The Five Principles of Holistic Interior Design

holistic interior design

We covered the basics of holistic interior design in my last blog post, and today we are talking about the principles of holistic interior design.

The five principles we’re going to talk about today are based on the five things to consider when creating a space with a holistic mentality. I like using the word ‘principles’ to describe them because I believe they are every bit as important as the commonly known elements and principles of design. I’ve read a number of articles that mention other elements, but these are the original principles I learned about in this Skillshare class by Clear Studios and I really connect with them.

01 | Design for the senses

We are taught in preschool that we have five senses! Sight, smell, taste, touch and hearing. With a holistic approach, designers are challenged to understand how each of the five senses is taken care of in a scheme.

Sight is the most obvious of all the senses as we are usually trying to make a room beautiful! Touch is also pretty self-explanatory when you’re considering the soft furnishing and fixtures in a room. Things get a little more nuanced when you consider bringing smell, taste and hearing into a scheme.

For smell, we often think about bringing in candles or an essential oil diffuser to help set the mood in a room. However, if you take this a step further, you also start to think about the air quality in the room. Do the windows open? Is there enough ventilation? Do you need a fan or a dehumidifier?

Sound, outside of music, is also a tricky one at first glance. If you love listening to music, make sure you have speakers in the right areas. Maybe you love the sound of vinyl crackling at the end of the day. How do sound and music impact you? Or maybe, you’re a light sleeper and you need your bedroom to be completely quiet when you sleep. Ask yourself: are there any mechanical sounds like the buzzing of a fridge distracting me? Do I need good quality headphones to use at my desk in the common living room?

Lastly, taste! Again, a little tricky when you’re designing a physical space. With this sense, I think more about where you want to enjoy your meals or drinks. Perhaps you have a favourite chair by a window where you love to enjoy your morning coffee. Or, you need a small table by your bathtub for a cup of water. How will your surroundings enhance your mealtime routines?

02 | Consider comfort

Comfort is so important to consider as a principle of holistic interior design. We are talking about comfort in a physical and mental sense in this case. Obviously, it’s important to have comfortable places to sit and sleep, but it’s also really important to feel at ease in your home.

When considering your physical comfort, make sure to understand your daily routines. Do you wake up feeling rested each morning? Is your home office set up to support your posture? Do you like the feel of the couch fabric on your bare legs? We want to make sure we feel supported by all the items in our home. If your scratchy sofa fabric makes you cringe every time you sit down, then it’s time to make a change.

Comfort is also strongly tied to feeling like you belong. Surrounding yourself with personal items that tell your story is a really big part of this process. When you’re starting to pull together all the principles of holistic design, try not to think too much about how things look and focus on how they feel. There is no judgement here and your wellbeing is the top priority.

03 | Choose materials that align with your values

Holistic interior design is all about deep connections. Both to our sense of self and to nature. There are three main categories of materials: natural, synthetic, and composite materials. There are a lot of people that choose to only bring natural materials into their homes. If you are one of these people, then I’m proud of you for making a decision that works for you. If you aren’t able to access 100% natural materials do not fret! It’s really hard to be 100% natural especially if you’re on a budget.

In my home, choosing sustainable materials trumps natural materials. If I find a really beautiful tablecloth at the thrift shop that is 50% polyester I’m not going to faint and die. I’m going to bring it home and cherish it forever. Choose materials and textures that feel nice to touch, that serve your home from a durability standpoint and don’t worry too much if you end up falling in love with something manufactured.

Our goal is to simply be present with every item we bring home. Deepening our connection with nature is important, but it’s also not worth going over budget. I’d rather you buy items based on how they make you feel and that align with your values than stress about the thread count.

04 | Explore biophilia

Have you ever heard of biophilia? Biophilia is “a hypothetical human tendency to interact or be closely associated with other forms of life in naturea desire or tendency to commune with nature” (Merriam-Webster). You might have noticed that everyone loves houseplants these days. Scientists have even proven that house plants can improve air quality and mental health.

In Canada, our long winters mean that we don’t see greenery for six months out of the year. Indoor plants help to break up the cold colours of winter and give us hope that the world will bloom again. Bringing life into your home is a great way to help a space come alive. Literally. The natural shapes of leaves and flowers can help to break up harsh lines, and a well-placed plant can work wonders in a forgotten corner.

05 | Take care

If you take care of your space, your space will take care of you. Think about your home as an extension of yourself. Your home has the potential to support your every need and impact your physical and mental health. If you act as though you are in a relationship with your home, you’ll notice that your home tends to reflect your inner world. I’m sure you’ve noticed that your house feels messier when you are stressed, depressed, or too busy.

Designing your home according to the principles of holistic design is an evolving process. It’s a mindset that you can use to grow with your home instead of designing it once and keeping it pretty like a museum. In this process, it’s important to tend to the spaces that impact your mental state. If you’re constantly shoving your laptop off your bed to go to sleep, are you really getting quality rest? If you can’t find your passport before going away on a trip, are you going to start your vacation on the right foot?

When we show care to our space we are showing care to ourselves. And you deserve to feel cared for.


These principles of holistic design force you to think deeply about your surroundings. We must evaluate our values and boundaries in order to create a sense of belonging at home that enhances our daily life.

Here’s how it all comes together.

Imagine walking into your home at the end of a hard workday. You’re tired and cranky and probably a little bit hungry. You walk into your home, replace your shoes with slippers, and it feels like you can finally release the breath you’ve been holding in all day. The air smells fresh from having the windows open and you pass a smiling photo of your Grandma on the way to your kitchen. You pop a vintage record into the record player and hear the first notes of your favourite song quietly play from the kitchen speaker. Suddenly, your busy day is fading away. You’ve created an oasis of calm that soothes your senses and your scattered thoughts. You are home.

Doesn’t that sound like a beautiful experience? And we haven’t even talked about your design aesthetic. This is the power of holistic design.

How does your home make you feel at the end of the day?

Sincerely, Rowan Logo
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