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Evidence-Based Design Principles for Great Pet-Friendly Designs

evidence-based design
Evidence-Based Design Principles for Great Pet-Friendly Designs

Meet the Author and Your Future Designer: Julio Arco is a passionate architect with years of experience in architecture, interior design, urban design, and housing. He studied at prestigious universities across North America and Europe. 


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Evidence-Based Design Principles for Great Pet-Friendly Designs

Evidence-Based Design Principles for Pet-Friendly Designs – Introduction Video 

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What is Evidence-Based Design?

According to the Center for Health Design, Evidence-Based design or EBD is “the process of basing decisions about the built environment on credible research to achieve the best possible outcomes.” It is an interdisciplinary field that draws knowledge from various disciplines, including psychology, medicine, healthcare, architecture, ergonomics, marketing, and social sciences, to provide a comprehensive and well-founded approach to creating designs and environments that improve our lives and promote well-being.

Quick Introduction on How Evidence-Based Design started

Evidence-Based Design was started in the healthcare industry by healthcare professionals. Their main goal was to improve healthcare facilities to enhance patient outcomes.

To do this, they started gathering credible research from peer-reviewed journals about healing environments, environmental design, and environmental psychology, among other fields, and merging them into guidelines to inform the healthcare industry on how to improve health, well-being, satisfaction, and overall positive patient outcomes.

This research, after implementation, demonstrated that specific design strategies can positively impact both patients and healthcare staff. For example, incorporating nature into healthcare facilities reduced stress levels, promoted healing, and improved overall well-being. 

Consequently, this research provides valuable insights into how the built environment can impact health outcomes. In recent years, EBD started to influence architects and interior designers. As more studies are conducted, the potential for EBD to improve health outcomes will continue to grow. Architects and interior designers can use this information to create aesthetically pleasing spaces and promote wellness and healing.

How did I find out about Evidence-Based Design?

Before we dive into this topic, I’d like to share how I came across this term and why I decided to study and research it.

In 2015, I got my Master’s Degree in Urban Design and Housing at McGill. (Montreal, Canada). As with most Master’s degrees, you must research a topic and write a thesis to graduate. While I’m an architect by profession, I’ve always been attracted to interior design and psychology and how the mind works and reacts to the built environment.

After some deep topic research for my thesis, I came across the term “Evidence-Based Design.” I got excited about merging my profession with my interests in psychology to achieve optimal design solutions. I realized that, by exploring how the built environment influences our mental state, I could learn how to positively affect our emotions, mood, and wellbeing.

After starting my research, I learned that there are 8 core principles in EBD. These principles, which we’ll discuss in-depth, are the following:

1.- The Psychological Effects of Nature in Interior Design

2.- The Psychological Effects of Personal Space Perception in Interior Design

3.- The Psychological Effects of Lighting in Interior Design

4.- The Psychological Effects of Colors in Interior Design

5.- The Psychological Effects of Patterns in Interior Design

6.- The Psychological Effects of Textures in Interior Design

7.- The Psychological Effects of Lighting, Colors, and Textures as a whole in Interior Design

8.- The Psychological Effects of Ceiling Height in Interior Design

Consequently, my main goal became to provide evidence of how people’s psychological needs can be addressed to create spaces that represent their personalities while promoting their welfare based on EBD research and develop guidelines for architects and designers to use.

Evidence-Based Design Principles for Great Pet-Friendly Designs

How is Evidence-Based Design related to Pet-Friendly Interior Design?

Like humans, animals respond to different stimuli quite similar to us. Gregory Berns, a neuroscientist at Emory University, Atlanta, USA, conducted brain scans on dogs to study their level of sentience. He concluded that the social brains of dogs and humans are pretty similar and that “dogs have a level of sentience comparable to that of a human child.” He then stated, “-…we must reconsider their treatment as property”.

Therefore, we can argue that how humans and dogs react to the built environment, can be similar in both species. After all, humans and dogs evolved together.

Additionally, as mentioned in the article “How to Choose the Best Pet-Friendly Furniture – The Basics,” there is evidence that pets have a positive impact on our mental and physical health, and studies and research have shown that owning a pet can lead to increased levels of self-esteem and happiness.

