Our Design Edit

Sophisticated Living Room as example of Holistic Interior Design in San Francisco and Sacramento

Holistic Interior Design


Jun 23, 2023

First off, I’d like to emphasize that a holistic design approach has always been our method of choice when it comes to both home renovations and new construction custom homes. It doesn’t matter if we’re working on the interior design of a city home in San Francisco or a suburban or country home in and around Sacramento – the process remains the same. Over the years as an interior designer, I wouldn’t know how else to approach our design projects honestly – it sort of comes naturally as part of our discovery phase. Interiors are about people and how we connect. As a result, there’s a lot of conversation about lifestyle and personality.

The discovery phase is when we discuss with homeowners what their needs are and wishes are, both functionally and aesthetically. You can read more about our general design approach on our page for interior design services. Our goal for this blog entry is to explain in more detail what a holistic design approach is and what to expect when working with an interior designer who follows this process.

As Vincent van Duysen says, “architecture is about the elimination of excess, and creating serenity in essential forms and spaces.” Below pictures show design details of his home in Antwerp.

Today’s State of Home Renovations

Over the past few years, interest in home renovation projects has skyrocketed. According to a study published in the Architectural Digest, project spending jumped from $328 billion in 2019 to $472 billion in 2022. This year, homeowners are expected to spend a collective $485 billion transforming their homes. People are certainly investing more into their homes again and we’re here for it :)

Whether you’re planning a full-scale remodel or you just want to spruce up a few spaces, it’s helpful to reflect on your priorities. Many homeowners are motivated to complete a home renovation in order to improve the home’s aesthetic and/or comfort; many owners also plan a remodel to boost their home value. While we think that improving function, aesthetics, and real estate value are very important considerations, there’s one concept you might have not consciously considered yet: how does your home make you feel? That is precisely what holistic interior design is all about.

A process that incorporates the full extent of what your property represents, this is an all encompassing way to think about the rooms that you and your loved ones inhabit. Today, we’re taking a closer look at what it means and how you can weave it into your home design. 

The Basics of Holistic Interior Design

Before we delve into the finer details, let’s address the fundamental question: What is holistic interior design?

This approach takes into account all aspects of your space, not just the tangible finishes, furniture, and accessories. By considering the emotional, physical, and spiritual elements, it offers a comprehensive view of your surroundings. It’s about creating an environment that nourishes your mind, body, and soul to achieve a harmonious balance.

This design philosophy surpasses the bounds of traditional interior design textbooks, seeking inspiration in diverse sources – color psychology, nature-led design, ergonomics, and human biology. You might have heard of Feng Shui, maybe the most well known design philosophy when it comes to a more holistic approach.

By prioritizing holistic interior design, you aim to craft a space that’s not only visually beautiful but also affects you on a deeper level. This enriches your emotions and fortifies your spiritual peace by radiating a sense of harmony and balance.

It’s NOT a style but an interior design approach.

Holistic Design is not about one particular style but about people-centered design. Even though lots of pictures here might show a calming and serene interior, depending on who we design for, the interior design can also look colorful like the below Hamptons home designed by architect Clay Coffey—of the North Fork and Brooklyn–based design firm Isaac-Rae.

The interior of this cedar-clad space features open-plan living and dining areas. O’Molony has put his special touch on the design, such as reupholstering a couple of flea-market armchairs with BDDW fabric, and pairing them with a Børge Mogensen leather chair. For additional flair, O’Molony added a replica of an Axel Einar Hjorth cocktail table. But the real showstopper here is the 25-foot built-in sofa upholstered in a vintage Mossi cloth from Mali, running the length of the space. It just oozes with unrivaled designer finesse!

Human-Centered Interior Design

Have you ever been in a room or building that just didn’t feel right? You know, when the “flow” just seemed off-kilter – but you couldn’t quite place what was wrong or missing? It probably lacked human-centered design – something that’s more than beautiful furnishings and aesthetics. Human-centered design strives to create spaces that not only look and feel great, but also support your everyday lifestyle. Because what good is a designer kitchen that only looks good in a magazine and is difficult to use in real life?

