Neuro-Architecture: Create a Space that Boosts Mental Wellbeing with Art and Color

neuro-architecture

The aesthetic elements of a living space, specifically pieces incorporating art and color, can work wonders for the external beauty of the space and the inner peace of the occupants.

The relationship between art, color and design is very symbiotic. The theory of neuro-architecture points out how factors, such as lighting, shapes and objects have a profound impact on mental state. For example, poor lighting has been linked to higher cancer rates, clutter to negative decision-making, and biophilic design to stress reduction and concentration.

Color affects mood in a space dramatically, whether we realize it or not. Surround your client with his/her favorite colors: Use bolder colors to enhance mood and spark creativity and more muted colors to create a calm, serene environment.

Viewing art, in particular, has been proven to have a powerful impact on the brain. According to the American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine, experiencing and observing art stimulates the creation of new neural pathways and ways of thinking. Studies have also shown that color has the potential to affect mood, emotions, concentration and even physical health with methods like color therapy.

Now more than ever, it’s important for us to treat living spaces as solace. Incorporating art and color into a home design will not only breathe new life into a space, it will also have a positive impact on the occupants’ mood and overall health.

To help you tap into the proven benefits of neuro-architecture, consider the following “design therapy” tips for creating a space that boosts mental wellbeing with art and color:

1. SET YOUR INTENTIONS AND MOOD WITH COLOR: Color affects mood in a space dramatically, whether we realize it or not. The best thing about designing with color is that it surrounds personal style. Sometimes the effect of color design on mood is more subtle while in other instances it’s dramatic and nearly tangible. Surround your client with his/ her favorite colors: Use bolder colors to enhance mood and spark creativity and more muted colors to create a calm, serene environment.

Color has been proven to affect mood—bolder yellows are linked to creative boosts, blue to intellect and logic, green to calm and equilibrium, and red to stimulation and energy. For example, a color historically associated with royalty, purple, has a strong, commanding effect on a room. A tertiary color combining red and violet (a secondary color, mixing red and blue), this strong, rich combination of colors establishes a stimulating yet balanced environment. Drawing from the stimulating effect of red and the tonic effect of blue—as described in Color Psychology and Color Therapy—purple is great for guest or master bedrooms, simultaneously holding a more meditative, calm presence along with an energetic, sensual aura.

2. STUDY UP ON GOOD VIBES: It is fun to play around with color, but it can be a major commitment when designing with dramatic colors. Studies demonstrate that color has a profound energetic impact. It has been suggested that even blind individuals have been able to identify colors without the ability to physically see them. Having a basic understanding of vibration between colors, and how colors interact, is important when creating any composition in a room. Josef Albers has in-depth studies of color theory, such as his famous 1963 book Interaction of Color, which is a great 101 for design and color lovers to reference. Take the color wheel into consideration: Choose analogous colors for a harmonious, monochromatic look; complementary colors for a bold, balanced look; and triadic colors for a more energetic, personality-filled space. Different hues, tints, tones and shades can also be used to create varying illusions or to draw attention to certain objects.

3. GO AHEAD, BREAK THE RULES: Although there are valuable tips stemming from color theory, rules are made to be broken. Sometimes, anything goes, and unexpected color combinations work well. Color is a personal preference; what works for you might not work for others. Gauge how comfortable you are with a particular color. Does it bring you joy or does it deplete your energy? Let your reaction to the color influence your design palette. From there, just let your creativity flow!

Research, such as a study from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, continues to indicate that making and viewing art keeps a brain stimulated and active, enhancing brain function and exercising creativity.

4. STIMULATE YOUR OWN CREATIVITY WITH ART: Art is an incredibly personal aspect of a home. In a sense, it is a reflection and extension of the occupant. Few other pieces in a living space can be so personalized, intricate and emotion-filled as artwork. Just as color has been proven to have calming or stimulating effects, art is more than just a painting on a wall. It has a powerful impact on the brain.

Research, such as a study from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, “How Engaging with Art Affects the Human Brain”, continues to indicate that making and viewing art keeps a brain stimulated and active, enhancing brain function and exercising creativity. By incorporating art pieces into your client’s home that inspire him or her to engage in creative pursuits, you can simultaneously promote the client’s health and wellbeing.

5. USE ART AS AN EMOTIONAL OUTLET AND SUPPORT: We all know sometimes art can also uncover our emotions. We can look at a calming painting or a funky abstract piece and it has the power to increasingly enhance our enjoyment of a space. One day, that same piece of artwork may seem dark and mysterious while another it may seem lively and uplifting. It can hold a totally distinct aura, depending on your personal outlook and mood. These malleable effects of artwork add immense value to a space and can be enhanced by other factors, such as lighting and color.

6. LET ART TELL A STORY: When designing with art, identify what story you want to tell. One must consider not only the vignette in which the art is hung, but also its relationship to the whole space. You want the art to go with the story you are telling. For example, there is
a shift of energy from the great room to the master suite and another in the home office. Each space has its own energy, whether quiet and subdued or loud and boisterous.

7. CREATE HARMONY IN A SPACE, BUT DON’T BE AFRAID OF A LITTLE TENSION: Consider the surrounding environment. Make sure to take into account the finishes, forms and colors of the room. When incorporating statement art pieces, this is especially necessary to create a flattering landscape for each piece. Sometimes it is OK to put the piece in a place of tension if you want to give the interior a more dynamic and unique feeling.

8. DON’T FORGET LOGISTICS: A definite rule in designing around art is that the art should be at a comfortable eye-level height. For reference, use a measurement similar to the height that galleries go by, which is typically 57 to 60 inches from the floor (this can be altered a bit if you are working with especially high ceilings). This will allow individuals of varying heights to view the piece comfortably. Additionally, it’s important for the piece to be displayed in an area with natural light and with ample negative space for it to breathe.

Enjoy tapping into the power of art and color in your next project!

PHOTOS: Costas Picadas

About the Author

Jessica Shaw
Jessica Shaw pushes the boundaries of the conventional role of interior designer. Using her experience in live-event design, production design and art direction for film, video production for installations and performance art, Shaw believes art and color can create a space that boosts mental wellbeing.

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