Have you ever walked into a beautiful home or a fabulous design shop and your mood has lifted? Does walking around a manicured garden or an architecturally designed building fill you with joy? You’re not alone. We are hardwired to love beautiful things. Here’s why good design makes us happy.
Good Architecture, Good Life
The architecture, layout and amenities of a city determine the quality of life there. In his study on livable cities, Professor Abraham Goldberg discovered that people’s surroundings – lovely architecture, history, green spaces, cobblestone streets – had the greatest effect on their long-term happiness. He found that people are healthier when they live among variety. A perfect mess of bars, restaurants, and independent shops, and well-designed, unique work spaces, lead to happier and more productive people.
Conversely, ugly environments are really bad for our health. Professor Justin Hollander and Architect Ann Sussman argue that bland cityscapes and big, blank, boxy buildings have a physical and mental toll on residents. Ugliness kills inspiration. When you walk into a McDonald’s, the harsh lighting, plastic furniture, and appalling colour scheme (yellow and red) makes you feel stressed and anxious, right? Think about it. Why do you travel to Venice but not to Detroit? It’s because Venice is beautiful but Detroit, not so much.
Design and the Love Drug
Good design is central to a good society. Our surroundings shape our mood so much that we feel like a different person depending on what we see and where we are. Have you ever noticed that you walk a bit taller, maybe even with swagger, when you’re in a trendy, glamorous bar. Or that you lower the tone and volume of your voice when you’re in a minimalist, meticulous building like an art gallery. That’s because we mould ourselves to our environment. If the environment is well designed and beautiful, it brings out the best in us.
New studies have even found that looking at beautiful things, like art, can give as much joy as being head over heels in love. When surrounded by beauty and good design, humans conjure feelings of happiness, calmness, a connection to history or the divine, wealth, and, perhaps surprisingly, hope. Good design is of course found in places like parks, museums, galleries and (some) cities. But finding beauty in everyday activities can bring deep happiness to your life. Appreciate the perfectly designed cutlery that is lovely to hold. Enjoy the satisfying clunk of the door when you climb into a luxury European car. Good design is all around when you open your eyes to it.
Find Happiness In Your Home
When she spent a year living in Denmark, author and journalist Helen Russell marvelled at how Danish homes were so immaculately designed, styled and maintained. Danes pride themselves on their dedication to hygge – a word that defies translation but is about having a relaxed, cosy time; being kind to yourself, and not denying yourself anything. It’s no surprise, then, that Denmark is considered the happiest country in the world.
If you bring good design and beauty into your home, you too can boost your happiness. I take immense pride in my living environment and every day I get a feeling of relief, calmness and joy as I walk through my door. My home is my sanctuary. It tells the story of who I am and is a collection of things I love. You don’t need to fill your home with expensive designer furniture to appreciate ‘good design’. One of my favourite objects is a chipped, cast iron pot that was given to my mum and dad as a wedding present. It cooks food perfectly, and I love that it bears the scars of decades of loving use. If you appreciate the human time and effort in every item that you use in your home, you can’t help but be filled with happiness and wonder. Good design equals a good life. Make sure it’s a part of yours.