5 Interior Design Choices That Result in a Depressing Home

by Bai-Xu

The architecture and design of your home could make it a depressing home, contributing to your negative emotions. I'll review five reasons your home's design might make you sad.

I'll use information from architecture, design psychology, and common sense to figure out how to make our home as happy and inviting as possible.

Living room lit from one side vs multiple sides

1. Bilaterally lit rooms

When given a choice, we will always gravitate towards rooms lit from two sides of the room rather than one.

Therefore, if you live in a home where every room is only lit from one side, you might not realize it, but it's probably making you feel slightly sad.

Take a tour around other people's homes, some public buildings, and your office, and I think you will find that the rooms you find the friendliest and ones that have the most natural light where you want to stay are lit from more than one side of the space.

Bedroom lit from two sides

Rooms lit from two sides have less glare, and the light in the space feels much more natural.

However, in a room where it's only lit from one side, there's a higher contrast between the bright and dark areas of the room, and it feels just a little bit more claustrophobic when you're inside.

What can you do about it? No matter how clever architects are with a plan, sometimes it's impossible to design rooms with windows on multiple sides. So, in these cases, the rooms can get the effect of light on two sides under two conditions.

First, you can have a shallow room with multiple windows; the light can come in and bounce off the back wall sideways between the windows, producing the effect of multiple light sources. Another option is to build a room with extremely high ceilings.

Elizabethan dining hall

Elizabethan dining halls and Georgian living rooms were often built like this.

Pool of light in interior design

2. Pools of light

How we use the space socially is also defined by pools of light. You need to use light to create zones for people to gather. You can observe this phenomenon everywhere. In restaurants, in reading corners, in a perfect armchair, or on the dining table in your home.

Here are some comparisons to highlight what I mean. So here are two photographs from different restaurants.

Bright light vs pools of light

As you can see, one restaurant has a very bright light that's evenly lit everywhere, another restaurant has pools of light above each dining table.

Uniform light vs pooled light

Here is an office waiting area, one with uniform light and one with pooled light. Here is a dining table with a nice pool of light versus a uniform light at night. I think the images speak for themselves.

So, what can you do if your home doesn't feel so cozy at night and feels a little sad? Switch off the big ceiling light in your space.

How to create pools of light in your home

You can create about five to seven different light sources in a single room and store them all around your home, depending on which zones you want to create.

For example, in the living room, you can have a zone for your sofa, a zone for your armchair, some accent lights in the form of candles on the coffee table, a lamp next to the shelf, and maybe some wall light or accent light.

Cool vs warm lighting

3. Keep it warm

Sometimes, whether a room makes you sad or not can be as simple as the color temperature it takes on, whether warm or cold. It'll be overly simplistic to say colors like reds, oranges, and browns are warm colors, and colors like blue, green, and grays are cold colors because we can still feel happy and comfortable in rooms painted blue or green.

Light rooms with warm wood

If your room gets enough yellow light throughout the day and your floor and furniture are all in the shade of very warm wood, you can probably be slightly more adventurous with the color of your decor and the wall paint.

You can make them blue, green, or gray; if unsure, stick them on the safe side and go with warmer colors. You'll feel much happier in your home like this.

4. North-facing rooms

Never rent or buy a property where all the rooms only ever face north. You will regret it. It will make you feel so sad all the time. The light that comes into north-facing rooms will always be cool. You have to do a lot of color correcting with the furniture, the paint colors, and the fabrics to warm it up.

Sunlight is essential for the production of mood-regulating neurotransmitters like serotonin and hormones. When we're exposed to less sunlight, our levels of serotonin and melatonin can decrease, and this normally leads to symptoms of depression and other mood disorders.

Unfortunately, my solutions for north-facing rooms are quite limited because you cannot easily change the sun's direction. It rises in the east and sets in the west, and there's not much I can do to change it.

Furniture made from synthetic material

5. Synthetic materials

Synthetic materials have become increasingly popular in our homes due to their affordability and versatility. Good news for capitalism, bad news for our happiness.

According to a study published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, natural materials such as wood and stone can help promote a sense of calm and relaxation, while synthetic materials like plastic and metal make you feel uncomfortable and more stressed.

Interior design with natural materials

We as humans love to be surrounded by nature, and if your home feels like the antithesis of anything natural, you will get a little bit sad over time.

Nothing is perfect, and everything is perfect. Trees can be contorted or thinned in weird ways and still be beautiful. One theory is that being in nature can activate our parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for rest and relaxation.

This can lead to a decrease in our stress hormones, such as cortisol, and an increase in our feel-good hormones, like serotonin and dopamine. So, when we isolate ourselves in homes that look like spaceships and hospital corridors where everything is artificial and too shiny, too uniform and too perfectly made, we feel depressed.

Home furnished with colors of nature

Always furnish your home in colors reminiscent of nature, like the colors of the forest, the beach, and the ocean.

We will never tire of being surrounded by these colors and decorating the surfaces of our homes, furniture, and the decor.

Leather sofa
Jute rug

Natural selection

Apart from wood, there are other natural materials that you can use to make your home nice, like stone, marble, clay, cork, leather, linen, or jute.

Living room in colors inspire by nature
Natural and organic design in a home

It feels natural and organic like you're connected with something wholesome and good, so I want to look at some images of furnished apartments to show you what I mean about using artificial and organic natural materials.

Why you have a depressing home

Being intentional about your spaces can affect your mood, preventing you from having a depressing home. Do you get depressed when in your home? Share your strategies for combating this in the comments below.

Join the conversation
2 of 19 comments
  • Nana222of7 Nana222of7 on Jan 11, 2024
    I enjoyed the article. It made me rethink my environment. I am north facing, however, I keep all window blinds open throughout the day. I also have lamps (Those tend to help too). My walls are painted a sage green color, and I have layered it with warm colors on the furnishings. I read the two comments above, and they spoke of pessimism in this article. I believe that when we find pessimism, we must look for the positive on our own.
  • Valerie Abate Valerie Abate on Jan 11, 2024
    I think north facing rooms produce a dull light that feels "dead", for lack of a better word. My previous home had both a formal living room and dining room on the north side of the house. After living there for several years, we painted the living room and above the chair rail in the dining room a Benjamin Moore color called Dorset Gold. This is a strong, but not garish warm gold that really broke through the dull light and helped to give it a sunny yet elegant feel. Made all the difference in the world. I'll use that color again in a minute if I ever again have a "dead" feeling northern facing room ! Oh, and overhead lighting is the worst!