Kym Gold is a style icon (True Religion jeans), who recently hatched Style Union Home & authored The Gold Standard: How to Run an Empire.
by Kym Gold
It may be that the eyes are the window into our soul, but it is equally true that what we perceive outwardly nourishes our soul and can lead to business success.
In my three-decade career in fashion and now home style, I have witnessed firsthand how people react to beautiful design because of how it makes them feel. For me, feeling good feeds my confidence and fuels my productivity.
Stanford philosophy professor Kenneth Taylor said that experiencing things of great beauty is intrinsically valuable. “Think of the power of a truly beautiful work of art — be it music, or poetry or painting,” Taylor explained. “Being in the presence of a beautiful thing is transporting.”
Sometimes we purposely seek out beauty, like going to an antique store to buy a lovely vase or a painting. Sometimes we stumble upon it by serendipity, like Spanish explorer Francisco Vázquez de Coronado discovering the vast natural wonder that we now call the Grand Canyon.
Beyond office perks like foosball and free sodas, companies are increasingly becoming hip to the science of beautiful things and their positive effect on teams. Aesthetics matter, both for employees and visiting clients (especially prospective ones who might hear your pitch on being bold and innovative and will factor your office design into their evaluations). Visionary architect Lance Hosey even goes so far as to call beautiful design an “evolutionary imperative.”
Of course, not everyone can work inside a glass spaceship like those at Apple’s headquarters in Silicon Valley. But there are things we can do in corporate and home office settings that leverage the power of beauty to inspire success.
Paint It Happy
Numerous studies show that our environment affects our mood, including color. All-white walls might communicate “clean” and “sterile” in a hospital setting, but in an office, it’s a sea of meh. I’ve spent hours poring over paint chips to find the perfect color. Even just an accent wall can transform a space. Consider color with the desired effect: blue to evoke calmness, yellow and orange for happiness, green to boost creativity and motivation. Go big and engage a muralist to paint one entire wall, perhaps with a travel scene for a company with global ambitions.
Aspire To Art
Speaking of travel, commit yourself to buying one beautiful object every time you travel for business. It doesn’t need to be expensive, but it serves as a reminder of your journeys and can bring the beauty of the world into your workspace. This could include a painting, a basket to hold magazines or perhaps a handmade ceramic bowl for paper clips. Furniture can also be works of art. Buy a reclaimed piece of knotty pine, and hire a handyman to build you a beautiful custom desk.
Through A Glass Lightly
If you’re designing (or redesigning) an office, remember that natural light can be better than artificial, and watching the interplay of light and shadows change throughout each day can bring the outdoors into the office. Windows, along with glass walls and doors, can have an impact on well-being, according to a report from the World Green Building Council. Plus, longer-distance views can help to reduce the effects of eye strain in the long term, the report also said. And, according to the New York Times, studies of call centers found that employees who could see outdoors completed tasks 6% to 7% more efficiently than those who couldn’t, an annual savings of nearly $3,000 per worker.
Turn Over A New Leaf
In the classic comedy film 9 to 5, the controlling boss won’t allow his employees to have plants on their desks. Today, they’re commonplace. Office plants not only bring the beauty of nature into a work environment — plus, let's not forget to mention the oxygen — but they’ve also been proven to lower stress and increase productivity. A Washington State University study determined that when plants were brought into a lab environment, subjects benefited from lower blood pressures and reacted 12% more quickly on computer tasks.
We think of beauty as visual, but humans are also captivated by sound and smell. How many music clubs and restaurants have enticed patrons from the street through these sensory lures? Especially for entrepreneurs curating their own environments, these can be powerful catalysts. Are you creatively inspired by certain musical genres or artists? Let them play as you work. Do particular fragrances transport you to your happy place? Burn a scented candle or try a smart home device like Pura, which lets you customize plug-in fragrances from your cell phone.
The business world ultimately bends toward results. All things beautiful can be practical if they inspire you to succeed.