Intersections of Interior Design, Well-being, and the Home Environment

Presented by: Angelita Scott, Denise A. Guerin

The purpose of this phenomenological qualitative study was to understand how the physical home environment affects psychological well-being for stay-at-home mothers. Interior designers are charged with the responsibilities of ensuring occupant health, safety, and well-being. To fulfill this charge, it is important for interior designers to understand the connection between people, the built environment, and the role their profession plays in improving quality of life. This connection is mediated by psychological and physiological responses. The concept of well-being is difficult to quantify (Becker et al., 2010; Kopec, 2012), but there are factors such as stress and satisfaction that are predictors of well-being (Deiner, 2009; Dilani, 2001; --- & Martin, 2010; Ulrich, 1991). As stay-at-home-mothers spend a significant amount of time in their homes, it is important to address their well-being as caring for infants and children can physically and mentally take a toll on a mother’s life. Studies have shown a link between a mother’s mental health and developmental delays in children (Manuel, Martinson, Bledsoe-Mansori, & Bellamy, 2012). Due to the influence the physical environment has on people’s emotional health, well-being implications support the need to identify any physical environment factors in the home that can reduce stress, increase control, or improve quality of life in any way. The design of space may indirectly and directly impact individual well-being on a micro level and, therefore, public health on a macro level (Frumkin, 2005; Jackson, 2003). This inquiry explored what well-being means in the home, what physical characteristics or features in the home environment increased and/or decreased stay-at-home mothers’ well-being. Face-to-face interviews, observation, and photo elicitation were used to collect data. The sample consisted of 14 stay-at-home mothers who had one or more children from birth to five years of age and lived in a metropolitan area. Kreitzer’s (2012) well-being model was used as a conceptual framework informing questions and directing analysis. Findings revealed that quantity of space, access to nature, personalization, and privacy/retreat were important for well-being in the mothers’ homes; clutter and lack of cleanliness detracted from their well-being. Suggestions for creating well-being in the home were generated from the findings in the study. These suggestions support well-being by reducing stress levels for mothers and their families in the home environment. In addition, outcomes of this study will aid interior designers in home design that supports well-being, health practitioners in understanding potential stressors in the physical home environment, and may potentially affect housing policy to impact planning and building practices of homes for those who reside in affordable housing with minimal resources to increase their quality of life.


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