Now more than ever it’s important for us to make our workspace a solace for our well-being. The theory of neuro-architecture explores how art, color, lighting, and design can have a positive impact on our mood, productivity, and overall health. Drawing from more than years of professional experience pushing the boundaries of conventional design, interior design director Jessica Shaw of the award-winning Turett Collaborative shares her top 10 design therapy tips for creating a work from home , work from anywhere or in-office workspace that boosts mental and physical wellness.

1 Set the Intention with Color

Studies have shown that color has the potential to affect your mood, emotions, concentration, and even physical health with methods like color therapy. Bolder colors like bright yellow boost positive thoughts and spark creativity, while reds stimulate and energize. For instance, incorporating red for detail-oriented work is incredibly beneficial as the color is proven to elevate pulses and blood pressure. On the other hand, muted colors like soft blues and greens produce a sense of calmness which are ideal for lounge spaces or break areas. By integrating principles of color psychology into the workspace, you can subconsciously enhance desired mindsets, be it creativity or productivity, to help you achieve specific goals. 

Country Wood porcelain tile
Color with a Purpose: Pops of red energize the Novita office in New York City help to promote detail-oriented work.
Photo: Novita.

2 Bring in the Good Vibes

Having a basic understanding of vibration between colors, and how colors interact, is also important when creating any composition in a room. Abstract painter Josef Albers has in-depth studies of color theory and his 1963 book, Interaction of Color, is a great 101 for design and color lovers. Take the color wheel into consideration—choose analogous colors for a harmonious, monochromatic look, complementary colors for a bold, balanced look, and triadic colors for a more energetic, personality-filled space. Different hues, tints, tones, and shades can also be used to create varying illusions or to draw attention to certain objects. 

Concrete Jungle tile

Opposing carpet patterns liven up the monochromatic scheme of this hallway while simultaneously creating.
Photo: Turett Collaborative.

Country Wood porcelain tile

An energizing palette of triadic colors livens up and adds an element of contrast to the Civic Hall dining area.
Photo: Turett Collaborative.

3 Break the Rules

While there are valuable tips stemming from color theory, rules are also made to be broken. Sometimes, anything goes, and unexpected color combinations work well. Consider your personal brand or the company culture. Gauge whether the color scheme within the office is representative of the vibe you are looking to create. Let the reaction influence your design palette. From there, just let your creativity flow.  

4 Use White as an Accent Color

Go against the grain of traditional stark-white workplaces and incorporate white more sparingly in furnishings and accent pieces. Studies have shown that too much white can actually stagnate productivity and creativity. Additionally, if you are looking to make your workplace feel warm and inviting, use white sparingly, as the color is often associated with hospitals and sterility. Reserve a monochromatic color scheme for more serious atmospheres, such as for conference and meeting rooms. 

5 Stimulate Creativity with Abstract Art

Art is an incredibly influential aspect in impacting moods and the feel of an environment. In a sense, it can be a reflection and extension of your company or individual brand. Few other pieces in a space can be so personalized and emotion-filled as artwork. Viewing art, in particular, has been proven to have a powerful impact on the brain, stimulating the creation of new neural pathways and ways of thinking. Research, such as a study from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, How Engaging With Art Affects the Human Brain, continues to indicate that viewing art stimulates creativity, brain activity, and function. 

Concrete Jungle tile

A gradient tile art piece composed of sage greens and blues adds texture and immediately captivates the eye with its geometric patterns.
Photo: Turett Collaborative.

Country Wood porcelain tile

Large abstract prints command attention and make a statement in a Park Avenue residence.
Photo: Turett Collaborative.

6 Let the Sunshine In

When designing the layout of the office, be sure to take into account sunlight. Poor lighting has been linked to higher cancer rates and clutter to negative decision-making. A 2018 study conducted by Cornell University Professor Alan Hedge has shown that providing brighter work environments with natural lighting not only helps with productivity levels, but also improves sleep quality. 

Exposure to natural light during the day helps regulate our internal sleep-wake schedules by syncing with our body's circadian rhythm. Additional benefits of natural light include reduced eye strain, drowsiness, headaches, and elevated moods. When working from home, the same principles apply. Be sure to locate your desk near a window or room that has ample natural light to gain the same benefits. 

Country Wood porcelain tile
Positioning workspaces near natural light helps to foster concentration.

7 Add Tension

Create harmony in your surrounding space, but don’t be afraid of a little tension. Consider the surrounding environment. Make sure to take into account the finishes, forms, and colors of the room. Having interior elements that are too similar can dull our senses. Our visual field requires variety for stimulation. Bringing together pieces that juxtapose one another in color, form, or aesthetic livens up a space and prevents it from becoming stagnant. To break up the rigidity of a grid-based layout often seen in traditional offices, try incorporating organic, soft shapes to add a layer of dimension, dynamism, and visual complexity. Balancing masculine and feminine pieces is a great example of creating tension to achieve a cohesive, yet elevated look. 

Country Wood porcelain tile
A rich palette of primary and secondary colors in abstract shapes creates simple modern statement that juxtaposes with more ornate furniture. Photo: Turett Collaborative.

8 Get Grounded

Flooring not only enhances the visual stability of a room but also acts as subtle visual cues for wayfinding Carpeting provides a softer feel to a space while hardwood floors create a strong, polished look. Sampling a variety of flooring helps to create subtle visual cues of separation between spaces. Compared to physical dividers like cubicles, this option keeps the space open and uncongested. Lines also encourage movement; our eyes are trained to follow lines in the direction they flow. For instance, vertical lines promote movement and mobility, whereas horizontal lines create a grounded, secure feeling. To reap the benefits of these neuro-architectural principles, place vertical running wood or carpeting along hallway. 

9 Minimize Distractions

Maximize your brainpower by minimizing visual and noise distractions. There may be more than just an aesthetically appealing reason for keeping a tidy workspace. Studies from the Princeton Neuroscience Institute confirm that our attention levels and productivity are directly correlated to the amount of clutter we have on our desk and peripheral spaces. The more objects and items we have on display, the more visual and informational processing we have to do, leaving us depleted and lacking the concentration we need for our actual work. Whether it be a candy dish or the heap of papers on your desk, take a quick break to clear all miscellaneous items that may unwittingly be distracting you. 

Visual clutter is not the only element that inhibits organization and productivity. Noise pollution, in particular, is one of the most detrimental to our well-being. Studies show that excess noise negatively affects almost 70% of workers’ concentration, creativity, and work quality. For those who work from home, similar distractions arise in the form of the television, neighborhood construction, and pets. Try to set aside a dedicated space for focused work, preferably with a door. Consider furniture and design elements that absorb sound, whether that be carpeting, acoustic wall paneling, or drapery. 

10 Don’t Forget the Principles of Proxemics

A definite rule when designing an efficient and productive office space is considering the law of proxemics, which states that different distances serve different forms of interactions. For instance, a distance of 1.5-4 feet (personal) best facilitates friendly, casual conversation whereas distances lesser than 1.5 feet (intimate) promote a stronger connection between individuals. Therefore, it is important to design a work environment that allows for these varying degrees of physical separation to help promote both individual work and collaborative efforts.

Alleviating stress and fostering a safe environment contribute to employees’ overall well-being and comfort. The process of returning to the office is a delicate one and making sure that people feel safe should be top priority. Open hallways and additional spacing between workstations reduce visual congestion and naturally creates social distancing and separation for employees who need it.