Why doesn't my house feel safe?

Residential psychology: reasons why we feel good at home

Why nature in living is so important for our well-being - and why we should definitely help with the design of our rooms.

Security and security are basic human needs. This is exactly what a good apartment should do. It is therefore often referred to as the “third skin” of humans. The way of living affects people and their well-being. But: When do you feel comfortable in a room? It's not that easy to say. Is it the shape, is it the colors or the light? Or rather the smells? The architect and psychologist Dr. Harald Deinsberger-Deinsweger explained. For nine years he and his institute Wohnspektrum have been advising builders on questions of living psychology.

The house: what does residential psychology deal with?

Residential psychology explores the interplay between the house and its residents. Spaces can determine our behavior and well-being, often significantly more than we are consciously aware of. They can narrow us down or they give us options. They can also make us more aggressive than we actually are, or they can help to relax.

Can a room put you in a good mood?

Not directly. But you can create the basis for making a good mood more likely. Buildings and spaces can't create feelings, but you can build spaces that make it easier to relax. Such rooms are then also beneficial to health in the long term. Unfortunately, it is not possible to exclude a bad mood from the outset. There are, however, spatial aspects that can, for example, increase or even cause depressive moods - but also those that can reduce them.

What would be important elements for that?

Let's stay with relaxation for now. We like this state of affairs both in private and in the professional environment, because it usually makes you much more creative. In order to relax, the space that we perceive around us is important. When there are many natural elements there, tension eases more easily. Studies show that. So it is quite useful if you can perceive nature in the outdoor spaces. For example, a patient who has a view of nature will recover faster than without such a view.

Can you make do with houseplants?

It works. We naturally need a certain amount of stimuli so that we can feel comfortable. These stimuli are kind of a staple food for our brain and soul. It developed with the evolution of humans. In the earlier epochs of our evolutionary history in nature, there was never a lack of impulses and stimuli. That is why we do not have an alarm system if too few stimuli act on us - we do not notice it. But a monotonous environment can make you feel uncomfortable, sometimes even discomfort.

Isn't there more of a sensory overload today?

No. There is no overstimulation with the creative means in our environment. Too many stimuli can only come from new technologies or the media. You can't do that with furniture, furnishings or plants. Aesthetically, you can have the feeling that the room is cluttered. But that doesn't make you sick.

What does this mean for the design of our environment?

Take a city apartment where you can only look out of your window at a boring wall across the street. Anyone who sparsely furnishes the interior there damages his well-being and his concentration: Such a monotonous environment tends to encourage irritability. If you can't freely choose your surroundings, you should at least make the interior attractive, with varied colors, pictures and decorations.

Does that mean that the reduced architecture of modernity is psychologically unhealthy?

If it is in a varied environment, for example with a lot of nature around it, then by no means. You should only change something if the monotony continues in the area. Otherwise, simplicity is fine if, for example, the outside space has something to offer.

Could a room painted green have a similar effect?

The use of green in the color scheme can also have a relaxing effect - similar to a natural environment. But it is much weaker and noticeably diminishes over time. Really positive effects are only created when several colors are combined. An attractive color scheme also includes other elements.

What for example?

I recommend that my customers take the time to sit down in the room to be furnished and imagine it to be furnished: what colors do they see, what furniture? Which light would be pleasant? What would it take for me to enjoy staying there? With just a little time, almost everyone develops their own, suitable ideas.

How do you make an apartment cozy and cozy?

It has to correspond to the person. Usually this happens with personal things and with an individual design. This creates an emotional relationship with the room. It becomes "my" room. That's why my first recommendation would be not to have everything designed by others, but to lend a hand yourself, even if craftsmen then do it. This increases the satisfaction with living. This human need can be seen well in puberty: At this stage of life, the desire for individualization is particularly pronounced. Before, it was almost always the parents who designed the children's room. But with the first step towards growing up, the urge to perceive yourself begins, first of all in your own room. Even if it is difficult for the parents to look at, it is an important process from a psychological point of view.

Is there such a thing as the perfect room?

It could theoretically exist, but it looks different every time because the respective environmental factors as well as the personal aspects are never identical. So simply copying room concepts because you think they are perfect is not advisable.

Is a well-designed apartment expensive?

Not at all. Marble floors and fine wallpaper alone do not create good rooms. You can definitely achieve a high quality of living with simple means. And to satisfy the important human living needs, you don't need a lot of square meters.

Do you have any other recommendations?

An apartment should ideally have separate areas with different degrees of public and private sphere. On the one hand, an area where you receive guests and allow contact with neighbors. And then the intimate part where you relax. Classically the bedroom or the bathroom. This separation of functions is important in order to meet our living needs, on the one hand for company and on the other hand for relaxation.

What are the most important housing needs from the psychologist's point of view?

You can certainly formulate a good fifty needs there. Most important are the stimulation of the senses, the opportunity to relax, the protection of privacy and the need for community, for self-determination and for designing one's own home. The more of these are met, the higher the quality of living.

Can a room make you sick?

A room can only make you sick directly in extreme cases. But anything that affects our well-being can also lead to health consequences in the long term.

The architect: Dr. Harald Deinsberger-Deinsweger

Dr. Harald Deinsberger-Deinsweger studied architecture and did a doctorate in psychology. For ten years he worked as a project manager in an architectural office. Today he develops design concepts for workplaces and residential buildings with his company "Wohnspektrum" and leads the residential psychology training at the AAP Austrian Academy for Psychology.