The American Society of Interior Designers released its 2023 Trend Outlook and it’s clear that wellness design is not fading from the industry, even as most of us have fully emerged from our Covid home cocoons.
Designers’ focus on wellness is also tying into client concerns about the planet’s well-being – which has an impact on resilience and comfort – and particular concerns about mental health.
“Designers are responding to changing needs in their communities by creating new spaces or adapting existing ones to make a positive impact on places where people live, work, play, heal, or learn,” stated ASID CEO Khoi Vo in the report’s press announcement. A quick round of emailed replies from designers and architects across the country shared their own professional experiences with these top-line trends.
1. Mental Health Needs
“Modifications can make interior environments more suitable and supportive for persons with mental health issues and can help aid in reducing environmental factors that can contribute to feelings of stress and unease,” wrote the association in its report.
“Physical surroundings have a profound effect on one’s mental health,” declared Anna Popov, a Seattle-based interior designer. “It can look amazing, be glamorous, and cost a fortune, but how does it make you feel?” She asked. Popov cited the importance of maximizing natural light in the sometimes gloomy Pacific Northwest. “It is common practice in our firm to evaluate every design early on against very simple criteria: Does this solution allow us to maximize the amount of natural light in the space? If the answer is no, we pretty much automatically drop the idea because there is a better solution out there,” she added.
Popov’s designs incorporate strategic window styles and placement, extensive skylights and accordion door styles, she explained. “This approach not only provides us with brighter and ‘happier’ interiors but also deepens our relationship with the outdoors. Which is another essential element for a person’s mental health.”
2. Health and wellness remain top priorities in the built environment
“ASID’s report identified a growing trend towards holistic healthy living, and interior design that addresses both the mind and body. New design choices can range from the choice of colors, lighting and daylighting, and the use of plants and natural materials to adding spa-like bathrooms and retreat spaces for exercise and meditation,” the announcement noted.
Drew Lang, principal of Lang Architecture in New York agreed. “Using natural materials creates a tangible relationship between people and nature through design, which in turn enhances wellbeing. Materials like wood foster this physical connectivity, and we find our clients respond to the familiar warmth and comfort it brings to a home.” This concept ties into biophilia, which is the use of nature in the built environment, and is very much a feature of wellness design.
Jessica Shaw, interior design director at The Turett Collaborative, also in New York, is glad to see wellness becoming a major talking point in interiors, she said. “It is also nice to see the conversation around the effects of color on mood. I tend to avoid any colors or color combinations that produce anxiety. Steering away from clashing colors and looking for cooler colors that complement each other are more likely to create a calmer, and more relaxing frequency in the space. While it can sound minor, these considerations can have major effects on the health and wellness properties of interiors,” she pointed out.
3. Consumers want to protect the planet and are making sustainable choices
“Consumers, including home buyers, are placing increasing emphasis on sustainability as a value guiding their purchasing choices, with increasing numbers of consumers saying they are willing to pay a purchase premium for sustainability,’ according to the report.
“Clients are willing to pay for well designed, sustainable homes— we saw this firsthand in our Hudson Woods development, an eco-friendly community in New York’s Catskills, commented Lang. “The Hudson Woods’ sustainability story compelled buyers to purchase homes, and we’ve begun working on similar models across the country thanks to this reaction.”
Shaw is seeing this in her practice too, she commented. “Clients have become more proactive in inquiring about materials’ ethical sourcing, manufacturing process, and negative traits such as off-gassing. While these were always considerations on the design side, seeing clients become more engaged in the conversation is evidence of an increased interest in being responsible consumers.”
Sustainability and wellness design overlap in choices like induction over gas cooktops, LED lighting, and materials that don’t release toxins in the home to preserve indoor air quality.
4. Designing in and for the metaverse is gaining momentum as a design specialty
“Forward-thinking companies are already exploring how they might use the metaverse to engage with customers. Recent articles from design publications have urged interior designers to “get on board,” even going so far as to creating Metaverse design awards for interior and architectural firms to showcase their work done within the digital space,” ASID commented on this trend report conclusion.
How does this relate to wellness design? For the millions of Americans who work from home, the metaverse provides an opportunity for more dynamic interaction with others around the firm and around the world. It also calls for a workspace that feels more personal and creative, enhancing the user’s enjoyment of being there both off-camera and on.
Popov is seeing the trend in her practice, she shared. “The majority of our clients work at a computer, have virtual meetings, and want to have a lovely background which reflects their personality, interests, and hobbies. We are always taking into consideration the digital world we live in.”
This means providing optimal lighting and factoring in the wall that will be seen on camera. “Having a background that reflects your personality and interests can be a great opportunity for connection and socialization especially in our remote work environments,” the designer noted.
The 25,000 member association’s trend report also noted an increase in office spaces being designed for neurodivergent users to be more inclusive and accessible. This trend is also extending to homes, as more Americans are diagnosed as being on the spectrum and people are rethinking their spaces to be more inclusive for neurodivergent members of their households.
The report also noted more older adults ‘un-retiring’ and seeking hybrid work arrangements. “Workplaces are adapting to support a multigenerational workforce,” it noted. The same is true for many households as well.