Q: Tell me a bit about yourself and what you do.
I am an interior designer and design psychology coach. As an interior designer, I’m passionate about making spaces functional and look good. As a design psychology coach, I’m passionate about making spaces feel good. Our environments have a physiological effect on us. Particularly, our homes and workplaces, where we spend most of our time have a direct effect on our health and well-being. I work with my clients to transform their homes and workplaces into spaces of dis-ease into ones at ease.
Q: How did you realize that our environment impacts our well-being?
My first experience with the effect our environments has on our health and well-being goes way back to when I was quite a young child. When my little sister was about 3, she had frequent migraines. At this time, I had a pink painted bedroom and my sister had a blue painted room. She used to lay in my room when she had a migraine and asked for my parents to paint her room pink too. They did and without exaggerating, her migraines stopped. Now, this could be a great coincidence, but I’ve since learned that there are certain shades of pink (the sweet candy pinks) that do indeed slow the heart rate. And studies have shown people tend to show less aggressive behaviors when placed in these pink environments.
When we moved into our current house the previous owners were big fans of colour and painted nearly every room a different colour. The formal living room was shades of purple and turquoise. I could not spend more than 5 minutes in that space because it made me feel so bad. I honestly could not believe how negatively I responded to this space. We’ve since painted it white and its my favourite room in the house, I just feel good in there now and literally nothing else has changed but the paint colour. This was probably the turning point for me in terms of my design philosophy. I had done some psychology units as an undergraduate and was already studying interior design so I contacted a design lecturer and asked him if he knew much about design psychology, if so could he point me towards some resources. I have since finished studies in the field, specialised in this area and began working with clients.
Q: It seems like our surroundings are often overlooked when people think of their health and wellness. Why do you think that is, and how can this be changed?
I think with health, we have been brought up to think nutrition and exercise. There has been a big push towards wellness lately with an increased focus on mental health as part of a holistic way of looking after ourselves. That’s where our focus is; eating well, moving our bodies and quietening our minds and a lot of people find just looking after these key areas to be a lot of work and a struggle for some. The irony of that is that if we can get our spaces in flow and be well designed, we will actually start to feel better, be more productive and it all just snowballs. It can be transformational.
Q: Your clients come to you to create “healthy, happy, and high energy homes”. What strategies and recommendations do you give them to achieve this?
When working with my clients, and designing a space we need to consider three key things: form, function and flow. Interior designers are experts at nailing the form and function. How our spaces look and how we use them. I will make an effort to speak to every member of the home, even children, if they’re there because it is important to create a home for everyone. If we’re focussing on the living room for example, I want to know exactly how each member of the house will use that space, study, relaxation, entertaining etc. I consider how we move through the space to get from one room to the next and also individual tastes and style preferences. Finally, I consider flow – how we want our space to feel. When you combine the three areas, form, function and flow, you can’t really go wrong and that’s where the magic happens.
If we can get our spaces in flow and be well designed, we will actually start to feel better, be more productive and it all just snowballs. It can be transformational.
– Lauren Anderson
Q: Why do some people struggle when creating this type of space?
I think it’s not really having a clear understanding of what home means for them. Our homes are one of the biggest expressions of personal identity but not everyone really knows who they are, or what it is they actually want. With social media having the significant influence it has over our lives these days, it’s so easy to get ‘comparisonitis’ and an overwhelming sense of house lust. “I want that, I want this” “I saw this on Instagram, Pinterest etc” Don’t get me wrong, I too turn to these platforms for inspiration, they’re great in that sense. However, what works in one space, is not necessarily going to work for you. Just because you love your neighbour’s kitchen does not mean you should have that exact same design. Also, we, as human beings, are naturally drawn to environments that reflect nature. However, a lot of really trendy spaces don’t necessarily achieve this. For example, white spaces are very much on trend at the moment but an all white environment is actually stressful for us. If anything I’d say, be open to really discovering what is going to work for you and your family in your home. Try not to get too caught up in what is on trend. Stay true to you.
Q: If wanting to create a home that supports your well-being, how could you start?
It probably sounds crazy but start with your childhood. What was home like for you as a child? Was it a safe space? Or perhaps, you moved a lot and never felt you had a ‘home’ of sorts. When we consider these questions, we can start to think about what we want our homes to be now. A home should make us feel safe, comfortable and at peace. A home that has been designed intentionally, will support your wellbeing.
Q: What about women on a budge? How can they create a positive living environment when they are tight on funds?