Holistic interior design takes this concept a step further. It goes beyond creating practical spaces that meet functional needs by also considering emotional and spiritual needs. To achieve this, holistic interior designers begin every project by taking a few key steps. Let’s explore those steps in greater detail.

Step 1: Setting the Intention

Wondering how to bring holistic design into your home? Start by considering each room’s intended purpose. Who will use it, and how?

Ask yourself a few key questions during the planning phase of your home renovation:

  • What will be this space’s main function?
  • Who will use this space the most?
  • How do I want to feel when I enter this space?
  • What vibe do I want to create in this space?
  • How does this space connect with the rooms around it?
  • What connection does this space have with the outdoors?

Keep in mind, there are no right or wrong answers here. Each space in your home can be unique. Once you’ve established the room’s foundation, you can begin to think about the physical details, such as the layout, paint colors, furniture, and decor.

We always design with the intention to create a cohesive design throughout the whole house, which includes a cohesive feel or vibe. Nevertheless, each room can diverge a little from the overall design concept and still feel as part of the whole. Think of it as an individual that makes up part of a community; or a side of yourself that you’d like to see reflected in your home without overloading the rest of the space. This gives us the opportunity to infuse a colorful design concept within a home that is otherwise more understated and muted in color; e.g. a bar, media room, laundry, or powder room.

A moody living room in Manhattan designed by Tali Roth. Holistic design centered around conversation.

Step 2: Creating the Energy Flow

When redecorating a space or building it from scratch, ensuring all elements blend seamlessly is imperative. This creates an environment where people can move around, use furniture, and enjoy their surroundings with ease. Although this is a fundamental principle of interior design, holistic design takes it to the next level. It considers how energy flows through the space, fostering positive interactions and emotions. Perhaps you enter your bedroom and immediately feel a sense of serenity or overcome with positive emotions upon stepping into your living room. By incorporating holistic design principles, you can maximize your space’s potential, creating an environment that positively impacts your wellbeing.

If your home isn’t bringing you a sense of peace, take a moment to consider what could be causing it. Perhaps it’s worth reflecting upon to identify the source of unease in your living space. Often, it’s one or more of the following: 

  • Excessive clutter,
  • Furnishings you don’t love,
  • An obstructive layout.

Start by decluttering your space – clear is calm! Separate your belongings into 3 piles: donate, keep, and throw away. With a less cluttered space, consider reducing your furnishings to only those that truly “spark joy”. As Marie Kondo pointed out so well “Only you can know what kind of environment makes you happy.” I am sure you have heard of her method of tidying up. As part of her philosophy, she points out that is it not merely about a more ordered space but about a way of life (= kurashi) and I love that approach. It rings true for how we approach our interior design services for both residential and commercial design.

Minimal Furniture and Maximal Storage

An Akari Ceiling Lamp, Model L5 from the Noguchi Museum Store hangs in the lofty living area of this Brooklyn apartment. Photograph by Bruce Buck, from An Eclectic Apartment Inspired by Japanese Storage Chests in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn.

After removing all the unnecessary distractions, another crucial step is to optimize your layout. Ensure that the entrances and windows are free of clutter, if possible. Also, consider moving furniture away from walls, and closer together, to encourage natural socialization. These simple yet effective measures have a significant impact on the overall look and feel of the space.

Step 3: Bringing in Nature

It’s no secret that spending time in nature is great for our overall well-being. This helps explain why natural elements are such a core part of holistic interior design. 

Start by using a lot of natural materials instead. There’s something about their tactile quality and uniqueness that creates an instant connection to nature. Man-made products simply don’t compare.

Introducing some greenery or scenic ocean/mountain pictures, can instantly bring the outdoorsy vibe inside. Open up your windows to let the fresh air in. Recreate the calming sound of nature with a desktop water fountain or by diffusing natural scents inspired by the great outdoors!

When it comes to interiors, don’t just focus on decor. Consider painting your walls in calming, natural tones like olive green, sunny yellow, or pastel blue. If your budget allows, opt for expansive windows that look out into nature and expand your space visually. These touches don’t just add beauty to your space, they also boost your inner serenity, ignite your creativity, and enhance productivity.