So why not repay the favor by creating environments that will enhance their welfare. Additionally, if we make relaxing and safe environments for our pets, we’ll have more well-behaved furry friends, and following the Best 20 Tips and Tricks to Protect Furniture from your Pet will be way easier.

Why does Evidence-Based Design for Interiors matter?

We spend a lot of time in our homes. In fact, based on the American Time Use Survey, we spend about 62% of our waking time at home. That’s a lot of time! And it’s not surprising that we’re looking for ways to make our homes more comfortable and enjoyable. But what many people don’t realize is that the environment we live in can profoundly affect our health and welfare.

“We have an automatic (non-conscious) response to shapes, patterns, and colors. Our minds are like icebergs — we are only aware of less than 5 percent of our responses to our environment,” Hollander said in his book Cognitive Architecture: Designing for How We Respond to the Built Environment. People respond to the built environment and try consciously and sometimes unconsciously to reshape it to increase their happiness levels. That’s why people hire interior designers and purchase what they perceive as beautiful designs and furniture. 

Donald H. Ruggles, author of Beauty, Neuroscience, and Architecture: Timeless Patterns and Their Impact on Our Well-Being, and expert on the how beauty and timeless patterns affect our well-being, mentioned at Congress for New Urbanism’s 2021 Virtual Gathering, how “humans are always looking for safe spaces. We think about survival every minute of the day. But beauty is equally as important. We have an intuitive response — it creates a sense of pleasure. The problem is that our survival instinct is about five-to-seven times stronger than our pleasure instinct.”

Therefore, we must create environments that consider our well-being, stress, and other related factors to enhance our ability to experience beauty. That’s where EBD research comes in. By basing decisions about the design of our homes on credible research, we can create spaces that are both comfortable and health-promoting. Designers and architects need to know about this research and how the evidence points out that evidence-based design improves life quality and health.

If you need help designing and decorating your home and creating some quality design strategies and health-promoting environments, you can hire an Online-Interior Designer at Havenly and get 25% off if you click here. And if you want to know how Havenly’s design process work, visit our article Havenly, the Best Pet-Friendly Online Interior Design Platform!

How should design professionals and Interior Designers use this guide?

Using the information gathered for my thesis, I created a series of articles covering all the essential aspects of EBD research and how to apply them to your Pet-Friendly Interior designs and built environments. These are the main topics covered with a brief introduction to the topic, which should provide designers and architects with evidence-based guidelines to enhance the quality, mood, and health of the rooms they design based on research and evidence. Additionally, if you want to jump right into one topic in particular, you can click on the headings, and it’ll take you right to it

Evidence-Based Design Principles for Great Pet-Friendly Designs
Evidence-Based Design Principles for Great Pet-Friendly Designs

1.- Psychological Effects of Nature on Interior Design

The psychological effects of nature on humans are well-documented. Studies and research have shown that incorporating natural elements into your décor can help to reduce stress levels, improve mood and health, and even boost productivity. And it makes sense when you think about it – after all, who doesn’t feel better after a walk in the park or a day at the beach?

So how can you bring the outdoors inside your home or built environments? Evidence-Based design shows how incorporating plants is an obvious choice, but there are other ways to do it. Consider using natural materials like wood, stone, or bamboo in your décor. Research shows that adding a water feature is another excellent way to bring the calming effects of nature into your space, creating very positive outcomes!

As any dog lover knows, our furry friends love nature. They love the smell of fresh air and the feel of grass under their paws. And we know how most dogs prefer a walk in the park to staying home all day. 

So it’s no surprise that dogs also love plants and natural elements. Studies and research have shown that exposure to plants and nature can help reduce stress levels in dogs and enhance their health. And what’s suitable for our dogs is good for us too.

Taking care of pet-friendly houseplants can be a rewarding and life-enhancing experience. Arranging your plant collection thoughtfully is essential for the plants to thrive and for you to get the most out of your pet-friendly indoor garden. 

Firstly, make sure that you check for pet toxicity before buying plants—especially if you have animals in the home. Additionally, determine the level of sunlight exposure each spot would get and whether natural or artificial light would be needed. 

