Monday, 4 April 2011

Why you should fill your rooms with rounded, curvy furniture

The principle of Feng shui - to arrange rooms and buildings in ways that are pleasing and health-giving - has popular appeal. Unfortunately, Feng shui's scientific credentials are lacking, being based as it is on the ancient Chinese concept of Ch'i or life-force. The good news is that psychologically informed, evidence-based design is on the increase. Consider this new study by Sibel Dazkir and Marilyn Read, which has compared the effects of curvilinear (rounded) and rectilinear (straight-edged) furniture on people's emotions.

Over one-hundred undergrad participants viewed four computer-generated room interiors via an online survey, and provided ratings about how each one made them feel in terms of pleasure (e.g. how happy, hopeful) and approach (how much time they'd like to spend in the room; how sociable the room made them feel). Two of the rooms contained curvy, rounded furniture arranged in two different ways, whilst in the other two rooms all the furniture had straight edges and sharp angles, arranged in the same two different formations. To control for other influences, the rooms were in grey-scale and devoid of any patterned decor or artwork.

Overall, the students rated the rooms negatively because they found them boring - no surprise given their simplistic form and lack of colour. Crucially, however, the two room versions full of curvilinear furniture provoked significantly higher pleasure and approach ratings from the students. In open-ended questions afterwards the students made comments like 'I like the rounded shapes. They make the furniture look comfortable and inviting.' Another said: 'The rounded furniture seems to give off that calming feel.'

Obviously this is just a preliminary result - future research needs to test cross-cultural samples, check whether the effects apply when people actually enter rooms furnished in these different ways, and check whether or not influences of colour and patterns drown out the effects of furniture shape. It's also worth considering whether rectilinear-themed rooms may have their own benefits for purposes other than relaxing and socialising. In the meantime, the researchers said their results 'can guide designers to design more welcoming and pleasant environments with the use of curvilinear lines in their designs.'
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ResearchBlogging.orgDazkir, S. and Read, M. (2011). Furniture Forms and Their Influence on Our Emotional Responses Toward Interior Environments. Environment and Behavior DOI: 10.1177/0013916511402063. Image is taken from the paper. 

Post written by Christian Jarrett (@psych_writer) for the BPS Research Digest.

3 comments:

  1. Could be the potentially dangerous sharp edges that the rectilinear furniture present with. Who would wanna bump their knee on that? Does evolutionary psychology play a role?

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  2. I think the experiments are biased, since you did not have people come and sitting on the couches (provided they are equally comfortable).

    Reminds me of the Pepsi Challenge, people would prefer Pepsi on the first trial, since Pepsi is sweeter and it has a strongest reaction on our senses, but after experiencing them on a normal setting, people would go with Coke most of the time.

    This might be similar, I do not know what the answer will be, but unless you have people living on those settings for extended periods of time, it is very hard to draw any serious conclusion.

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  3. Was there any allowance for the effect of what is fashionable? Might people's perceptions of furniture change through time along with prevailing trends?

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