Another Note on Furniture Layout

A harmonious furniture layout can make or break the appeal of a room, so it’s crucial to avoid any obstructive configurations. However, achieving a visually-pleasing arrangement can be challenging, even in modern homes that seem to cater to contemporary living. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution that works seamlessly for everyone, which is why working with an interior designer to customize your home can be so beneficial.

Comprehensive space planning of furniture is an integral part of our home and office remodeling projects. Every decision ripples throughout the space, influencing the entire layout of adjacent rooms. Take our Woodlake project as an example of how we redefine utilization and streamline flow by changing the floor plan.

During a remodel or while designing a new custom home, every detail deserves consideration. You’re already investing significant capital, so let’s elevate every aspect to ensure you feel confident and fulfilled in your choices. Trust in us to bring your vision to life with precision and artistry.

A current home renovation in Sacramento showing both the new layout and old layout underneath. We were hired to completely design the remodel of this home. Some additional space will added on the second level. We’re only showing the first floor here. Major emphasis was on re-designing the kitchen and surrounding areas to fit the family’s lifestyle while not changing the exterior footprint.

A Special Mention for Wabi Sabi Interior Design

Wabi Sabi (or Wabi-sabi) is a philosophy that celebrates the beauty of imperfection, raw materials, and the impact of time’s passage. It reminds us that life is fleeting and that there is beauty to be found in the flawed and the incomplete.

Wabi Sabi has no direct translation, yet its essence is beautifully captured in its individual components. ‘Wa’ denotes peace, harmony and balance, which contribute to the Wabi’s holistic personhood. They embody zen spirituality, relishing the pleasure in everyday simplicities, creating a life that is free from mundane concerns and harmful vices, and pursuing an appreciation for nature’s wisdom.

“Sabi” is derived from the Japanese phrase “flower of time”. It represents the natural, yet fleeting flow of time, acknowledging the impermanence of beauty and the inevitability of decay and deterioration.

Philosophy lies in the perfect marriage of two vital qualities: a reverence for the beauty in imperfection, and an appreciation for the unyielding passage of time.

Author Richard R. Powell writes in his book “The Wabi Sabi cultivates all that is authentic by recognizing three simple realities: nothing lasts, nothing is complete and nothing is perfect.”

What makes Wabi Sabi the distinct interior design style it is and why it is not just a fleeting trend?

In decor, this style aims to accentuate materials in their truest, purest, and most authentic form – seeking to maintain a minimalist design while infusing warmth into interiors using rustic materials and objects that tell a story. in both design and interior decor, this style opposes symmetry and perfection.

Author Andrew Juniper says, “If an object or expression can provoke in us a feeling of serene melancholy and spiritual longing, then that object can be considered wabi-sabi.”

The walls conceal storage units, with plaster panels that disguise the television and a doorway. An oxidized bronze plate affixed to the panels serves as a handle that opens the TV cabinet. Wall light by Apparatus Studio from New York City.
A Hong Kong apartment designed by Design by NC Design + Architecture

Since homeowners are increasingly interested in a holistic design approach, we think Wabi Sabi is a philosophy that’s very valuable in design. We incorporate it in our interior design process to give our clients an interior they feel connected to and that improves their well being, not just a space that looks good.

A Special Mention for Japandi Interiors

Despite appearing as a trendy buzzword, the Japandi interior style is actually a longstanding aesthetic with deep roots, combining centuries-worth of personal history from both Japanese and Scandinavian cultures. The look is calm, casual, and organic.

According to Laila Rietbergen, author of the book Japandi Living (Lannoo Publishers 2022) and popular Instagram account owner of @japandi.interior, the fusion of Japanese and Scandinavian design didn’t just happen recently as many people might think. It has been a long-standing relationship between the two cultures. Beyond peaceful, minimalistic, and functional interiors, Japandi principles often extend beyond home decor. Shanty Wijaya, an interior designer and owner of AllPrace, explains that Japandi design consciously promotes a healthy and meaningful lifestyle by cultivating an appreciation for imperfection, deep connections with nature and the Earth, and finding joy in life’s simple pleasures.