Then choose from pet-safe trees, hanging gardens, grow lights or even humidifiers to suit each pet-friendly plant’s needs! Lastly, use a moisture meter and talk encouragingly to your houseplant(s) on a regular basis; this will pay off in blooms and thrifty greenery.

2.- Psychological Effects of Personal Space Perception in Interior Design

The distance at which people feel comfortable socializing is essential for home design. It’s no secret that we all have different perceptions of personal space. For some of us, the mere thought of someone invading our personal space is enough to send us into a panic.

Others are more relaxed about it and don’t mind getting up close and personal with others. But what exactly is private space, and why do we have it?

Personal space is the invisible bubble surrounding us and gives us a sense of comfort and safety. It’s different for everyone, but typically, we like to keep about 18 inches of space between us and others. When someone violates our personal space, it can make us feel uncomfortable, anxious, and even threatened.

People interact with the built environment surrounding them in accordance with complex social rules and preferences, even when these are not always known conscious. Personal space, territoriality, and crowding are the core units for measuring social and personal space. Nonetheless, humans are social creatures, and areas where interaction will take place must be carefully planned.

Dogs also perceive their personal space similarly to humans in some cases. If you want to learn more about it, feel free to read our full article about this topic.

Creating personal space through intentional placements and an understanding of how we arrange the furniture can turn any room into a cozy sanctuary or a dynamic entertainment area. We can create balance with two sofas to make an L-shaped seating area or place a corner chair in the bedroom for personal relaxation.

Where you decide to place your television also has a big effect on the overall tone- too high, and it will show on everyone’s necks while having it low will affect one’s comfort when watching.

If you have a curved wall, emphasize it by bringing attention to its features with strategically placed objects while balancing centered windows with heavier pieces making everything work together. All this is taking personal space into account, which makes all the difference.

Evidence-Based Design Principles for Great Pet-Friendly Designs

3.- Psychological Effects of Lighting in Interior Design

Lighting is crucial for design – it can make or break a space. The quality and quantity of light present in a room substantially affect human emotions, communication, health, and behavior. Adequate lighting, either natural or artificial, is always crucial for design.

Light plays a huge role in how people perceive spaces and their psychological effects. The proper amount of light and the right combination of light and color can influence biochemical and hormonal processes. Light is an indispensable factor for living; therefore, it has to have a priority role in the design process.

Good lighting design considers all of these factors to create an aesthetically pleasing, functional, and comfortable space. When done right, lighting can make a room feel warm and inviting, and it can also be used to create a more dramatic or formal atmosphere.

4.- Psychological Effects of Colors in Interior Design 

According to research, saturation and brightness have a more significant influence on people’s emotional response to color than hue alone. In other words, more saturated and bright colors tend to appear more pleasurable to people, putting them in a better mood.

Color saturation also influences energy levels, with increases in saturation leading to higher energy levels and decreases in brightness leading to lower energy levels. So if you’re looking for a paint color that will give you a little energy boost, go for something with high saturation. And if you’re looking for a color that will help you relax, go for something with low saturation.

While dogs don’t see the same colors as us, they also react to different hues and saturations and similarly to humans, they are also affected by them. Choosing colors that dogs see, and nature-inspired color schemes will improve their health and well-being.

5.- Psychological Effects of Patterns in Interior Design

Generally speaking, plants or animals that have visually complex patterns are the ones that can be considered dangerous. Studies and research have shown that these patterns are more likely to grab our attention and hold them for extended periods. This is likely because our brains are hardwired to pick up on these types of patterns as a way to protect us from potential dangers.

Interestingly, this same effect can be seen in how we react to certain types of art. For example, paintings with complex patterns and shapes are often more energizing and engaging than those with simpler designs. In a way, our brains are treating these paintings as if they were a potential threat, causing us to take in all the details and appreciate the artwork on a deeper level. 

Evidence-Based Design Principles for Great Pet-Friendly Designs
Evidence-Based Design Principles for Great Pet-Friendly Designs

6.- Psychological Effects of Textures in Interior Designs

Textures are essential for so many reasons! They give materials their identity, but they also affect our perceptions of temperature, density, permeability, reflection, and elasticity. And that’s not even all – textures can also produce perceptions of warm and rustic or smooth and cool.

