The buildings where we live, work and play have been aptly referred to by human ecologists as our “third skin.” Like our physical skin (first skin) and the layers of clothing that we wear (second skin), our surroundings have a tremendous impact on our physical and psychological health. These environments both define our boundaries and reveal hidden aspects of our inner selves. The ever-increasing abundance of books, magazines and television programming on interior decoration and home improvement reveal our growing fascination with every aspect of our self-created environments.The mounting public awareness of the health issues involved in our indoor lifestyles is evident in a number of emerging trends: the emphasis on improving indoor air quality in both public and private buildings, the movement towards “natural homes” and non-toxic building materials and the growing interest in alternative approaches to enhancing interior environments including feng shui, biogeometry and aromatherapy.Creating powerful environments for working, learning, healing and socializing has become the professional arena of environmental psychologists and the private empire of almost everyone else. Is this a frivolous preoccupation or a human endeavor as significant and meaningful as finding a mate, pursuing a career and understanding one’s place in the universe? The process of personalizing one’s space is really a fundamental survival skill.Our interior design choices communicate our social status and gender. Our architectural structures have deep symbolic meaning. Even the astounding variety of temporary environments that we frequent for recreation and rejuvenation-amusement parks, hotels, hospitals, cruise ships, resorts, restaurants and shopping malls have an impact on our lives. What exactly are the powerful effects of the built environment on human life?Let’s focus on the environment where we spend the most time: our homes. The primacy of the home is virtually indisputable. Home is our territorial core-where we belong, where we retreat to at the end of our day, the point of reference around which we orient our lives. But what makes a home truly a home? Less than half of us actually own our own homes today, but somehow we get along without the epicenter of the American Dream. Or do we? Is owning the bricks and mortar less important than the act of personalizing our space? From the mundane fundamentals of choosing wall colors, upholstery designs and furniture styles to the more ephemeral art of feng shui, home decorating has become a complex skill-and a big business.D. Geoffrey Hayward, an environmental psychologist, has studied the sociological dimensions of home extensively. Hayward has isolated a number of key factors that define “home.” Social networks, self-identity, privacy and stability weigh in at the top of the list. Home ownership is actually less important than we thought.Joan Kron, a prolific writer on home fashion and decorating, covers a fascinating array of associated issues in her book Home Psych. Other human ecologists, architects and marketing experts continue to assess our growing fixation on every aspect of our self-created environments.Feathering our nests is no longer the prerogative of bored housewives, but actually a critical skill for anyone intent on moving up the social ladder. Our furniture, special collections, artwork and even our physical address are status symbols and send a clear message to friends and competitors alike.The next time you disdainfully set aside the home decorating magazines conveniently placed in just about every reception area and waiting room, think again! Spending a few minutes (and a few dollars) on upgrading your home may have far-reaching effects and support the accomplishment of many significant goals in your life.
success,interior design,environmental psychology,home decorating,natural homes,feng shui