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December 7, 2012 at 8:00 AMComments: 3 Faves: 0

Neuroarchitecture: Home Design For Your Mood

By Anne Christen More Blogs by This Author

While my furnishings are far from elite, I’m content. When I walk through my door, I do so with a smile. Apparently, my pleasure is part of a hot new field of design called "neuroarchitecture", driven by research on how factors like light, space, and room layout affect physical and psychological well-being. The idea is to understand how each feature of a person’s architectural environment influences brain processes involved with stress, emotion, and memory.

Light, for instance, is already a well-known mood modulator. Candles, natural sunshine, and artificial sources controlled with dimmers create specific feelings. How a person feels in a given space is also largely dependent on the room’s color. Tests have shown red and blue, respectively, can increase memory retention and creativity. Pink, on the other hand, is supposed to calm and pacify and is used by police stations around the country to relax intoxicated prisoners.

Can Home Decor Actually Improve Mood?

Getting back to the concept of neuroarchitecture, enough research has reportedly emerged that we are currently in what’s been called a "physical design Renaissance." Experts in the field of neuroscience now study much more than just light and colors; they also explore how one’s habitat triggers hormones that add stress, invite calm, or stimulate thought. From the research that’s been completed, we now know that happy feelings can be influenced largely by the design of main gathering rooms, such as the kitchen or living room. Here, the ideal floor plan includes a view of the entryway, a window onto a pretty landscaped yard, and a fireplace.

Practical Tips from The Neuroarchitectural Experts:

Of course, we all know these pleasure items aren't possible in every home. I have no fireplace, and my floor plan is what it is. But here, then, is where small touches can mean big changes.

  • 1. Take Decorating Personally.  You don’t need to pare down to the bare essentials to get that zen feeling from your home. Personal objects, photos, souvenirs, art we love…  they all remind us of who we are and help keep us feeling grounded.
  • 2. Face Me While You Cook. Neuroarchitectural experts say kitchens are especially important rooms in our homes.  An ideal kitchen provides space for cooking and eating as well as space for socializing. Even better – combining the two. “After a busy day, if your kitchen design makes you face away from family or company… your brain is more likely to continue to produce adrenaline and cortisol, the hormones associated with anxiety, fear, and stress. But when you face into the room and can see what's going on, you feel safer and more in control; then oxytocin, the bonding hormone, and serotonin, associated with relaxation and enjoyment, have a greater chance of being released.” says John Zeisel, PhD.
  • 3. Open Your Blinds. Too little exposure to the elements can actually cause issues in people similar to the captive stress issues sometimes seen in animals removed from their natural environment. According to Zeisel, "Just being able to see how the weather is and knowing what's out there relaxes people and makes them feel more in control."
  • 4. Curvy is a Good Thing.  Rounded and soft objects subconsciously make us feel safer than pointy or angular objects. According to Zeisel, “The reason has to do with your peripheral vision and is linked to a primitive part of the brain called the amygdale… If you were to walk down a dark, narrow tunnel lined with sharp rocks, you wouldn't be able to think about anything except avoiding getting hurt.” Adding elements like curved vases with plants, round fish bowls, and soft blankets and pillows tells our brains it’s okay to relax.
  • 5. Make a Me Space. While humans are social creatures and time with others is important, time alone to reflect and be with ourselves is important too. Without enough privacy, stress levels rise. Even if you can’t claim an entire room in your home, maybe you can request a private space for a little while each day.
  • 6. Change Things Up. You know that feeling you get after you’ve just finished a big cleaning project or bought a new art piece? How you just can’t stop looking at and appreciating it? Create that feeling more often!  While some consistency helps us feel grounded, too little change can make us feel stagnate. Changing little things every once in awhile helps keep life feeling lively, and taking charge of decorating helps instill a sense of control.

Appreciate Your Environment!

The next time you’re feeling down, feel free to splurge on an item for your home. It doesn’t have to be much; perhaps a new tablecloth or a plant. Go home, make a few changes to your furniture scheme or eliminate clutter, and then use that new piece to spruce up one of your rooms. Little actions like this will make you appreciate your environment and also help enhance your mood.

What's your favorite room in your home? Why?


Bradley, Luanne. "Neuroscience: The Science of Getting Your Decor in the Right Frame of Mind." Shelter. Ecosalon. 10 Jul. 2009. Web. 4 Dec. 2012.

Jarvis, Tim. "Boost Your Mood By Redecorating." O Magazine. Web. 4 Dec. 2012.

Obenschain, Chris. "Can the Color of a Room Affect Your Mood?" Home. TLC. Web. 4 Dec. 2012.

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  • I wonder if having a clean room versus a messy one has an effect on your seems like it would

  • It does for me. If my rooms dirty I feel like I'm lazy. If My rooms clean I'm generally more productive and happy.

  • I agree that little changes can make a big difference. I usually go for a new pillow on the couch, towels in the bathroom or kitchen and/or new rugs on the floor.

    If I really want to splurge I will get a new comforter for my bed. But it's hard to find machine washable comforters. It seems most do not go in the laundry which means my choices are limited. I have to have bedding I can wash!

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