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Whilst chronic anxiety and poor metal health is something you need to see a doctor or a therapist about, the space around us is scientifically proven to influence happiness, productivity and wellbeing.


So whilst your environment won’t solve every problem, it can certainly go a long way to help keeping stress low if designed from a human-centred, sensory perspective.


What does this mean in application? 

Reducing frictions and frustrations. This can be functional in the layout to create flow, it may be lighting levels suitable to the activities, acoustic absorption or separation, scent, temperature. In short, designing for the senses so they are soothed, not overwhelmed. 

Other times, we’re seeking out relaxation such as in a hotel room or a wellness retreat studio and need soothing and grounding from our environment. Lighting, textures, colours and scents that feel reassuring and safe facilitate this, whilst sound proofing is very important for most in ensuring a good night sleep or relaxation without relying on ear plugs.  That becomes much more challenging if you have exposure to the wrong sensory stimulate in your environment demanding your attention, noisy pipes behind the headboard anyone? And when these are out of our control, the frustrations escalates and the experience is diminished. Check out our project for The Mount where we created a calming bedroom with natural finishes to ground in the senses and surrounding nature.


The ability to focus in the office and be productive and collaborative can similarly be influenced with effective interior design. Once again workers needs to feel calm and safe whilst also inspired. Recent years have seen a increase in biophilia (plants) introduced into offices besides the token reception desk yukka and kitchen spider plant, as science backs the calming, restorative and energising effect plants have, delivering tangible and financial benefits to the triple bottom line of people, planet and performance. 

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Why should you start with a wellbeing focus in your next project?

Measuring the effects of plants in interiors alone, research shows:

• Offices with plants see a 15% increase in occupant wellbeing scores and a reduction in absenteeism.

• Every £1 invested in biophilia returns £2.7 in value in office spaces.

• In hotels, guests are willing to pay 23% more for rooms with views of biophilic elements.

• In education a 20-25% improvement on test results, concentration levels and attendance, and reduced impacts of ADHD.

• In retail spaces customers were willing to pay 8-12% more for goods and services.


If we apply the same principles in all aspects of a space, for example employing the benefits of natural materials and textures, the results can be amplified.


Does everywhere need to be calming?

Despite anxiety levels rising, there will be occasions where we all seek out uplifting stimulation however, a exciting transportation to another sensory world or culture in a restaurant or bar for example, and we have the tools for that too, as implemented for Revolution De Cuba. This can be achieved in a way which creates a positive experience and supports healthy connection.

Where to start with wellbeing?

Design for human wellbeing focuses on the activities undertaken in the space with an understanding of their physical, psychological and emotional needs. It's best to address this at a pre-planning stage when designers are able to influence the spatial layouts and materials selections to appropriately support this, both for the specific brief, and with a view to how it can be adaptable to future needs of the space.

If you're curious to find out more, contact the studio

Maggies, Leeds by Heatherwick Studio

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