Now that the importance of health, well-being, sustainability, interconnectedness, personal space requirements, and the quality of our indoor environments, among others, are being given more attention due to recent global events, a holistic approach to interior design may offer some solutions. Through holistic interior design, we can create spaces that: reflect what we value and our true selves; support our goals, health, well-being; and minimize environmental impact.

A “holistic” perspective looks at a situation (or being) in its entirety – the whole is more than the sum of its parts. In contrast, interior design is the coordination and design of all visual elements in an interior space. For me, when we put these words together, it means designing spaces that help us feel good or “feel whole.” Our immediate environments can help us live better lives through functionality (when they help us achieve our tasks efficiently) and by providing comfort (when they help us feel good).

Engage with a new lifestyle inside a space that has been intentionally designed to suit that purpose

Sophia Calima

We are mind, body and soul inside a space. They constantly influence each other and drive us to think, feel and act a certain way. The mind signals the body, the body gives form to thoughts, the soul aspires for growth, and space is where we are, where our lives happen. We influence physical environments with our personalities, and in turn, they help nurture (or keep us from) our purpose. Take a yo-yo dieter who’s determined to finally be healthy as an example. As a holistic interior designer, I would recommend: a kitchen set up which encourages preparation of quick, healthy meals; a dining area which supports mindful eating; a small area with a yoga mat and resistance bands for simple at-home and body weight exercises. If the dieter has thyroid issues or self esteem concerns, a visit to a medical professional or therapist would also offer new perspectives. It’s easier to engage with a new lifestyle, and live our best lives, inside spaces that have been intentionally designed to suit that purpose.

small kitchen

As a complementary practice to interior design, a holistic approach endeavors to create spaces that nurture the entire human being – from emotional, physical and spiritual well-being. It also recognizes that we are energy, and our surroundings have subtle energies that affect us. Our homes and offices are extensions of our energy fields. This is why practices like cleaning, rearranging furniture, organizing closets and decluttering our spaces have a profound impact on our well-being. Holistic interior design also pulls from green and sustainable practices because it recognizes that we are part of the natural world. This is how it helps to create spaces that support, uplift and connect.

Mass and energy are both but different manifestations of the same thing

Albert Einstein
holistic interior design

Interior design is rooted in function and aesthetics. A holistic practice also recognizes the importance of these elements, and takes it further by espousing an environmentally responsible and humanistic approach to design. Whereas interior design would focus on furniture placement and layout, holistic interior design enhances this by recommending natural materials and green choices for furniture and accessories. These eco-friendly selections improve indoor air quality, health and well-being of occupants (please see off gassing).

There won’t be enough storage without decluttering

An interior designer ensures that the built environment supports the human body; while a holistic interior designer also looks into how it influences human psychology, emotions and behavior. While a designer studies circulation patterns or how people move through a space, a holistic designer also studies feng shui or how energy flows through the space. A good interior designer makes sure there’s enough storage for everything. While a good holistic interior designer would also recommend decluttering.

In interior design, the visual impact and cost of furniture are forefront. In holistic design, aesthetics and cost are equally important as the furniture’s environmental impact and symbolism. Interior designers are trained to focus on ergonomics, color harmonies, craftsmanship and construction. In addition to these, holistic interior designers also draw from environmental psychology, color therapy, feng shui, decluttering, symbolism, aromatherapy, eco-friendly practices, among others.

These links across disciplines enrich interior design and make a holistic approach possible. Through this, we can create built environments which reconnect us with the natural world and foster a deeper connection with ourselves and with our loved ones. When we see each space as part of a bigger picture, we can make responsible choices and reach our personal best.