House Diary #1: Doors as Psychological Entry Ways

I was listening to an episode of Brene Brown’s podcast interviewing Priya Parker on The Art of Gathering. Priya has insightful and refreshing things to say about hosting meaningful events. Too often, we focus more on the form (how an event looks) than on the intention. If you haven’t seen Priya talk, I suggest you start with her Creative Morning interview with Debbie Millman.

But there was an idea she mentioned casually that stood out for me. She was talking about creative ways of hosting virtual events where you can try incorporating attendees’ own physical spaces (such as living room, kitchen, bathroom) into the experience of the event. Asking attendees to move through their space as the event progresses could create a more immersive feeling because “doors are psychological entry ways”.

I love this in the same way that I love thinking about the door handle being the handshake of a house, which I touched on in my last entry, The Phenomenology of Spaces

It also reminds me of something my therapist helped me understand in the very beginning of quarantine, a time when, truth be told, everyone was coming undone. He said what used to be my sanctuary (i.e. my home) is now filled with stress from work. I needed to create a physical barrier within the house for work and not enter it when work was done in order to reclaim my sanctuary.

This mapping of psychological states to physical spaces is a fascinating area for me. It is similar to that classic memory strategy, method of loci, whereby a subject places things they want to remember within a palace in their imagination. This method drastically improves retention. The thread here is that we’re hard-wired to map meaning into our physical surroundings. 

Bringing this back to the house, it has helped me think about the areas within the house with a new light. I think we have been designing with this in mind subconsciously. But thinking within this framework will help me bring more focus to each of the psychological zones within the house, as well as the experience of the transitions. After all, the magic usually lies in the transitions, the moment when things shift. This is true in colour as it is true in music.

Speaking of music, here’s a little song that I’m listening to right now to help me finish this entry.