What is holistic interior design? Experts explain what it can provide

Holistic interior design promotes well-being as well as creating functional and beautiful spaces. This is what you need to know

living room with gray sofas and stone coffee table
(Image credit: Marie Flanigan Interiors/Photography Julie Soefer)

Heard the term but wondering what is holistic interior design, and how could it provide more than great interiors already do?

After all, interior design pays attention to both the form and function of spaces, and creates interiors that are usable, aesthetically pleasing, and that have a good atmosphere. So how might holism’s concern with wholes rather than parts add to these benefits?

To answer the question we spoke to designers who consider interiors holistically, and this is what they told us about using the theory to create healthier and happier rooms in your home.

What is holistic interior design? Principles and benefits

Holistic interior design doesn’t subtract any of the elements you’d expect when considering home decor, but it does have an intention you may not have considered. ‘It goes beyond aesthetic appeal, focusing on developing spaces that reflect the overall health and values of their inhabitants,’ explains interior designer Artem Kropovinsky.

The individuals who occupy a space are crucial in holistic interior design. ‘Holistic design embodies a user-centric approach, ensuring spaces cater to the total well-being of occupants,’ says Jakecia Durham, owner, founder, and principal designer at Desired Designs.Whether commercial or residential, the focus is on creating environments where individuals can thrive emotionally, physically, mentally, and socially.’

Here, we examine why you might want to consider holistic interior design, and how you should approach it to ensure you are happier at home.

Jakecia Durham
Jakecia Durham

Jakecia C Durham, an NCIDQ certified designer, is the creative force behind Desired Designs, a woman-owned, minority-focused interior design studio in Cleveland, Ohio. With a solid academic foundation, she holds a Bachelor of Science in interior design from the University of Cincinnati and a Master of Arts in visual communication design, specializing in branding environments. Passionate about both residential and small commercial projects, Jakecia brings over a decade of design education experience to her role. When not shaping spaces, she enjoys family time, dabbles in ceramics, and draws inspiration from her travels.

Benefits of holistic interior design

living room with white sofa vaulted ceiling and double height arch topped glass doors

(Image credit: Read McKendree)

A holistic interior design promises benefits beyond those you might typically expect from interiors. 

‘It can bring peace and balance to the end-user while in the space – a mental well-being,’ says Bynn Esmond, owner and principal designer of Bynn Esmond Designs. ‘It’s a psychological connection. On the physical level, if the end-user is suffering from health issues, the selection of materials and their placement is considered to promote better health.’

‘It improves wellness and emotions through serene and nourishing spaces,’ agrees Artem Kropovinsky.

Bynn Esmond
Bynn Esmond

Bynn Esmond is the owner and principal designer of Bynn Esmond Designs, a San Carlos based, full-service design company specializing in kitchen/bath remodels, interior architecture and additions, custom interiors and finish selections for new construction, and furniture. Bynn Esmond Designs creates classic, clean, modern homes that are intentionally designed to elevate the lifestyle of the home occupants while improving their quality of life in the home.

Elements of holistic interior design

dining room with white walls and wooden table with white chairs

(Image credit: Wing Ho)

Holistic interior design doesn’t omit any of the considerations you would expect from interior design. ‘All the various elements of design – room colors, light, materials, layout, connection to nature, and others – can contribute to holistic interior design,’ explains interior designer Laura Stein.

‘What matters is how they are carried through the home. Many people think holistic design requires an open, airy layout with lots of light, but really it’s about how all the design elements work together and function as a whole.’

And both natural and social aspects are crucial, according to Jakecia Durham. ‘Incorporating elements from the natural world, such as biomimicry principles and patterns reminiscent of nature, enhances mental and physical well-being,’ she explains. ‘This extends to furniture and décor choices, promoting a sense of connection to the environment.

‘Visual and physical connections to the natural world, either through direct views or artistic representations, play a vital role in holistic design, contributing to overall well-being,’ she continues.

White living room with mix of old and new furniture

(Image credit: Marie Flanigan Interiors/Julie Soefer)

But the needs of those who use an interior are also vital. ‘Balancing spaces for social interaction and personal solace is key,’ Jakecia says. ‘Radial design layouts create inclusive gathering spaces, fostering social connections while allowing for individual retreats.’