Plus, textures send signals to our unconscious mind that tell us whether specific spaces or objects will be comfortable to touch or not. For example, when we perceive a texture as warm or cold, it unconsciously affects our feeling of warmth or coldness in a social environment. So next time you’re Touching something, take a minute to appreciate all the intricate work textures do!

Layering rugs are quickly gaining traction in interior design for their ability to add warmth, texture, and color to any room. Start off selecting a base rug, ideally one that is pet-friendly and neutral in tone, then layer a larger rug on top. This allows you to develop a bespoke look tailored to your living space, making it all the more inviting. 

While rugs come in a wide variety of sizes, it can be difficult to know what size rug works best for your home – if you have an awkward room or are looking to bring focus to hardwood flooring, a great tip is layering two rugs side by side as opposed to one large rug. 

Not only do rugs and furniture provide texture, but rugs also function as insulation, trapping heat within your home and providing comfort underfoot. Lastly, it’s important not to forget how best to keep rugs clean – if you have wool rugs, ensure special care is taken– regular vacuuming helps prevent dirt infiltration, and also invest in professional rug cleaning every so often.

7.- Light, Color, and Texture as a Whole in Interior Design

These factors – light, color, and texture – come together to create an aesthetically pleasing, functional, and comfortable space. When done right, they can make a room feel warm and inviting, and they can also be used to create a more dramatic or formal atmosphere.

Light helps to set the mood of a space, and its direction can impact how we experience a room. Color can be used to create visual interest, and it can also affect our emotions. Texture adds depth and dimension to a space, and it can play an essential role in how we touch and feel our surroundings.

In short, light, color, and texture are all vital elements in creating a well-designed room.

8.- Psychological Effects of Ceiling Heights in Interior Design

The psychological effects of ceiling height are well-documented. In general, taller ceilings make people feel more open and relaxed, while lower ceilings create a more intimate and cozy feeling. This is why variations in ceiling height can be such an important design element in creating different spaces within a single room.

For example, evidence suggests a higher ceiling in a living room will make it feel more open and airy, while a lower ceiling in a dining room will create a cozier atmosphere perfect for dinner parties. By understanding the impact of ceiling height on human psychology, we can use this knowledge to create spaces that perfectly match our desired mood and atmosphere.

Evidence-Based Design Principles for Great Pet-Friendly Designs
Evidence-Based Design Principles for Great Pet-Friendly Designs


As a pet owner, you want your furry friend to be as happy and comfortable as possible. And what better way to achieve this than by creating a well-designed interior based on evidence-based design research and pet-friendly design principles?

A person’s environment profoundly impacts how they perceive the world. That is why it’s essential to consider your pets’ psychological needs when designing their home and yours! The evidence-based design research and principles we’ve discussed will help you create an interior space that feels comfortable and inviting for both people and animals alike.

As interior designers, we often take the psychological effects that interior design decisions have on people for granted. But it’s important to consider these factors when making decisions about your home, especially if you have pets.

Therefore, we can conclude how important it is to consider psychological effects in interior design decisions! Not only for our own sake but for our pets too! After all, they are members of your family! So why not create an environment that is tailored to their needs and your own while promoting health and welfare?

Evidence-Based Design Principles for Great Pet-Friendly Designs

Hire an Online Interior Designer at Havenly

There are several online interior design websites, but Havenly is your best option to hire from a robust list of interior designers that will help you in decorating and creating the perfect dog-friendly home. When you sign up for Havenly, you will take a short quiz about your design style and what you are looking for in a designer. Havenly will then match you with a designer who will help you select paint colors, furniture, and accessories that are both stylish and safe for your furry friend.

In addition, your Havenly designer will be able to provide tips on how to create a space that is both comfortable for your dog and inviting for guests. With Havenly, creating a beautiful and functional home that your dog will love is easy and stress-free.

Click here if you want to learn more about Havenly or book an interior designer and get 25% off your design package if you click here!

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M.Arch. Julio Arco
M.Arch. Julio Arco

Bachelor of Architecture - ITESM University
Master of Architecture - McGill University
Architecture in Urban Context Certificate - LDM University
Interior Designer - Havenly
Architecture Professor - ITESM University

Articles: 584
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