This is really the best thing. You don’t really need to spend a heap of money to have a home that is in flow and feels good. It’s not about having all the latest trends or only designer products. I mean sure, they’re nice, but often you’ll find that by pairing the old and the new you’ll create a really nice space. Browse the flea market, search buy and sell pages. You’d be surprised what treasures you can uncover. I don’t think this is a “cheap” option, it can be a great way to get original vintage pieces for less. Also, quality over quantity always. I would rather have one really nice beautiful quality cushion than five cheap replicas. Often we think if something is cheaper we can have more, but in actual fact, we still end up spending the same amount of money. From a design psychology point of view, if you’re filling your home with cheap stuff, because “that’s all you can afford” then you’re sending yourself a subconscious message that you can’t have any better than that. Each time you sit in that chair or walk past that cushion, you’re reinforcing the notion of “this is all I can afford.” So buy less and save up for quality.
Q: If you could recommend one tip for women looking to improve their environment, what would it be?
This activity doesn’t cost anything just a little bit of time, depending on the size of your space and how much stuff you have. So put on your favourite music, make a cup of tea and get busy. Go into the space at home you like the least. Now carefully go through and consider every single item in that room – if you’ve chosen the kitchen then yes, that means every single item. Think about whether or not you appreciate the item. Does it make you feel good? Are you holding onto it because of obligation? Because you were given it as a gift but never really liked it? Every single thing in that space, you’ve subconsciously, over time, decided you either like it or you don’t. Each time you walk passed that vase you really don’t like but it was your Grandmothers’s so you’ve kept it, your subconscious remembers you don’t like it and you’re sending out negative energy to that object. If you’ve got lots of things you don’t really appreciate then that’s a lot of negative energy you’re sending out.
Now you’ve made your list, donate or gift everything that doesn’t serve you. Try to avoid replacing it for a few weeks even a month. If after that time, you need to, then replace it, but only then.
Q: You also work with women to modify their workplace. How can women modify such places when they may have little control over the physical layout or details?
That’s a really great question. I find there are a few really simple things you can do that won’t cost much (if anything) and are so easy to do. Wherever possible, get fresh air, if you can’t (not all offices offer open windows) then look at ways to purify your air and take as many quick breaks outside as you can. Essential oils are great for increasing energy, productivity and lifting your mood (seek permission to use these in a shared space). Indoor plants are incredible. We are perfectly designed to exist in harmony with plants. We breathe in oxygen and expire carbon dioxide. Plants are the opposite – they inspire carbon dioxide and expire oxygen. They literally create oxygen for us and and then purify our air. Finally, put a salt lamp on your desk. Again, this will help to purify your air and they let out a really nice glow.
Q: How have your strategies impacted you personally, and what changes have you seen with your clients?
Like most people I have good and bad days in life. Days where I have endless energy and can accomplish so much and then days where I’m lucky to make it to the end of the day without falling in a heap and it all just feels too hard. I have become really in tune with how I’m feeling – it’s usually when my house is messy and these are the times when I crave bad foods and don’t want to exercise. So on those low energy days I need to think about how I can lift the energy in my home fast! Good design considers all our senses so the quick things I do that are guaranteed to lift my mood and energy are: open the windows and doors – let that air flow and natural light in. I turn on music that lifts my mood. I buy fresh flowers and diffuse essential oils. It’s important our spaces smell good. Smell is an indicator of bacteria so you want to eliminate that quickly. Bicarb soda is great for this. Choose one small space and declutter. Be really intentional as you sort, tidy and organise the space. It’s a really important process and my clients often report this can set of varying emotions. If I’ve been in a slump for a few days, I will sage the whole house and vacuum the floors. This ensures all the stagnant negative energy is removed – empty the vacuum in the bin outside. Doing all this, even when I don’t feel like it, ensures my energy lifts and I will always feel better.
Q: What’s your favourite wellness habit or hack?
Open the windows! Let the fresh air in and allow any stagnant, negative energy to leave the space. Even in winter open the windows and let the air flow for at least 5 minutes a day. I cannot emphasize enough how incredibly effective this is in lifting your mood and energy.
Q: What does “Living Well” look like to you?
Living well to me is holistic. It’s eating well, moving my body, resting my mind and feeling good in my home. Currently, I’m trying to work hard on balance. To not beat myself up if I do slip up and eat something that is not super nourishing and healthy. It’s not easy for me to rest, but I’ve been working hard on it and it’s been nice. I’ve also found it’s made me incredibly productive when I have rested and have energy again.
Want to learn more about Lauren? You can find her at: The Anderson Projects