Air quality also matters in holistic interior design. ‘Prioritizing materials that minimize off-gassing is crucial for holistic well-being,’ says Jakecia. ‘The composition of the home environment directly influences one’s overall health. Selecting furnishings and accessories that contribute positively to indoor air quality aligns with the holistic philosophy, creating spaces that promote a healthier lifestyle.’

Laura Stein
Laura Stein

Laura Stein is an internationally recognized designer specializing in inspiring, holistic custom interiors for luxury homes. She has lived and trained in both Boston and Toronto, and brings a unique breadth of knowledge and experience to every project. She has a love of travel and finds continuous inspiration in art, design and architecture from around the world.

Holistic design and feng shui

West Sussex new build. Neutral grey bedroom, colonial window shutters

(Image credit: Brent Darby)

You might be wondering if holistic interiors have a connection with feng shui, since this ancient practice seeks to create harmony and balance.

‘Feng shui is about flow and energy, and holistic design is as well,’ explains Laura Stein. ‘While holistic design doesn’t need to follow the principles of feng shui, the goals are often the same.’

There are differences, however. ‘Feng shui dictates specific cultural practices and rules for countering energy imbalance,’ notes Artem Kropovinsky.

Holistic design and trends

Kitchen diner looking towards window

(Image credit: Katie Charlotte)

Adopting a holistic approach might cause you to think that you can’t consider the latest interior design trends. This isn’t the case, though. 

‘Holistic design doesn’t follow any particular interior design style or trend,’ explains Laura Stein. ‘It can be whatever you want, as long as there is flow, function, and a sense of harmony.’

Be mindful, however, of other fundamentals of holistic design when considering interior design trends. ‘When designing holistically, it is about longevity and the overall long-term effects on the end user,’ says Bynn Esmond ‘Following the latest trends in the built environment may defeat the purpose of holistic design.’

Creating holistic interior designs

alabaster wall paint with wood tones in small entryway

(Image credit: Jamie Haller / Photography Lauren Moore)

Working with an interior designer can result in a home that’s functional, aesthetically pleasing, and contributes to well-being in its fullest sense, but is professional guidance essential or are these goals you can achieve yourself?

‘Working with an interior designer will give you the best results if you are trying to create a holistic home, especially if you are building a new home or planning a major renovation,’ advises Laura Stein. 

Artem Kropovinsky agrees that professionals bring their detailed knowledge to a project, but observes that individuals can bear holistic design principles in mind. ‘People can practice holistic principles themselves by trying to achieve balance and harmony in their environments,’ he says.

In considering holistic design yourself, bear in mind all of its elements. ‘Materials selection, placement locations, space layout, lighting (both natural and artificial), connection to nature, and color all affect how the end-user feels in the space,’ says Bynn Esmond. ‘It affects our senses, mood, cognitive functioning, behavior, and even mental health.’


Does holistic design mean natural?

The word ‘holistic’ is not a synonym for ‘natural’ – although when applied to interior design a link to nature is an important consideration in a holistic approach. But holistic means a concern with wholes rather than parts, applying to fields such as medicine where mind and body are treated, as well as interior design. And in design terms? ‘It considers everything from the quality of air in the home, to the sustainability of materials, to the feeling of tranquility and well-being created by the interplay of design elements and a connection to nature,’ says interior design Laura Stein of Laura Stein Interiors.

There are many iconic interior design styles as well as more niche choices, but thinking holistically can add another dimension to your home, and make it a more nourishing environment. ‘It is a custom design that fits the lifestyle and needs of each person, so every space serves its occupants in unique ways,’ says Artem Kropovinsky.

Sarah Warwick
Contributing Editor

Sarah is a freelance journalist and editor. Previously executive editor of Ideal Home, she’s specialized in interiors, property and gardens for over 20 years, and covers interior design, house design, gardens, and cleaning and organizing a home for H&G. She’s written for websites, including Houzz, Channel 4’s flagship website, 4Homes, and Future’s T3; national newspapers, including The Guardian; and magazines including Future’s Country Homes & Interiors, Homebuilding & Renovating, Period Living, and Style at Home, as well as House Beautiful, Good Homes, Grand Designs, Homes & Antiques, LandLove and The English Home among others. It’s no big surprise that she likes to put what she writes about into practice, and is a serial house renovator.