The way we design our rooms could enhance our productivity. Design psychologist Désirée Azzopardi talks mood boards and colour with Rachel Agius.

Ever wonder why sometimes, no matter how hard you try, you simply cannot do your best at the office?

An environment is functional not only in terms of physical matters such as layout and ergonomics but also the psychological function of the room

You’ve had your coffee, opened the window for light and air, and logged out of Facebook but somehow, your productivity levels hover around the ‘barely making deadlines’ mark.

The answer may be in the walls. And in the furniture and the layout of the room. While interior design is a booming business locally, design psychology is still catching up and may be the solution to many an unproductive day.

Désirée Azzopardi explains the basic concepts of design psychology. Having first encountered the discipline while studying at the Marbella Design Academy in Spain, she discovered an affinity for working with the connection between space and psyche.

The essence, she believes, is harmony. “An environment is functional not only in terms of physical matters such as layout and ergonomics but also the psychological function of the room,” she explains.

For instance a living room serves a different purpose than an office space, both in terms of function and in the desired psychological impact of each room. The former should be conducive to communication and be a relaxing area while the latter should be geared towards productivity and efficiency.

“Very often, designers think colour is the only element to affect the psychological aspect of design. In reality it is a combination of things ranging from volume, shapes, light and even sound.”

This means that there are no ‘bad’ individual design choices (though one might argue that when it comes to leopard print rugs, there is a time and a place) but there can be a dissonance between furnishings, fabrics and flooring that can make a living room a tension headache waiting to happen or a bedroom chaotic and less than restful.

Private clients should not expect to be detached from the design process, giving only general ideas and themes. It begins with a site visit and budget quotation.

“The next stage is literally getting into the client’s head and creating a design solution for the physical and psychological needs of the space in question. It is an exciting part of the process, and great relationships are always built here,” she explains.

By combining an understanding of the client and the way a space and its components interact with one another and with the occupant, Azzopardi strives to create a unique, tailored place that is both aesthetically pleasing and psychologically sound.

“My role first and foremost is to interpret what the client has in mind, as well as their lifestyle, habits, personality and general outlook on life,” says Azzopardi.

“This is why I do not create spaces which are a reflection of me, but rather which speak of the client and his or her image.”

Next come the structural plans, 3D renderings, colour and mood boards and if required, Azzopardi will help the client in finding the right materials to best reflect the desired psychological effect of the room.

And the seal of approval? “When a client associates immediately with the space, letting them function at their best within it”.

Paying attention to the psychology of a space may also reap financial benefits. Retailers with premises that inspire confidence, encourage browsing and subconsciously promote spending will outsell a shop which does not draw customers in and then keep their attention.

Outdoor dining establishments and public spaces can also benefit from the coordination of design elements that help them achieve their purpose.

“When it comes to commercial design, I combine branding, ethos and image with creating a space aimed at enhancing sales through a variety of important design elements,” Azzopardi says.

Her role also includes ensuring thatconstruction and furnishing is deliveredto the highest standards and to agreedspecifications.

“I believe there is a great deal more to design rather than just superficially pleasing rooms. Knowing how to apply this subject to the world of interior design can differentiate between creating a ‘‘pretty’’ room that is out of balance and discordant and one that is mentally and physically relaxing,” the young woman explains.

Of course, the aesthetic element is important – an aesthetically inferior room will not inspire any of the positive effects desired from a space but a careful look at the client’s needs, attention to detail and intimate knowledge of the way all the pieces will fit together means that a room can go from just looking good to feeling good too.

Azzopardi finds great satisfaction in a job well done – “I find there is nothing more satisfying than seeing a happy client in a space which is beneficial, both in terms of common design factors like layout, ergonomics, and aesthetics and also in the positive interaction developed between space, psychology and design.”

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