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Space to soothe the psyche

Psychologists explore your childhood, happiest moments and favorite objects. The result of their analysis: a home aesthetic that reflects the real you.

March 08, 2007|Linda Marsa | Special to The Times

Sitting in an ornate wooden chair at one end of the long, bowling alley-like room, Ran was suddenly able to visualize how the space would flow: Unfurling the persimmon-colored rug in front of the fireplace is what finally did it. He can now "see" the conversation group in the middle, with a curved sofa facing the fireplace, because the rug gives the space visual definition. At the other end is a cozy wooden dining room table and chairs, adjoining an open kitchen.

An added plus: Because they now have an eating area by the kitchen, the light-filled front of the house that they used as a dining room is being converted to a morning room with bright orange couches and walls of bookshelves, mimicking the ambience of Ronit's favorite library-like cafe where she loves to sip tea and read.

"When we met with Susan and Connie, we felt we had a shared language and they listened to all our questions," Ronit says. "Ran and I wanted to grow together and share in the process, and not just come back two months later and have it all done by a decorator. I know we're doing something different, but it's been exciting, and the result really reflects who we are as a couple."



Diagnosing an aesthetic

Design psychologists use a variety of tools to gauge their clients' tastes, preferences and personalities, and to uncover the emotions attached to meaningful places from their past. This information is then used as a springboard for creating a design blueprint or prescription. Susan Painter and Constance Forrest, for example, have created a three-part series of exercises for their clients. The exercises involve:

A developmental history of place: A description of all the places they've lived and the most important things that happened to them in those places.

Favorite objects: Clients bring in objects that are meaningful to them and talk about why each one is important. For Ronit EverHadani, for example, they included her bridal bouquet, which had a lot of bright colors, her silver wedding ring and an antique chair given to her by her father. Among her husband Ran's favorites were a yellow shirt, a professional photographer's lamp and a leather briefcase with rounded edges.

A mental inventory of every place they've visited: Using techniques of hypnotherapy, clients are told to relax, and think back on all the places they've ever been, and then stop at the place where they felt their absolute best. What were the physical attributes of the place? The color, the light, the shadows, the sounds, the scents? What was it about the space that made them feel good? This can provide specific clues as to the environment cues that trigger good feelings.

-- Linda Marsa

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