Design for subjective well-being in interior architecture


  • Ann Petermans Hasselt University Faculty of Architecture and arts Hasselt, Belgium
  • Anna Elisabeth Pohlmeyer Delft University of Technology Faculty of Industrial Design Engineering Delft, The Netherlands


Positive Design, Design for Subjective well-being, Happiness, Human Flourishing


Can interior environments engage people in pleasurable and meaningful experiences and thereby have a positive influence on their happiness? This paper discusses why and how interior architects might want to consider implementing ideas in relation to ‘design for subjective well-being’.


Despite of people being the ingredients that bring life to the built environment, it tends to be designed in such a way for them to predominantly only passively absorb the surrounding. Up to date, when designing interior environments, (interior) architects are mainly concerned about the fulfillment of various rather objective considerations. Typical reflections in this respect are: is there enough daylight, how are the acoustics, how is the accessibility and the organization of the inner space? Starting from such premises, the atmosphere of the inner space is given substance. However, empirical studies have shown that long-term happiness is less a matter of one’s circumstances than of the activities that a person engages in. Hence, one could go one step further from viewing the built environment as a static entity, to designing spaces that facilitate desirable activities. In other words, inner environments could aim to stimulate experiences that provide pleasure and meaning to its inhabitants.


Subjective well-being (SWB) is an emerging research topic in the field of design sciences. Design models and strategies are being developed in an effort to increase users’ well-being. However, a detailed understanding of how these insights apply to interior architecture still needs to be refined. For this reason, this paper will firstly outline why interior environments could have the potential to contribute to people’s SWB and thereby to become platforms for the full spectrum of human well-being.


The second section of the paper reflects on how a deliberate focus on SWB will affect the process of designing interior environments. The Positive Design Framework, developed by Desmet & Pohlmeyer (2013), will be introduced to the (interior) architectural community. Interior architects can use this framework as a guide to assist them in the design process of interior environments that aim to contribute to people’s happiness. A number of examples will demonstrate in an interior architectural vocabulary the value that this framework can have for this discipline.

Author Biographies

Ann Petermans, Hasselt University Faculty of Architecture and arts Hasselt, Belgium

Hasselt University

Faculty of Architecture and arts

Dr. Ann Petermans

Anna Elisabeth Pohlmeyer, Delft University of Technology Faculty of Industrial Design Engineering Delft, The Netherlands

Delft University of Technology

Faculty of Industrial Design Engineering

Dr.-Ing. Anna E. Pohlmeyer


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How to Cite

Petermans, A., & Pohlmeyer, A. E. (2014). Design for subjective well-being in interior architecture. Proceedings of the Annual Architectural Research Symposium in Finland, 206–218. Retrieved from