help you figure out what is the ideal environment for you. One in which you will be able to feel relaxed and safe enough but also energized and focused enough in order to do the work you want to do.
If you are a minimalist by nature, you will find busy environments too overwhelming and overstimulating. If you are a maximalist you will find minimalist interiors too austere and feel sensory deprived. Finding the right balance for you and what you want to achieve takes a bit of experimenting.
On another note, if you tend to be easily distracted, hyperactive and forgetful, good organization is key. Having a place for everything and putting everything in its place is perhaps your number one aim and challenge. Make things easy for you by giving yourself a well-organized environment.
Having your cupboards and drawers well organized, labeling everything according to categories, having a few designated spots in the house where you can leave important items such as keys, wallet, cell phone and glasses in a bowl/basket/tray, keeping everything you need to do a task close by where you are actually engaging in that task and not in the next room, are but a few examples.
Some people like to have everything exposed in plain view, so that they do not forget what is hiding behind a closed cupboard, others may feel too overstimulated by having so many items in plain view and want them neatly stored behind closed cupboards. The right solution for you may be a combination of both. Store in cupboards things you use less often and have in plain view items you use every day or several times a day.
Furthermore, if you want to encourage yourself to engage in your favorite hobby or get yourself back to drawing for example, do not hide all your drawing gear in a drawer in a cupboard in the guest room for example, but keep it all in plain view in the room where you are most likely to engage in drawing. You may use a nice vintage little suitcase that you can leave open in the corner of your room, or have everything ready on a desk or table for you to see and sit down and draw. In other words, make what you want to use easily accessible. What is visible is remembered what is hidden gets forgotten.
· Start by defining what your needs are. What you want to achieve, what kind of activities you want to engage in your house, how you want to feel.
· Ask yourself what you need to have in place in your house in order for these needs to be met and then go ahead and organize your space in a way that will make this possible.
· Determine what your basic preferences are, do you need a minimalist, maximalist or in between environment?
· Which colors have which effect on you? Which ones make you feel more relaxed, energized, at peace, nurtured?
· Use a paint color visualizer to help you visualize the effects of different color schemes.
· What kind of design theme/atmosphere you want to create in your space that will satisfy both your senses as well as emotional needs?
· Browse different interior design styles on Pinterest, Instagram, Google images or magazines
Personally I find Pinterest one of the best resources because one can type in exactly what they are looking for and find loads of pictures associated with a particular theme or style.
You can have a peek at my Pinterest boards: https://www.pinterest.ca/innerdream/boards/
· Create your own Mood Board by copying and pasting the images of your choice on Canva
Armed with all this information and resources get creative and have fun!