It is a known fact that the design of interior spaces has real and profound psychological impacts, and this is especially true for the spaces that we inhabit for long periods of time. It has been proven in studies that the various factors of an interior, such as its lighting, colors, and spatial planning can all have important consequences on our state of mind, emotion, mental well-being, and work efficiency among other psychological functions. In this article, we will dive into the psychological importance of spatial planning in four types of interior spaces: residential, workplace, restaurant, and retail.

Residential and living spaces  

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Spatial planning for a small apartment ©
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Open-plan kitchen and dining space ©

Residential and living spaces being the ones that we spend a large part of our days in, might have a more profound impact on us psychologically than we might realize. Whether they are small apartments or large houses, the spatial planning and layout of these private and personal spaces are ones that effect their users intimately and on a daily basis. Good and effective spatial planning in residential interiors can involve framing views and creating appropriate buffers between different programs. This can make activities such as cooking, lounging, resting, and doing household chores more convenient and enjoyable. For example, open kitchen planning has gained popularity over the past decade because integrating the preparation of meals into the living space creates a sense of a healthier lifestyle and encourages family members to spend more time with one another over meals.

Offices and workspaces

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An open-plan workspace ©
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Office pods in an open-plan workspace ©

Over the past two decades the drastic increase in number of open-plan workspaces could be attributed to the many studies that have been done on workspace planning and its effects on the workers’ health, efficiency, and productivity. It was found that by allowing every worker to see everyone else, the open-plan office encourages desire for collaboration and improves communication between workers. Furthermore, the lack of private or individual offices helps to eliminate a sense of hierarchy within the workplace, fostering a friendlier work environment. Recently, however, studies find that the open-plan workspace increases the stress and decreases the performance of the worker because of a lack of privacy and a constant exposure to potential distraction. In response, furniture manufacturers such as Steelcase and Herman Miller began introducing ‘office pods’, which might be integrated into the open-plan workspace to provide more privacy and enhance a worker’s efficiency.

Restaurants and dining spaces

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Booth seating at 3seventy Kitchen ©
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Seating layout of Shake Shack ©

Spatial planning in restaurants, cafes, and other dining venues are crucial in setting the mood and atmosphere of the space. This in turn creates a real psychological impact especially on customers who are dining in. For example, the open layout of many fast food restaurants suggests an informal atmosphere where guests can feel relaxed while dining. However, it also encourages them to finish their meals quickly instead of lingering. In cafes, spatial planning tends to constitute a mix of different layouts which suggests varying durations of stay. Spaces towards the back has less circulation and thus creates the effect of privacy and encourages guests to stay while spaces toward the entrance has more circulation and create the opposite effect. In restaurants, a mix of banquette seating, partition walls and feature walls, and further-spaced seating arrangements among other planning strategies can afford diners more privacy and comfort, creating desirable environments in which diners can take pleasure in their meals and conversations.

Retail and commercial spaces

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Grid layout of a supermarket ©
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Free flowing layout of a fashion store ©

From grocery stores to luxury boutiques and to experiential retail stores, the range of retail and commercial spaces is as wide as the retail industry itself. Nonetheless, this website lists a number of typical floor plans that is common to all of these retail settings, from the grid layout to the free-flowing plan. Each of these types of spatial planning creates a deep psychological impact as it has the power to lead shoppers around the store and shape their retail experience. For example, spatial planning that involves closely packed aisles like those in the supermarkets tend to lead shoppers into a linear movement up and down the aisles, pressuring shoppers to not miss anything on their shopping list. On the other hand, the free-flowing spatial layouts of many clothing and fashion retail stores tend to suggest a more relaxed approach, leading shoppers to wander around more, taking their time as they browse widely. As with the restaurant and the workspace, the spatial planning of retail stores creates psychological effects in people that can ultimately impact the business itself.

A good spatial planning will help to achieve the desired psychological effects in the people who inhabit or use the space, but first, people’s movements and circulation habits within a space need to be thoroughly studied and understood before we can design for positive impact. Furthermore, it is important to remember that each interior space is unique and is equally defined by its site, user groups, and environmental factors among other factors. Thus, there is no one-size-fits-all solutions and spatial planning will always have to be customized and adapted to the particularities of a context. Only in this way, can we best cater to the specific needs of a specific group of users and come up with truly creative and progressive designs.


Lisa graduated in 2018 with a Bachelor’s degree in interior design and a few internship experiences. She is currently completing her Master’s degree in art history and studying architectural renderings for her thesis. Her passion is thinking critically about everything architecture: from architectural movements to contemporary professional practices.