Yes, it really does exist. I stumbled upon this area of psychology not too long ago as I was searching the web. Simply put, design psychology is using psychology as a tool to design spaces that are emotionally gratifying. It’s a fairly new discipline, and was introduced at the 1999 American Psychological Association’s annual conference (which is a very big deal).
I had the opportunity to interview one of the founders of design psychology, Dr. Constance Forrest, for an article I wrote in the NJ Psychologist (sorry, there’s no link to the journal). I was truly captivated and inspired by her story. She’s both a clinical psychologist and a design psychologist. And runs two separate practices, a therapy practice and a design practice, ForrestPainter Design—I just love that.
During my interview with Dr. Forrest, she said many fascinating things about how she uses psychology to create what she calls a “peak experience of place.” Armed with a number of tools, she identifies the physical details of a space that trigger high positive emotions for people. She coined the phrase “Getting to ‘Yes!'” It’s that overwhelming feeling you get when you instinctively know a place is right for you.
As part of her interview process, Dr. Forrest gathers a developmental history of place. This is where clients are asked to describe the places they’ve lived and the important things that happened there. I was so intrigued by this process that I decided to think about my own developmental history of place, and its connection to my current design aesthetics. So I searched for a number of interiors that “Got me to ‘Yes!'” and attempted to explain possible reasons why. Check it out…
I have an affinity for black and white floors. It doesn’t matter if it’s stripes, squares, or zig-zags. The obvious explanation is that there was a black and white kitchen floor in my home growing up. And of course, there’s a sense of familiarity and comfort there. But I also think that I associate black and white floors, particularly in an entry way, with a sense of grandeur that I’ve admired in homes since my childhood days.
This is what I call the collected look. A bunch of different styles all living together in one room. I’m one who could never live in a home with just one type of style. It would feel too… one-style-ish. I like the vivaciousness and energy of style-mixing. I’m pretty certain this has something to do with the fact that my childhood home was shall we say, an “eclectic mix” of 1960’s Louis XVI reproduction furniture, 1970’s gold kitchen appliances and vinyl floors, and a 1980’s brown, tweed sectional sleeper sofa. And this is before eclectic was the “it” thing. (To my mother’s credit, the 1970’s appliances were switched out by the ’90s but I remember it nonetheless.)
Even though I choose to decorate differently, I enjoy the organic way with which my mother put different styles together. She didn’t necessarily know brand names or designers, she just displayed what she thought was pretty. This is how this room feels to me. At the risk of sounding cliché, there’s a sense that objects and furniture were collected over time. I like that kind of easy-goingness in a home.
There’s a lot going on here. Some may call it cluttered even. I like to call it a full house. As much as I love modern, spare decor, it doesn’t quite hit the spot in the way a busier decor does. My childhood home was rather busy, and very colorful. Much of that was cultural. (My parents are Jamaican.) I’m sure just being in such a space influenced by design aesthetic. I was also somewhat of an only child (my siblings were much older), and had a lot of alone time. Perhaps being in a busy space may have provided me with some comfort during those times I spent by myself.
It goes without saying that wallpaper is all the rage these days. And I’m a big fan. I was drawn to this graphic, floral wallpaper because it’s both vintage and modern. I’m a vintage girl at heart, and thoroughly enjoy looking at the decor in old movies. My love of vintage may partly reflect my experience with having older parents. There was a large generational and cultural gap between myself and my parents. At times, it felt like I was being raised in the 1950’s.
But having older parents also exposed me to ideas and practices that are long gone. It was kind of like living with a piece of history (not to make them sound that old). I was always captivated by how things were done “way back when,” and loved (still do) rummaging through my mother’s old clothes and things. But of course, I’m very much a modern girl, and decor which merges both vintage and modern is captivating to me.
I like this space because it’s both understated and glamorous. Kind of like my mom who dressed modestly, but with a hint a glamour. She loved being a lady, and no doubt this influenced my aesthetic. My parents had a headboard very similar to this one in cream when I was growing up. They had the entire matching set, and it was très chic when my mother bought it. She has since disposed of it; and needless to say, I was highly upset. (I wanted it for myself and was going to paint it white.)
I like what’s happening here in this bohemian luxe space, as they call it. This is a true boudoir, and speaks directly to my love of vintage and glamour, as I mentioned above.
I gasped too. This is an undeniably full-fledged, luxurious dressing room. No, there was no room like this in my home growing up. If there was, I’d still be there. It’s more of an aspirational room. I blame it on all those nights as a child watching Dynasty when I was supposed to be sleeping. There’s nothing like the glamour of the 80’s, and it definitely has made a comeback. Alexis Carrington would certainly be in her element here.
I find this bedroom hilarious. I think it’s important to inject some humor into a decor—not take it so seriously. I don’t recall my childhood home having objects or things that were intentionally humorous. Decorating was considered to be a serious matter. Perhaps that’s why I get a kick out of a little irreverence.
I think it’s safe to say we are all influenced by culture and trends, but we also have our own unique social-emotional experience that impact the way we connect to spaces and places. What’s your developmental history of place? Maybe you have a similar or different emotional attachment to a certain decor that gets you to “yes!” Feel free to share it.