Emotional Design: How Art Affects Wellbeing

Hanging art in your home is one of the best ways to bring a space together and show off your taste. But art can be interpreted in different ways by different people and has the power to help us feel good, happy, or calm depending on where it is hung and the colours used.

We wanted to learn more about how artwork can work with the ancient Chinese practice of feng shui and colour theory to impact our mental wellbeing and mood. To do so, we spoke to five experts to learn more about the best ways to introduce art and colour into your space.

Green Lili Summit About You abstract mountain canvas Canvas: Summit About You Abstract Art

Our experts

The experts we consulted range from psychology researchers to design consultants, all with different experience and backgrounds in the design space.

Kimberley Garner is the founder of the School of Holistic Design® and is the pioneer for a formula for manifesting, now called the Life+Design Method™, which aligns the interior of home and subconscious with one’s vision of an ideal life.

Suzanne Roynon is an Expert Interiors Therapist, award-winning author, speaker and Feng Shui Consultant.

Dennis Relojo-Howell is the Founder and Managing Director of psychology website Psychreg and a doctoral researcher in clinical psychology at the University of Edinburgh.

Inbaal Honigman offers her opinions from a spiritual perspective as a witch and esoteric expert and has taken part in makeover TV shows in the past.

With expert opinion from our Green Lili founder and artist, Michelle Collins.

How can colour affect mood and wellbeing?

Colour theory is a heavily researched topic, and it’s well known that colour can affect our mood. By introducing different colours into your space, you can impact how the room makes you feel.

Green Lili terracotta abstract canvas on exposed brick wall. Canvas: Entwined Abstract Art | Warm Nature Abstract Art

Dennis says “Ancient cultures like the Egyptians and the Chinese practised colour therapy called colorology or chromotherapy. Today, colorology is still a significant part of holistic and alternative treatment.” He goes on to say that different colours have different effects on your mood and body. He says “Red is used to stimulate the body and mind and increase circulation. This is one of the reasons why dating experts recommend a red background for dating profiles. Yellow is thought to stimulate the nerves and purify the body. Orange is used to heal the lungs and increase energy levels. Blue is believed to soothe illnesses and treat pain.”

Inbaal comments that colours can even be used to your advantage, saying “Use red to bring about more bravery and directness, orange for creativity, browns and other neutrals for stability including sand and rock colours. Blue is great for communication and green for wealth and health. White for peace, black allows you to keep your secrets safe, and all the purples for spirituality.”

We asked Dennis why colours are so effective at impacting our mood. “Colour – as part of the electromagnetic spectrum – is in its purest form energy, a wavelength, which has its own magnetic frequency. Anecdotal and empirical evidence has suggested an association between mood and colour sensitivity. Colours can impact neurological pathways and can trigger a biochemical response.”

Green Lili’s, Michelle, enjoys using earthy tones in the artwork available on the site. She says she takes inspiration from nature to create her pieces. “I like earthy colours found in nature and raw materials; green (my favourite), burnt orange, pink, and warm neutrals found in stone, sand, concrete and wood—all of a soft low saturation with warm undertones, which make me feel calm and grounded.”

So by harnessing the power of colour, you can transform your space and improve your mood to help you feel more inspired, energised, or calm.

Where you should hang art in your home according to feng shui consultants

Feng shui is an ancient, traditional Chinese practice which claims to use energy forces to harmonise individuals with their environment. The concept is derived from a poem that talks about human life being connected to and flowing with the environment around it.

The practice is all about balance and involves placing furniture and art around your home in order to maximise the flow of energy and help achieve your goals. It’s difficult to give fixed recommendations for locations for hanging art around your home as feng shui is very much unique to each individual. However, focusing on how the art makes you feel is just as important as the feng shui itself - there’s no point hanging a piece in an area if it won’t be seen or doesn’t make you feel good when you look at it.

