Vancouver-based Sacha K. Chabros is an interior decorator, a volunteer for an international non-profit group and the author of Design Felt, a blog about how different elements of design relate to how occupants feel in a built environment. Sharing her interest in environmental psychology, I was excited to learn more about it from her perspective.
There are so many blogs about interior design, most of them filled with beautiful images. As many other people, I find them to be the source of inspiration, enjoyment and, well, procrastination. But rarely do I find a blog attempting to do a little more – to make you think about design, instead of just enjoying the sight of it.
Sacha, how would you describe the idea behind your blog?
It starts with the name ‘Design Felt’. Design implies intention. Its done on purpose and for a reason. I want people to know that the profession is based on science, not whimsy.
Can you describe how exactly your work is related to the science of environmental psychology?
The places where we spend most of our time should nurture our sense of well-being, support personal growth and nourish us on the deepest level. For example, a typical doctor’s waiting room has seating arranged back-to-back or around the perimeter of the room. This discourages social interaction. In a residential space we would arrange seating in a sociopetal way; that is to say face-to-face to make conversation easier. This effect was first recognized by a British-Canadian psychiatrist, Dr. Humphry Osmond who coined the term. That’s one case in point but there are many ways to shape a space that will allow occupants to feel refreshed, restored and ready to go back out into the world. Even if a client doesn’t understand how this works he/she will feel and behave differently in a well conceived environment.
Design Felt blog
Do people like to rely on science in designing, or do they prefer their own taste, trends, etc?
There’s a lot of interest in home decor; hence the popularity of TV decorating shows, Pinterest boards, DIY decor and design blogs. And as the world becomes a more dangerous place people tend to spend more money making their ‘nest’ safer and more comfortable. Whether they seek professional advice often depends on their knowledge of what design can do. I’m trying to show that.
You wrote about how some design elements influence people’s mind and behavior. Could you share with us some specific principles that you often use in your work? Do “recipes” guarantee success in your work?
Design follows a formula. (See Beauty Has An Equation, at designfelt.wordpress.com.) Just as beauty is mathematical, designers and decorators alike use a ‘recipe’ to get results the client will love. When these guidelines are followed it always works out. But that doesn’t mean one can’t be creative.
There are many things to take into consideration while designing. How do you feel during the process?
I love it! When it all comes together beautifully, the feeling is unbelievable.
Sacha in action
I’m interested in your volunteer engagement – is it related to design?
I’m a consultant for the Regional Building Committee of Jehovah’s Witnesses (RBC) and work pro-bono for their design office. They construct and manage worship and educational spaces and now have 17 projects either in development, under renovation or being built in British Columbia, Canada.
There are a few blogs I found that went a little deeper into matters of design and architecture, having more philosophical and/or scientific approach, and most of them lasted a couple of years or so. Why do you think people give up blogging about such an interesting topic? How can we prevent it?
I’m not sure. If they’re also working in the trade perhaps they became too busy to write about it. Or maybe it didn’t make sense financially.
Many visitors to my blog are looking for study opportunities and career options in environmental psychology. Can you tell us something about its prospects in Canada?
Canadian universities such as UBC (University of British Columbia), UNBC (University of Northern British Columbia), UVIC (University of Victoria) and UTSC (University of Toronto Scarborough) each teach a segment on Environmental Psychology as part of their Psychology courses. KPU (Kwantlen Polytechnic University) teaches it as part of its Interior Design program stating «Students will study how humans relate to the built environment and how it affects behavior. […] They will learn how to shape interior spaces by applying knowledge of anthropometrics, ergonomics, proxemics, universal design, sustainable design and human behavior.»