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Interior Design, Color and Psychology

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The philosopher Alain de Botton already said that we act and feel different at different places. Jung and Cooper Marcus also believed that renovating a house can change the ones that live there. Every detail of a house can have a deeper meaning that affect us from a conscious to an unconscious level.

According to Bachelard , even the lower drawer of a shelf, parts of the basement and parts of the attic has a meaning to us and help us to spatialize our mind, feelings and personality. By design the interior of our houses, we bring things from the outside world that has some meaning to us (like a photo of a loved person or a pan that we can use to cook) and put it on a place that is accessible for us. The easier that is for our body to access something, the easier it’s for us to mentally and emotionally access them, and the harder that is to physically access something, the deeper in our unconscious it’ll be.

RICHARD NEUTRA’S IDEAS AND THE LOVELL HOUSE
One architect that knew how a house can affect those who lives inside of it were Richard Neutra. He was one of the first architects to attempt to create a house that could enhance its dwellers psychology. Influenced by the Freudian idea that repressed psychical energy could be unconsciously projected into the outside world, Neutra stared to believe that he could cure some of his client’s mental issues and neurosis by acting in their environment. For him, the architect should act as a doctor, seeing his clients as patients, making diagnoses based on psychological tests and prescribing architectonic and interior design ideas as prescribing remedy.

The most important work of Neutra is the Lovell House, a house built in 1927 – 1929 for Philip and Lea Lovell. The Lovells were a couple very interested on healthy culture and the impacts on architecture on it. They already had a house, the Lovell Beach House (1922 – 1926), designed by an architect that were specialized on architecture and health, Rudolph Schildler. However, on their new house, they decided to contract Neutra to build another health home.

lovel house

In this house, as in his others houses, Neutra used the language of modern architecture and design, but in his hands, that language gain a second meaning. The first thing we can perceive is the use of glass walls and glass corners, a material that is common in modern architecture because it brings delicacy and lightness to a room. However, to Neutra, glass is a material that can be used to organize the flow of psychological energy, by letting them flow from the outside view. A material that lets natural light enters the house, keeping it not only brighter, but also psychologically cleaner. And a substance that can prevent the dwellers to project their desires into parts of the house. For him, glass could prevent us to create new neurosis and having metal issues caused by a “bad” home design.

glass wall

Going more on the inside of the house, we can see that he used preferably neutral colors, like white, gray and brown. These colors enhance our perception of the form of an object, like the roundness of a table or the quadrature of a sofa. However, in Neutra’s interior design, the colors gain an extra meaning as, for him, they create fewer emotional attachments than a colorful room.

A critique to neutra’s approach and the use of color

Overdijk says that Neutra focus on creating an environment that prevents the client from creating attachments or project unconscious energy into parts of the design. His idea was to create a therapeutic house. However, in a search for a house sterilized from any attachment and projections, Neutra didn’t perceive that a house can cause a series of emotions that could also be part of a heath home.

As the psychological researches about the impact of color in our perception evolved, we started to understand how color can impact our lives in many and positive ways. According to color psychology, the branch of psychology that studies the impact of color on our perception, color can influence the taste of food and the effectiveness of remedies, working like a placebo would. The studies in color show us that every color carry a specific meaning that is either learned or biologically innate. As we perceive a color, the color itself causes us to evaluate our surrounding, exerting an automatic influence in ourselves and in our perception of our surroundings.

Color is often used in logo design to make us feel something or act in some specific way, as show on the image above. When we design the interior of a house, we can and should consider how the colors we use in the walls and the color of the furniture can affect those who will dwell in it. We yet don’t know if color can cure someone or even if we can design a therapeutic home, but we know that it can influence us in subtle ways, changing the way that we behave in certain environments.

Even if Richard Neutra didn’t know that color can have a positive effect on us, he was the first to understand that architecture and interior design can change those who dwell in it. His works opened a space to experience the impact that material, color and design has on us. Some of his clients qualify him as a genius, but others says that his glass houses make you feel striped, all observed, like being on the outside of the house, even knowing that you are on the inside.

[1] BOTTON, Alain de. 2008. The Architecture of Happiness (Vintage International). USA: Random House LLC.
[2] JUNG, C.G. 2011. Memories, Dreams, Reflections. USA: Random House LLC.
[3] MARCUS, Claire Cooper. 2006. House as a Mirror of the Self: Exploring the Deeper Meaning of Home. USA: Nicolas-Hays Inc.
[4] BACHELARD, Gaston. 2014. The Poetics of Space. USA: Penguin Classics.
[5] WIKIPEDIA. “Lovell House”. Retrieved May 10, 2018 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lovell_House).
[6] MID-CENTURY HOME. “Richard Neutra’s Lovell House: Modernist Perfection”. Retrieved May 10, 2018 (http://www.midcenturyhome.com/mid-century-architecture-icons-richard-neutra-lovell-house/).
[7] OVERDIJIK, Maarten. “Richard Neutra’s Therapeutic Architecture”. Retrieved May 10, 2018 (https://www.failedarchitecture.com/richard-neutras-therapeutic-architecture/)
[8] CRAEN, A.J.; ROOS, P.J.; VRIES, A. Leonard de; KLEIJNEN, J. 1996. “Effect of Colour of Drugs: Systematic Review of Perceived Effect of Drugs and Their Effectiveness”. BMJ (Clinical research ed.). 313 (7072): 1624–1626.
[9] THE LOGO COMPANY. “Psychology of Color in Logo Design”. Retrieved May 11, 2018 (https://thelogocompany.net/blog/infographics/psychology-color-logo-design/).

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