Coming inside, one invariably encounters new territory, new and perhaps unfamiliar terrain. Immediately, the scale of the space is different, the quality of light is altered and, if we have stepped in from the street, the level of noise and hustle is likely diminished. Inside, it looks and feels different. There are new rules of engagement. And, chances are, we respond consciously or unconsciously to the measurable and immeasurable qualities of the space. We feel anticipation—or, in some cases, anxiety.
Any interior space provides information and offers messages received in the form of scale and proportion, color and shape, texture and detail. How then do we create spaces that send the right message, that serve our purposes? How do we anticipate the physical and psychological effects of any given space? It is our purpose here to explore how we, as human beings, experience the places we inhabit—and to consider how we might design spaces that people feel good in.
While much of this discussion will apply to a spectrum of interior spaces, it will focus on theworkplace, where, in fact, most of us spend most of our time—about 60% of waking hours each day. Thus, the places we work have an enormous impact on our bodies and minds, which in turn, affects our potential for creativity at work and for happiness in any context.
Historically, there have been various ways to measure how well the design of an interior space “works.” In a volatile economy, the metric may be the ability to fit as many people and desks into as little real estate as possible. Humanizing or stylish touches may have to go. Such determinants have a rightful place among the tenets of design, but it is certainly possible to reconcile economic necessities, with design that’s intelligent, interesting and human-centered.
Every element of interior design—the shape of the space, the color of walls, the arrangement of furniture—is laden with messages. Each speaks to certain values. Each gives cues for behavior. Taken together, they suggest and invite a way of working, learning or socializing. One might cross the threshold into a space where neoclassical moldings and elegant furnishings speak to tradition or plunge into an open room where raw brick walls and unpainted wood planks allude to the rustic and informal. The visual language of the space communicates and informs, often evoking an emotional response and potentially leading us to pass a verdict on the nature of the enterprise that shaped it.