Angela Harris outlines how interior design can improve physical and mental health

By nature of an industry often dominated by trends, it feels as though interior design is always changing. From minimalism to maximalism, traditional to contemporary, it’s a job in itself to keep up with what’s new (or not).

That being said, there are tried and true beliefs in the practice that will always be around, through all the noise and business of changing trends. Good design is timeless, and that we can count on.

In a growing field of study, we’re learning what makes good design beautiful, and why beauty is a universal understanding held by humans. No matter your personal style, there is no denying that interior design can make you feel something, which is why we gravitate to certain styles. Research shows that elements of interior design, like color, lighting and décor, have a direct effect on our emotions and mental response and behaviors.


Neuroesthetics is the study of the intersection between neuroscience, psychology and aesthetics. Move over, trends. It’s time to focus on how design makes us feel, and how good design can change the world.

We spend 90 percent of our time indoors, so it’s imperative to create spaces that positively impact our mental and physical health. One way in which designers do this, historically and today, is through art. Art adds to the character and design of a space. It’s an opportunity to create a feeling of ease and even comfort. A well-designed space with carefully selected art can contribute to stress reduction. Engaging with art has been shown to lower cortisol levels – the hormone associated with stress. When humans are surrounded by art they enjoy, and find aesthetically pleasing, it can help create a calming and harmonious environment.

Artful design

According to research at the University of Calgary, there are new forms of evidence on the arts and the brain. “Neuroesthetics uses brain imaging, brain wave technology and biofeedback, to gather scientific evidence of how we respond to the arts. Through this, there is physical, scientific evidence that the arts engage the mind in novel ways, tap into our emotions in healthy ways and make us feel good,” says the report.

Today, wall art that is making an impact on interior design includes nature-inspired pieces, from creative interpretations of the outdoors to plant displays. While gallery walls have had quite some time in the spotlight, there are more sophisticated ways to pull this off. Designers can curate a cohesive look based on theme, motif, color, or mood.

Try incorporating neuroesthetic principles like biophilia into an art collection, like a lush plant wall or a sculpture made of natural, organic objects. Not only is this an effective way to create interest and movement in a space, it has the potential to ground the space. What’s more, enhancing the natural views in a space with complementary art is a great way to highlight nature, while showcasing a unique or personal piece of art. Displaying artwork that holds personal meaning creates a sense of connection and belonging, which in turn can positively impact mental health and overall well-being.

As we in the industry know, there is so much more to interior design than simply putting together an aesthetically pleasing space with furniture and décor. Careful planning and resourcing are required for this process, and a whole lot of science has made its way into the field of interior design. I encourage designers to explore the connection between cognitive science and design, and incorporate these principles into your interior design practice. Today, architects and designers have the opportunity to move beyond trends, and make a real difference in the mental and physical health of humans. Just as art has the ability to positively affect the home and its inhabitants, we have the chance to be part of this new beauty movement, where design has the power to change lives.

Angela Harris is an American interior designer, product designer, CEO, mother, and industry board member. She has spent over 23 years working directly with the nation’s most prominent builders, developers, and product manufacturers. Her robust experience in market-driven design coupled with a Masters in Sustainable Design has led her to embark on a new journey inspired by mindful design powered by science and technology. Angela is currently earning her PhD degree in Visual Arts, pursuing research in the field of Aesthetics, Design, and the Built Environment through IDSVA.