The Science of Warm and Cozy Interior Design

The Science of Warm and Cozy
Interior Design

As the pandemic continues to impact our lives at every level, the desire for warm, inviting interiors persists into 2022. But we’ve found ourselves wondering: What is it that actually makes a space feel cozy? No doubt there are going to be different interpretations across individuals and cultures. Still, is there a core at the concept of cozy design that can be understood scientifically?

It turns out some researchers are actually studying the “science of coziness.” And while the struggle to reach large-scale consensus is real, their data does give designers a more concrete place to build their designs from.

Impact of warmth and softness on inhabitants on a biological level

Understanding our own reactions: The Salon del Mobile exhibit

In a recent study, researchers from Johns Hopkins University and Google came together to create a series of residential interiors at the Salon del Mobile conference in Milan. They then had visitors enter and interact with these environments while wearing a wristband that recorded various biometrics.

The goal was to get at how the spaces we inhabit impact us on a biological level. Color, light, materials, smell and sound were all considered in creating the test environments. And the creators decided that each space would try a different strategy for putting its inhabitants at ease: softness and warmth, bright colors and playfulness, and spa-like tranquility.

Unfortunately, this exhibit didn’t collect any aggregate data on which design features elicited the greatest relaxation response. However, it did result in one key observation: around half of attendees actually misidentified the room that relaxed them the most. It was only when they were shown their biometric readings that they discovered what truly calmed them.

Interior design tricks for converting your bedroom into a cozy space to relax

The difference between beautiful and beneficial

The Salon del Mobile exhibit highlights the fact that people can’t always be trusted to know what truly helps them relax. Just think about how many interiors you’ve seen and thought, “Wow, how beautiful, I would love to live there!” Then think about how many of those interiors would have really suited your lifestyle and needs. That disconnect, between what we like to look at and what we want to live like, can make cozy designs tricky to figure out.

The core challenge for interior designers is learning how well the client knows themselves and guiding them accordingly. The consultation phase becomes particularly important. It's the best opportunity for a designer to gather insight about the people and spaces they're working with. And specifically when it comes to cozy design, it's the best opportunity to redirect the client if their wants and needs aren't in effective alignment.

But how should you direct a client when the name of the game is comfort and relaxation? Let's take a look at what the studies say about evoking the relaxation, happiness and warm feelings that make up coziness.

Add natural fractals in artworks to create a soothing space

Science shows that nature soothes

Let's lead off with something a bit wild here: fractals. It’s OK if you aren’t aware of fractals in nature. The Atlantic does a nice job of summarizing them for the average layperson, but the key point to know is they’re semi-regular patterns like the branching of trees or the undulation of wind-swept sand dunes. While there are various theories as to why the human mind finds natural fractals soothing, the science shows they ARE a relaxing force. So, how do you incorporate them into interiors?

Houseplants are an obvious choice, but not every client is interested in the upkeep. Artworks depicting natural fractals, like the aforementioned dunes and tree branches, are an effective no-water substitute for living plants. And, intriguingly, Jackson Pollock's paintings have been shown to follow the same rules as natural fractals and produce a similar de-stressing effect. So consider a few Pollock prints for the modern art inclined.

Use smooth textures to add warmth and coziness in any room environment

Turn to texture and temperature

In one study, Russian researchers looked at the relationships between texture and emotions, and the results are tantalizing. Soft and smooth textures, such as velvet, rabbit fur, silk and glass pebbles elicited significant feelings of happiness from participants. Another set of studies looked at how physical warmth affected people’s attitudes. It found a clear correlation between holding something warm and feeling goodwill and generosity toward others.

But, you may say, it’s hardly surprising that soft, warm things are good for coziness. The broader takeaway for interior designers is more that texture and temperature cannot be overlooked when you’re trying to create an emotionally warm and relaxing environment. If a space looks inviting but is literally cold or rough in texture, a feeling of coziness may never be obtainable.

Choosing right color for increase coziness and reduce complexity in room decor

The impact of color is complex

Color unequivocally impacts how a person experiences an interior. Unfortunately, it’s not easy to pin down which colors create coziness. This is in part because different colors may get at different sides of that elusive, complex feeling. Generally, for western audiences, blues and other cool tones are good for encouraging relaxation. Conversely, reds and other warm tones are good for evoking warm, happy emotions. This may be attributed to these colors’ slight but measurable effects on heart rate.

If your goal is to create a cozy space through color, the best approach is to start with your client. What do they think of as cozy, and how do certain colors make them feel? Since science can’t give us a cozy color algorithm, nothing beats the instincts and savvy of a seasoned professional.

Creating cozy spaces with Bellacor

When your client wants cozy, we’ve got the lights, furniture and décor in stock to make it happen. Whether you’re seeking out soothing botanical patterns or satisfyingly soft textures, Pros can reach out to their dedicated Account Manager any time for custom quotes and assistance. Just log in to your Pro account and visit the Bellacor homepage to get connected!

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