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Home Design Psychology

What is home design psychology?

So what’s this all about?  It’s about finding out what your really want in your home.  What are the design elements that will give you that gut feeling that you are ‘at home’?

These questions can be answered by turning to the field of home design psychology.  Don’t run away.  Now before you turn away saying 'I don't need therapy', I promise you this isn’t woo-woo psychobabble.  Stay with me here and you’ll see it makes sense.



This page is part of the design brief series.

How we talk about what we want in a home

Typically, there are two main ways that we use to describe what we want in a home.  Firstly we start talking in terms of spaces saying something like ‘We need so and so square feet with this many bedrooms and we’re into open plan living. We’d like an office space and by the way we’d like such and such a style of house.’  The second jumping off point is often pictures and images of the latest trends that we may have collected together in an idea book, online or offline.

Now, for a minute, compare describing what you’re looking for in a home to how you might describe your ideal partner.

Describing your home vs describing your ideal partner

Let’s say you sign up on an online dating site.  One of the first things to do is describe what you’re looking for in your ideal partner.  We often have a visual image in mind of how we want our ideal partner to look, and yet we all know that in the long run, for a long term relationship, it’s other things that really matter.  You search is more likely to succeed if you outline the activities you enjoy and some of the character traits and life values you’re looking for in a partner.

Well - it's the same for a home.  The psychology of home is all about teasing out the deeper values that we want our homes to reflect and figuring out how we can design our homes to best support our day to day lives.  For once, it is all about YOU! 

How does home design psychology work?

The well-thought-out home has much less to do with a piece of prime real estate or the latest decorating trend than with its responsiveness to deep evolutionary needs, personal preferences, and cultural influences that we're often only subliminally aware of. We may not have words for these satisfactions, but they infuse our favorite houses and apartments and make us feel at home.

Winifred Gallagher

When you embark on a home design psychology process you’ll be taken through some exercises which involve, among other things:

  • Examining your feelings about homes you’ve lived in your past
  • Exploring how you react to different settings and home design features
  • Thinking about how your home design effects your relationships.

These exercises have the effect of communicating your taste into a process, a science even.  It takes the mystery out of that intuitive feeling about what you want your home to be.

Home design psychology in action

Here's an example of how this approach contributed to two home design projects…

An awkward addition rescued using home design psychology

A couple commissioned an architect to draw up plans to expand their home and they went ahead and built the addition.  They ended up with a long, narrow space with a fireplace in the middle.  The space didn’t seem to have a natural flow and they didn’t know what to do with it.  They didn’t use the new area much and it became a nagging reminder of how much money they’d spent.

Faced with this situation the couple considered turning to an interior designer to make-over the space.  Instead the couple turned to the home design psychology firm Forrest Painter.  

After going through a series of interviews with Constance Forrest and Susan Painter the homeowners knew how they would transform their oddly shaped addition into an area that reflects their personal tastes and resonates with their psyches.

Psychological blueprint for design decisions

A homeowner was planning to renovate her original colonial style house and add a new apartment with the plan to move into the apartment and rent out the house.

She had loooong consultations with an architect but she felt the architect wasn’t getting her.  She consulted with a home design psychologist to get a clear idea of what she wanted.  She now has a ‘psychological blueprint’ that she can use to help her make design decisions.  It did take a bit of time, but it saved time going forward with a new architect.

Be your own home design psychologist

Home design psychologists tend to be expensive, around $175 per hour.

The good news is that I have spent some time corresponding with several home design psychologists and I’m in the throws of putting together a home design psychology workbook for you based on the exercises that they take their clients through.

A home full of meaning for you and your family

Here's what the House Plans Helper Home Design Psychology Workbook will do for you.

  • Puts you and your family at the center of the design process.
  • Give you a deeper understanding of what you want and need in your home.
  • Empowers you to give accurate design instructions to an architect and other design professionals.
  • Saves you time during the design process or home search.
  • Enables a close understanding between couples of each other's design motivations which is invaluable during the inevitable tricky decisions and negotiations that come up during the course of a design project.

If you’d like me to let you know when this workbook is available, just sign up for the House Plans Helper alerts below.

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More Design Brief Pages

Home Design Psychology

For a meaningful home that feels the way it should

Activity Patterns

(Coming soon)

For a livable home that functions the way it should

Mood Boarding

(Coming soon)

For a beautiful home that reflects you and your family



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