The Psychology of Interior Design



Imagine your home, your workplace, your school. The store, the doctor’s office, the bank—places you frequent each and every day. Can you recall the color of the walls? The fabric of the chairs? The location of the windows? The environments we live our lives in frequently go unnoticed. Yet they are always humming in the background, affecting everything from the way we feel to the way we interact with others.

They are the backdrops of our lives.    

Interior designers are educated to keep many different design aspects in mind as they specify and space plan. Whether we realize it or not, the design of the spaces we inhabit has a big impact on us—either good or bad. How? Let’s take a look.

1. Color

Color psychology is a concept frequently utilized by advertisers. Think about any given fast food restaurant’s logo. What color is it? I don’t know which restaurant you thought of, yet I’m willing to bet its logo features the color red. Why? Red is a color frequently associated with causing hunger. It also catches attention and invokes excitement—all things a fast food restaurant is looking to achieve with its logo.

According to Will Erstad, author of “The Graphic Designer’s Guide to the Psychology of Color,” every color appeals to certain emotions. Yellow is known to produce happy and excited feelings, while blue is frequently associated with sad and calm feelings.  Green is known to make people feel calm and connected to others. Purple is mysterious and linked to wealth or royalty. The colors in our environment clearly make a difference in the way we feel.



2. Light

Aside from the color of the walls or furniture in an environment, the lighting in the room also has an impact on the people in it. Think about how you feel on a sunny day versus how you feel on a cloudy day. I don’t know about you, but I feel more positive and energetic on a sunny day, while I feel more calm and subdued on a cloudy day.

In her article on the Huffington Post, author Amanda L. Chan explains that intensity of light correlates with intensity of emotion. So, if a person is in a brighter room, they tend to feel their emotions more strongly. Research backs up the claim. In a study, participants tended to desire spicier food the brighter the light was. They also found other people to be more attractive in brighter light. In dimmer light, participants did not experience these emotions as strongly. Whether it be from the windows or the light fixtures, the presence of light in a room has the power to change our moods.

3. Texture

While the effects of color and light in an environment may be obvious, did you know that even the textures in a space can affect your mood? Imagine a soft, fluffy sofa complete with a fuzzy blanket at your home. Now, imagine cold, slick tile floors and a stiff bed with a scratchy blanket at a hospital. I only used textures to describe the scenes, yet one is clearly more appealing than the other.

In an article featured on Psychology Today, author Ingrid Fetell discusses the subject. Research shows that people who are experiencing negative emotions crave soft textures. People experiencing positive emotions, on the other hand, don’t pay attention to texture. They are more likely to notice things like color. For example, participants in a study would choose a hand lotion based on the smoothness of it if they were sad. If they were happy, they would select one based on other factors, like how it looked. On top of this, soft or smooth textures can lead to feelings of comfort and relaxation, while hard or rough textures can lead to feelings of formality and stiffness.

4. Space planning

Not only does the color, light and texture of a room have an impact on its occupants. There is psychology behind how it is all arranged, as well. A great example is a traditional office space. You may picture rows and rows of boring cubicles. Now, picture a big, open room filled with desks that have plenty of room to breathe. There are conference tables in the open area to promote collaboration, as well as smooth flowing traffic patterns. Which office do you want to work in?

Research suggests that the size of a room can impact creative thinking, according to Jon Bradshaw, author of “The Psychology of Space Part 1.” The higher the ceiling and more open the room, the more likely people are to think freely and creatively. It is possible, however, for a room to be too big. A room designed for 500 people will make a group of only 100 people feel insecure and discouraged to interact. People also find rooms that are curvilinear to be more appealing than purely rectangular ones.


Our environments—composed of color, light and texture, all arranged in specific ways—clearly make an impact on how we live and what we experience. While they go unnoticed, their significance is undeniable.

Without the backdrop, after all, there would be no show.

Michaela Satterfield

James Décor Intern





Bradshaw, Jon. “The Psychology of Space, Part 1.” Facility Manager, 2015,

Chan, Amanda L. “How The Light In A Room Could Affect Your Emotions.” HuffPost, HuffPost, 24 Feb. 2014,

Erstad, Will. “Will Erstad.” Rasmussen College - Regionally Accredited College Online and on Campus, 2018,

Fetell, Ingrid. “Sad Times Call for Soft Textures.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 2011,