Interior Design Neurodesign

How to Design Interior Spaces based on Neurodesign

February 7, 2018

How to Design Interior Spaces based on Neurodesign

How to Design Interior Spaces based on Neurodesign

Space is one of the seven elements of Interior Design. It is the blank canvas to which all the other elements are added and wherein the seven principles of design are applied. Space is the essence of any interior — space, and how it makes us feel.


Neurodesign is about designing environments that promote health, performance and wellbeing through feelings. And the basis of these feelings is beauty.


With this knowledge in mind,

How can we design interior spaces based on Neurodesign?

In their book, Swedish authors Isabelle and Katarina have shared some tips and tricks on how to optimize space to better suit our needs. These needs are based on the neuroscience behind how our brains (hence emotions), respond to different layouts of space.

This post is a summary of what I’ve learned: A simple guide on how to easily apply its principles to your own home. And if you’re a designer or a design student; into your own designs.

*If you’d like to dig deeper into the neuroscience behind the principles,
I’ve included footnotes at the end of the post.


Ceiling Heights and SpaceCeiling Heights & Space

We’re inclined to prefer certain types of forms and environments. We prefer spacious rooms over cramped ones, for example.[1] Because of this, a room’s ceiling height can strongly affect how we feel in a space. In most cases, however, we can’t change the ceiling height of a room.

Fortunately, it isn’t the ceiling height in itself that is the issue; but our perception of the room’s space. And the perception of space can be manipulated by playing with different elements and adding decorative pieces into the space — such as lines and colors, mirrors and art.

We tend to focus on details in rooms with lower ceiling heights. On the other hand, we tend to “stretch out” our minds and thinking in rooms with higher ceilings.[2]


Lower ceiling heights are preferable in spaces where concentration is needed, such as in accounting offices, operating rooms, law firms, etc.

Tasks that require creativity or abstract thinking, on the other hand, would perform better in rooms with higher ceilings.

Unless you’re planning a room’s ceiling height before construction, in most cases, the ceiling height of a room is already set. But like we’ve said — the ceiling height in itself isn’t the issue, but our perception of the space within a room.

And this perception can be manipulated or maneuvered by the clever combination of different elements and decorative pieces … 


Lines & Colors

One trick to make a room look more spacious is to paint all of its walls white … because it would visually blur out the edges, or lines, between the floor, walls, and ceiling.

This gives off the impression that there are no limits to the space, which makes it seem bigger and more spacious.

Diagonal Lines on the floor visually widens a room, whereas vertical lines can make us think a room is longer or deeper (from the perspective of entering a room). When used on walls, vertical lines give us the impression that the walls are higher.

Lighter colors make rooms look bigger, whereas darker colors make rooms feel smaller.

We don’t always want rooms to feel so big, though. A clever trick is to paint the ceiling a darker color than that of the walls to bring it visually closer. Such a contrast makes us notice the darker color, hence be aware of the ceiling and the limits of the space …

Neurodesign: Space, Lines and Colors

Neurodesign: Space, Lines and Colors


Mirrors & Art

The use of mirrors and art is all about creating illusions within a space.

Mirrors are like windows in that they reflect light. And we all know that a room full of windows feels bigger than without! The trick is to cleverly place mirrors in such a way that they reflect light within the space.

According to their book, Neurodesign,


“a relatively big painting can save a small space as it draws attention to itself
and blurs out the lines on the walls; the room then feels bigger.”


Furniture Arrangement: Creating a Sense of Security

We feel safer in a room where we can see almost everything that is within it. In contrast, a room that has hidden areas (created by room dividers for example), emanates a sense of mystery.[3]

Would you rather sleep in a bed that is placed in the corner of a room, or in a bed that floats in the middle of the room?

On a subconscious level, we don’t like mysteries. We don’t want to be surprised by anything — especially not in our own homes where we would like to be comfortable and feel relaxed and secure.


Creating Sections within SpaceBeds & Sofas

Place beds and sofas by walls or in corners to create a stronger sense of comfort and security. Their placement would also give a bigger view of the room, which adds to the feeling of comfort.

In larger living rooms or bedrooms, you can create different sections within the room by placement of other furniture or furnishings (such as console tables, room dividers, screen walls, and even curtains and plants) to create smaller areas within.

The same goes for restaurants as in homes: In a restaurant or cafe, would you rather choose the seat in the far left corner of the window and wall, or would you choose the seat by the entrance?

More often than not, interior spaces are designed for comfort. Even in big restaurants, where it would be impossible to allow every seating arrangement to have the biggest view of the space, smaller sections can be created within the space at large.

Screen walls are excellent for this. The use of curtains is also a creative approach. Plants can also be placed together to serve as partitions — even decor lamps, sculpture, and furniture.

When designing restaurants, plan seats in areas that allow the biggest view possible of the space. Don’t place seats in areas where customers may feel they could be surprised — such as by stairs, doors, by the kitchen or, worse, by the toilets, etc.


In bigger areas, create sections within the space.


This post is based on what I’ve learned by studying Neurodesign, a book written by Swedish authors, Isabelle Sjövall and Katarina Gospic. Both have more than a decade’s experience in their respective fields where Isabelle is an interior designer and Katarina is a brain scientist.


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#1 —  We prefer spacious rooms over cramped ones.

“When we feel stuck in a place, the amygdala is triggered, which in turn triggers our instinct to escape. In contrast, when we have plenty of space to roam around, we feel relaxed.”


#2 — We tend to focus on details in rooms with lower ceiling heights. On the other hand, we tend to “stretch out” our minds and thinking in rooms with higher ceilings.


#3 — We feel safer in a room where we can see almost everything that is within it.

“Our preference for places with good views comes from an evolutionary perspective, as good views have helped us plan our moves over a terrain to easily notice predators in time.”



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