Design’s Effect on Mood

Published: August 12, 2022

It is a design professional’s challenge to create a home that allows its inhabitants to thrive. Beyond photo-ready rooms and drafting floor plans, there is another layer to that challenge: Getting to know your clients is deeper than familiarizing yourself with their aesthetic wants. A multi-head shower can be visually striking but ineffective if your client is not into a shower body massage. An open-layout kitchen is an excellent design choice, but not if your client doesn’t want the kitchen to be part of the public space. The idea sounds complex but can be boiled down simply – people’s moods are determined by the spaces they inhabit. If the space benefits the individual and their needs, you have a happy client.

Adapting the WELL Building Principles

Of course, it is nearly impossible to gear your client’s preferences toward all aspects of home life. The WELL Building Standard, a process that may sound intimidating, is a thoughtful and reliable approach. It is essentially a checklist for mental, physical and emotional well-being in the space you are creating. While WELL is intended to certify commercial and institutional spaces with large amounts of inhabitants, its guiding principles can also be used to inform residential design practices.

The method comprises seven equally important factors that affect inhabitant well-being: air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort and mind. Not every room or project will encapsulate all elements of WELL, but a home in totality should make a point to accommodate all seven. Two spaces where wellness is of particular focus in the home are, fittingly, the kitchen and bathroom. The following are some tips for applying the WELL Building concepts to your next residential project.

Designs Effect on Mood in the Bathroom

Home professional or not, we’re all aware of the nuances that come with loving (or hating) your bathroom. When a client is investing in a bathroom custom to their needs, ensure you are meeting them – even if it involves asking about their showering habits.

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  • Determining the client’s preference of water pressure, water filtering and showerhead style is essential to giving them an ideal experience in their new bathroom. Bathtubs should fill quickly and adjust temperature easily.
  • Air. A good exhaust system is key in a bathroom to remove any humidity and smells. A window for fresh air, if possible, is also important for maintaining a healthy space.
  • Your client may prefer a heated floor in the bathroom to make getting ready in the morning a bit more comfortable in the winter or air conditioning for warmer months. Since the bathroom is often the first place we visit in the morning, a positive or negative sensory experience can affect the trajectory of a person’s mood for the day. Use design to facilitate happiness and peace at home – radiant heat in bathroom floors can signal relief, while in-shower speaker systems can be used to lift moods. Everything is related to the bigger picture, and details matter.
  • While the bathroom may not be the obvious choice for mental health, it is quite often a place of mediation. Knowing your clients’ preferences can help make it a space that caters to relaxation. Some prefer a steam shower, massaging showerheads or even the addition of a sauna in their bathroom.
  • Light. Your client may prefer a slightly darker setting while showering or a brighter setting when sitting by the mirror. Having a dimmer system allows for atmospheric lighting or bright, clean lighting, both of which can evoke certain moods. Bathroom lighting between 2700 to 3000 kelvin degrees for residential bathrooms is often the best range for creating realistic lighting – meaning the right color will mimic one’s appearance outside in daylight. If the bathroom is where your client does their daily grooming, it may be of importance to ensure natural light from a window is available.

Design’s Effect on Mood in the Kitchen

Getting to know your clients’ kitchen habits – whether that’s throwing dinner parties or entertaining playdates – will determine which elements are most important. Applying that knowledge to the WELL principles will provide direction and reasoning when working on new kitchens.

  • Just like in the bathroom, great air flow is imperative in the kitchen. An exhaust system to remove food smells is the most common solution. However, an energy recovery ventilator is another way of actively filtering air that enters by drawing clean, fresh air into a home. Deciding on the best HVAC system to implement in a kitchen can also be guided by climate. Overall, air flow in a kitchen plays a role in a client’s health, well-being and mood.
  • Water & Nourishment. Clean, filtered water in the kitchen is a major factor for health, and also vital for boosting well-being is nourishment. While the design pro has no say in a client’s diet or eating habits, being familiar with them can aid in giving them the best kitchen experience. For example, some clients may prefer two refrigerators or an additional refrigerator in their home gym. Providing the occupant with space and storage to nourish themselves should be a focus when designing the kitchen.
  • Eating and cooking in a clean space is partially determined by light. To create a sense of cleanliness, bright lighting should be installed in the kitchen. If the dining area is combined or adjacent, a dimmer system will allow for the area to be a bit darker and more relaxed if desired.

By Wayne Turett, founder & principal of The Turett Collaborative, an award-winning, NYC-based architecture & interiors firm with special regard for enduring, engaging design and meaningful collaboration.

Above photo: For a bachelor’s penthouse on the Upper East Side, the basement bathroom features shower glass that can be turned from clear to translucent at the touch of a switch, creating a spa-like experience in the owner’s home. Photo by Travis Mark

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