Credit: Max Hennard / Courtesy Elisa Garcia, AIA

As surprising as it may seem, interior design has the power to encourage your healthiest lifestyle. 90 percent of our lives are spent indoors. Living and working in well-designed spaces can make the difference between living a happy life or an unsatisfactory one. 

A well-designed space is one that supports and promotes health and well-being through functional elements, aesthetic choices, and spatial layout. Here are five crucial elements to consider in any environment you occupy:


Exposure to adequate levels of sunlight is critical for health and well-being, for physiological, psychological, and neurological reasons. When possible, natural light should be the primary source of lighting in the space. This will also have a positive effect on your circadian rhythm, and quality sleep is necessary for a healthy lifestyle.


Acoustics are often overlooked in traditional interior design. What you hear throughout the day will have a profound impact on your mental wellness. Consistent background noise is stressful and leaves you prone to fatigue. Prolonged fatigue causes psychological stress, including decreased mental acuity, low motivation, and irritability.

Window treatments and acoustic panels will help manage noise from both inside and outside. Walls should have appropriate insulation and detailing, and doors should have gaskets, sweeps, and a non-hollow core to mitigate sound transmission between rooms.


Use the colors of nature, like blues and greens, in spaces where you want to encourage a sense of calm and relaxation. If you hope to design an environment that promotes alertness and activity, try using warm colors like red, yellow, and orange.

Ventilation & Cleanability

For maximum health benefits, it’s important to create a space with proper ventilation that can be cleaned and disinfected easily. This will ensure that everyone who enters and inhabits the space is being protected from harmful microbes and toxins.

To keep harmful bacteria away, add an entryway walk-off system composed of grilles, grates, or slots that allow for easy cleaning underneath. An entryway vestibule is always a good idea at the main entrance of the building. 

Inside the space, replace any wall-to-wall carpeting with smooth, hard flooring. If you use area rugs to soften the aesthetic of the space, opt for a smaller size that is easy to clean. 


The spatial layout of your home and office can directly improve your physical activity and health. The integration of visually appealing interior pathways and stairs within buildings can provide a convenient way to incorporate short periods of physical activity. Create different seating areas and entertaining spaces that encourage people to move around throughout the day. 

Another way that spatial design affects your well-being is by mitigating clutter. Having ample storage solutions in your home and office will encourage you to stay organized and therefore reduce the chances of overwhelm. 

This article doesn’t cover all the ways that interior design can influence our mental and physical health, but it’s a start. Think about these factors the next time you enter your home, office, and other environments. What design changes can you make to promote your healthiest lifestyle?

Elisa Garcia, AIA, is a Santa Barbara native and the founder of Zen Spaces. She can be reached at Architecturally Speaking is written by members of the American Institute of Architects’ Santa Barbara chapter.

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