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Beauty is a function

You often hear people using the phrase ‘form over function’ or vice versa in the interiors world. But what if form is a function?


According to the Newport Institute “our every day surroundings have a powerful impact on our mood and emotions”. They set out studies that show how mess increases cortisol and therefore stress levels, and also one that shows patients recovering from surgery heal faster when their rooms have a view of nature.


What this tells us is that if your home is “designed to be practical and useful, rather than attractive” - the definition of something being ‘functional’ according to the Cambridge Dictionary - then actually, it probably isn’t working for you at all.


Given that we spend around 60% of our waking lives at home and 92% overall when sleep is counted, the impact of our houses on our well-being cannot be underestimated. It needs to meet your physiological and psychological needs as best as it possibly can.


This means that if ‘form’ has been considered an indulgence, it’s time to make a change. Creating a home that is beautiful is making it function - meeting your basic needs - just as much as having an oven that works or a decent mattress to sleep on.


So when seeking out beauty for your home - assuming your budget is finite - how do you decide where to invest? While there is no universal agreement on what is beautiful and the perfect home will be different for everyone, my research has thrown up some principles based on human psychology for creating beautiful interiors I thought I'd share.


  • Know when you are being swayed by trends

First up, be wary of trends. I recently found out that when we are repeatedly exposed to something, we like it more and more over time. Ever seen something you’ve not thought much of that you start seeing everywhere and suddenly one day feel drawn to it? So there is a very real risk that you could buy something ‘on trend’ thinking you like it but it’s your mind playing tricks on you. It’s fun to change things up from time to time to keep things interesting but you don’t want to be getting rid of big ticket items, switching out styles and undergoing full room makeovers every few years because you've gone off your home.


  • Let nature and natural materials dominate

The study I mentioned above about the healing power of simply a view of nature is such a powerful example of why we should let nature dominate our homes. No matter your taste in plants and flowers, the beauty of nature is universally accepted (I think?!). If like me you don’t live in the countryside blessed with amazing views, you can still create that feeling with window boxes and putting big pot plants along windowsills. Inside the home, you can choose colours and materials that echo nature - and nature has a big palette to offer so this doesn't need to restrict you. Edward Bulmer’s entire paint range exclusively consists of colours made from rocks and minerals so they are all naturally occurring. If you stick to that palette for your main paint colours you can’t go wrong. Linen, wool and cotton are all natural fibres and an excellent choice for upholstery, curtains, bedding and cushions (they're also generally more sustainable than synthetics). Real wood is brilliant for furniture and comes in so many different finishes there is something for everyone. And the same goes for real stone flooring. You get the picture.


While the cost of going for ‘real’ materials can sometimes be much greater than man-made, it is generally the case that they last longer and age well. And if you’re into vintage and antiques then it’s very easy to pick up amazing stuff for the same if not lower price points you see in large furniture stores.


  • Be sophisticated with your lighting for night and day

Light has a significant impact on us. Huge windows letting in lots of natural light during the day is not just an aesthetic indulgence, it will boost your brain function and well being. Warm-bulbed lamps filtered through fabric shades scattered around your living room in the evening are very pretty and will help your serotonin levels before bedtime compared to a big overhead light. And huge voluminous curtains in your bedroom are far more beautiful and will ensure you get a good night’s sleep. These things will create beautiful spaces because they're making you feel good.


  • Know you’ve sourced ethically

There can surely be no beauty in anything that has caused harm. We unfortunately cannot yet rely on industry regulations to ensure the products we buy are not hurting the people who make them or our planet. Finding this information out can be a total headache and I’m not suggesting you should spend hours researching whether the fibres in your sofa fabric created dangerous chemical by-products. But I think if a company is not explicitly talking about ethical practices on their website and demonstrating a commitment to this area, that’s a sure sign to steer clear.


  • Don’t sacrifice comfort.

Ever met someone who you thought was attractive but their behaviour was so ugly you just can’t see their beauty anymore? I think this totally applies to your home - if you buy a beautiful bed that is really uncomfortable to sleep in you will come look at that bed with disdain eventually. So when it comes to choosing items for your home, while beauty can and should play a big role in your decisions, if that is coming at the expense of its primary practical use I would really recommend making it a red line you don’t cross!


I hope this helps anyone holding back to go forth and unapologetically making your home a thing of beauty.


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That's such a thoughtful post, Anna. I am not one but surprised about people going into shabby hospitals and feeling worse. There is the most stunningly designed hospital near me, Chelsea and Westminster and it so invigorating, airy and optimistic. Architecturally stunning inside and full of community art. Keep the posts coming x

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