Green Lili Kindred Spirit Canvas in Bedroom Canvas: Kindred Spirit Abstract Canvas

Suzanne says that “In the right place, art can instantly uplift the energy in the room and the mood of anyone who enters it.” Try hanging your favourite pieces in places you will see often such as in hallways, above the bed, or over the sofa. By keeping them on display, you can tie a room together, view them at any time, and instantly uplift your mood.

The orientation of the artwork is fairly debated and is best decided on a case-by-case basis. Suzanne doesn’t believe that a horizontal or portrait orientation has much sway in the feel of the space, but Kimberley considers the orientation to be important. “Hanging art vertically commands more presence and feels more active. Hanging art horizontally offers a more calming presence and has greater gravity.” So if you’re looking to create a relaxing or serene space such as in a bedroom, you may find a wider piece of art to evoke these feelings whereas a portrait piece may work best in a space that needs more action such as an entryway or office.

How can art support success and a positive lifestyle?

So, how can art impact the feng shui of your home? And how does that affect you in turn? When practising feng shui, we are striving for balance and in particular, a balance of elements. Too much or too little of one can make us feel off-kilter but when the elements are in harmony, we can feel energised and refreshed.

Suzanne explains “Traditional Feng Shui harnesses the elements to support a home. Each has a swathe of colours which enhance the energy of a space.” Choosing artwork that contains the colours of the element you’re trying to increase can help to bring harmony to your space.

Metal helps us with clarity and self-discipline and is represented with lots of metallic shades, pastels, grey, and white. Too much metal in a space can cause a low mood but in a good balance, metal will help us feel clear of mind, righteous and joyful.

Earth is the element of stability and nurture and can be brought into a space in the form of light browns, yellows, and neutral tones. All of these colours are very grounding and calming and nature-inspired art, such as those found on Green Lili, are great ways to bring feelings of serenity and re-connection into your space.

Green Lili Beach Days canvas in a cosy living room Image credit: @funflower_house - Canvas: Beach Days Canvas Art

Water is the element of tranquillity, wisdom, and wealth and should be brought in with plenty of blues and sea greens. “Because water is associated with both wealth and emotion, a little in the right place will support financial success.” Introduce water into your home with minimal blue abstract pieces, beautiful seascapes, and any images showing ponds, lakes, or oceans to invite a little extra wealth into your life.

Fire is the element of inspiration and passion. Warm colours such as reds, pinks, oranges, and warm yellows can “provide a burst of energy and inspiration when used correctly.” Pieces of art showing warm landscapes, autumnal nature scenes, and florals are a great way to add some fire to your home and help you feel more inspired and uplifted.

Finally, the element of wood is represented by greens and lighter browns. This element is “symbolic of growth, new life, a fresh start, and if used with care are a bonus in the right areas of a home.” Focus on neutral shades such as tans and taupes and install artwork featuring woodland imagery, or abstract art in green and brown shades to invite extra kindness, vitality, and growth into your home.

By taking the elements into consideration, you can help curate a home that serves you in the best way possible. Ensuring the energy of the space flows properly means a more positive and potentially successful lifestyle.

Green Lili At Ease Abstract Art cosy sofa Image credit: @homebyfell - Canvas: At Ease Canvas Art

Typically, each feng shui element (and their desired results) is paired with a direction on a compass - North for water, west and north-west for metal, east and south-east for wood, south for fire, and north-east and south-west representing earth. It’s thought that placing items containing these elements in these directions will help to invite them into your space, creating harmony and balance.

But hanging a piece in the “right” direction in your home only goes so far. Suzanne says that “Art impacts everyone in different ways. It stands to reason that anything which inspires, motivates or just makes one smile will be supportive and have a positive impact.” So if you have a piece of art that you absolutely love, don’t be afraid to hang it in pride of place - even if it’s a metal piece hanging in the direction of fire.

Art styles to embrace and the ones to avoid

Although art impacts different people in different ways, there are some styles that lend themselves to promoting feelings of calmness or serenity more than others. The most important aspect to consider is how the piece makes you feel overall. Some people are more affected by abstract art than others. Some may view a landscape scene as peaceful, while others consider it lonely, for example.