What defines Japandi as its own distinct style?

At its core, Japandi style exemplifies the fusion of two design powerhouses – Scandinavia and Japan. It is a masterclass in creating artful harmony between Japanese aesthetics and wabi-sabi philosophy, with Scandinavian furniture’s warmth and coziness or Hygge. With simplicity, natural elements, comfort, and sustainability serving as their common roots, these two design themes coalesce seamlessly.

I adore Japandi’s blend of more than one interior style. Japandi design pulls from minimalism and Scandinavian functionality while incorporating Japanese craftsmanship. Neutral colors, high-quality and natural materials, and an emphasis on greenery and nature are common in Japandi interiors. In both Japan and Scandinavia, people have a strong affinity towards nature and aspire to bring it inside their homes. This influence is reflected in the use of natural materials like wood and linen, incorporation of organic shapes, and the art of combining different shapes in Japandi interiors.

Muk van Lil, a thriving entrepreneur and photographer, resides in her uniquely furnished abode, Casa Kanso. Together with Lotte Faassen x Studio de Blieck, Muk put great emphasis on creating a peaceful environment where chaos does not exist. She chose gentle colors, such as beige and white, that subtlety add a touch of calm. The organic shapes further enhance the tranquil feeling radiated by the palette. The home is a great example of Japandi interior design, especially the kitchen, which offers an immense amount of inspiration – an aesthetic sanctuary that delightfully stimulates the senses. Every detail, from the wallpaper texture to the uneven surface of the sideboard to the softness of the couch, delivers an unforgettable tactile experience that makes one live in the present.

Is Japandi and Wabi Sabi the Same?

Japandi incorporates more than just the Wabi Sabi philosophy. Although wabi-sabi is rooted in Japan’s traditional aesthetic and worldview, Japandi is a design movement that encompasses both Wabi Sabi and Scandinavian hygge philosophy. While wabi-sabi is a part of Japandi interiors, it is also a unique style in its own right. 

A kitchen always deserves special care in the homes we design. The overall look and the cabinetry in particular can define not only the kitchen itself but also the surrounding spaces such as the dining room and living room. We work with our clients to ensure that the kitchen design sets the mood for your home. The know a lot about our client’s lifestyle and how they see themselves and their future, plays a big role in the beginning stages of our design process, no matter if we were hired for the interior design of a kitchen or a whole home renovation.

Lime-washed walls and a dark-wood island embrace a Japanese ethos in this kitchen designed by Wijaya. The stools add a distinctive Scandinavian flare.  Photo: Alex Zarour

The dining table is classic Scandinavian, and the art is Asian-inspired.  
Photo: Jenna Peffley

Learn More About Holistic Interior Design

We believe that holistic interior design is the future. When we take a moment to observe our surroundings, we can see that practices that were once considered mystical and superstitious are now ubiquitous. From essential oils and acupuncture to massage therapy and Feng Shui, we have embraced these once-alternative methods for maintaining health and well-being.

Amidst the stress factors of life, shouldn’t we all experience some peace and tranquility in the rooms of our home? Shouldn’t our living spaces foster our well-being and empower us to live healthier?

At Haven Studios, we passionately believe the answer is a resounding YES! That’s why we proudly provide holistic interior design services that unlock the full potential of your home.
Our approach revolves around comfort and joy. Every inch counts: from layouts that promote relaxation and creativity to patterns and textures that inspire good vibes. We strive to create spaces that are not only visually stunning but also functional, so you can feel comfortable and at home whether it’s the middle of the day or the deepest of nights. 

We want our clients to live an inspired life within a home that allows them to re-charge and they consider their own personal sanctuary and haven. To learn more, schedule a chat with our team.

Holistic Interior Design is an approach that considers all aspects of a space, not just its tangible finishes, furniture, and accessories. By factoring in emotional, physical, and spiritual elements, it offers a comprehensive view of its surroundings. Holistic Interior Design isn’t just about making your space look good -it’s about creating an environment that nourishes your mind, body, and soul. It seeks a harmonious balance between the various aspects of your life, resulting in spaces that feel genuinely “YOU”.