Kimberley says “Think of art as a language. Each piece expresses a unique message to each observer, as well as the emotion, intention, and experience of the artist.” She goes on to explain that by bringing art into your home you bring the essence of each piece with it, while also infusing it with your own emotions and intention, which can change the overall feel of the piece and the impact it has in the space.

True Grit Abstract Canvas Art Sunlight Image credit: @sophiafancuillidesign - Canvas: True Grit Abstract Art

When creating her artwork, Green Lili artist Michelle says that she prefers to take inspiration from things she enjoys. “Artwork that helps to bring the outdoors in can inject a sense of calm into a space, particularly rooms with lots of windows and natural light. Art depicting water or nature can lift the mood and provide a sense of peace. Botanical and nature-inspired art also works well for cosy spaces with less natural light.”

She also says that abstract art is one of her favourite styles because of its versatility. “Abstract art can be what you make of it, so whilst one person might find it positive, another might not. I think abstract art has much more room for creative interpretation, which can lead to more positive emotions.”

How to choose art for your home that promotes positive mental wellbeing and lifestyle

With all the previous information in mind, how do you choose artwork to display in your home that helps to promote positive mental wellbeing while still keeping the feng shui in balance? The tips from our experts were unanimous: choose art that makes you feel good when you look at it!

Inbaal says “Art is art, and some people love evocative pieces, painful depictions of difficult scenes - and those are wonderful additions to a communications room, like a study or a music room.”

Feng shui expert, Suzanne, prefers to select pieces that make her feel good. She says “Always choose something that makes you feel great. When the heart sings and you can’t help but smile, it’s a winner. Never buy something ‘just because’ or accept art you don’t like.”

It’s fair to say that selecting artwork that evokes a particular feeling within you and makes you react in a positive way is one of the best ways to choose art for your home. By surrounding ourselves with artwork that makes us feel good, we can positively impact our mental wellbeing both consciously and on a subconscious level. But if you already have artwork in your home and the balance feels a little off, how can you tell if that piece of art is blocking you?

Suzanne had some good insights into this, explaining “The easiest way is to stand in front of the artwork and look at it as though you’ve never seen it before. Examine it closely, what do you see? Is the subject supporting the lifestyle you want, or working against it? How would a child describe it?”

By taking these factors into account, you may discover that the piece isn’t as positive as you once thought, or perhaps it reminds you of difficult times in your life and is therefore making you feel more negative. She says “When you understand how it makes you feel, whether it’s positive, negative or neutral, you’ll have a clearer impression of whether it’s supporting you or potentially creating obstacles between you and your goals.”

Conclusion

Of course, art is completely subjective and what will make one person feel gloomy, will make another person feel happy or peaceful so it's important to make sure your art works for you and your space. Choose work that speaks to you or makes you feel joyful rather than just because it matches an aesthetic. Your surroundings impact your mood, your mind, and your ability to feel motivated so by creating a space you truly love, you can create a mental space and lifestyle that benefits you.

Green Lili Seas The Day Abstract canvas in a cosy corner Image credit: @zinaterazina - Canvas: Seas The Day Abstract Art

Browse Green Lili’s range of large abstract canvas wall art to find the perfect piece of art to fit your home, uplift your mood, and help you feel harmonious in your space.

So what are the main takeaways?

  • Using colour theory, you can transform your space to improve mood and boost inspiration, energy and feelings of serenity.
  • Utilise the ancient practice of feng shui to place art around your home to maximise the flow of energy and help you to achieve your goals.
  • Hang portrait artwork in rooms that require action like an entryway or office and landscape pieces in rooms where you want to create a serene space like the bedroom or living room.
  • Incorporate the elements of feng shui into your choice of artwork (metal, earth, water, fire and wood) to create harmony and balance.
  • Most of all don’t feel like you’re bound to rules - place art wherever makes you feel happiest!

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