A Guide to Trauma-Informed Design for Creating Healing Homes


Imagine a situation where you sit alone in your cluttered bedroom. Among the mess, your gaze falls upon an old music box. Suddenly, you feel your body tense up, and without warning, tears roll down from your eyes. In your mind, you recall the event when your loved one left you due to chronic illness just a day after giving you the music box.

This situation is called trauma, which can remind you of horrible events that have happened in your life and make your body react uncontrollably.

For some people, the trauma will stay with them for the rest of their lives. Some of you probably already know that to overcome trauma, you will ask for help from professional experts such as psychologists or psychiatrists. However, did you know that modifications to the home environment also play a big role in creating a healing space? This is called trauma-informed design.

Therefore, keep reading to explore the principles of trauma-informed design and discover actionable insights for creating homes that serve as havens of comfort, understanding, and support. Start your journey to designing spaces that not only look good but also feel good, promoting healing and harmony for all who call them home.

Understanding trauma-informed design

Trauma-informed design is the incorporation of principles that aim to alleviate the effects of trauma and integrate them into various aspects of practice in life. Applying these principles addresses not only the specific needs of trauma survivors but also external factors influencing their behaviors.

In the context of home organization, adopting trauma-informed practice means recognizing the profound connection between the physical spaces you inhabit and your emotional well-being. This approach acknowledges that your home is more than just physical structures; it is a sanctuary that can alleviate the impact of trauma.

Read more: The Relationship Between Biophilic Designs and Your Well-Being 

By applying the trauma-informed approach at your home, especially for family members who have experienced trauma, you create intentional havens that go beyond looks and contribute positively to healing and resilience.

In applying this approach to your home, you need to understand the key principles and their role in creating a healing environment.

Key principles of trauma-informed design

Trauma-informed design principles are a unity that cannot be separated from one another. As the first step of applying trauma-informed care to home design, understanding this set of principles is essential to recognize and respond to the unique needs of your family members who have experienced trauma. These principles are:


Safety refers to a condition where you feel protected and free from any harm. This principle is one of the most important principles of this discipline. It covers the physical, psychological, and individual aspects of trauma-informed building design.

  • Physical safety. This involves the tangible elements of the environment, such as proper lighting, secure entryways, and well-maintained spaces.
  • Psychological safety. This addresses the emotional well-being of the occupants, considering factors like privacy, soothing aesthetics, and opportunities for personal retreat. 
  • Individual aspect. This aspect recognizes the uniqueness of each person’s experiences and preferences, allowing for personalized adjustments that contribute to an overall sense of security.

By incorporating safety considerations in creating healing homes, you help traumatized family members find a safe place where they can feel secure, understood, and supported in their healing journey.

Transparency and trustworthiness

This principle emphasizes that all decisions should be carried out openly and honestly. The primary aim is to build and sustain trust among the family members who live with trauma. This involves open communication about changes, collaborative decision-making approaches, and providing family members with insight into the decision-making rationale.

By embracing this principle in your home, your family members will feel secure in understanding the processes and decisions affecting their living environment, fostering a sense of predictability and stability.

Choice and empowerment

Trauma-informed care systems also recognize the importance of personal empowerment. Hence, the built environment should incorporate a diverse range of design features. Applying these features in your home aims to provide family members with the ability to make choices that resonate with their unique needs, enabling them to feel heard, represented, and empowered to engage in self-care practices.

It means offering a variety of design elements and customizable features that allow your family members to personalize their environment according to their preferences. This includes flexible furniture arrangements, personalized decor, and adaptable spaces that cover diverse needs.


Under this principle, physical spaces are designed to actively support rest, foster connections, and celebrate the unique interaction between occupants. In detail, it needs to consider how the layout and design encourage interpersonal connection and shared decision-making.

This includes spaces that facilitate interactions, collaborative design processes that involve input from all family members, and the incorporation of elements that honor the family’s cultural background and personality. For example, designing and organizing living rooms or recreational spaces in your backyard.

By embracing this principle, trauma-informed architecture transforms homes into spaces that prioritize healing and nurture a sense of community.

Beauty and joy

In creating a healing home that promotes beauty and joy, you also need to consider how the spaces impact the emotions of the occupants.

This involves carefully incorporating trauma-informed interior design elements that inspire positivity, warmth, and creativity. For example, enhancing the level of natural light within your home, painting vibrant colors, and aesthetically pleasing design choices.

By embracing this principle, you can transform homes into spaces that transcend mere functionality, becoming environments that uplift and inspire. A home adorned with beauty and joy helps individuals find solace, comfort, and the capacity to imagine a brighter future, contributing significantly to their overall well-being.

Applying trauma-informed design in homes

Architectural elements within your home have the power to influence and modulate the body’s stress response by manipulating environmental stimuli and atmospheres. The design of your living space can either heighten or calm the physiological reactions triggered by perceived stressors.

Recognizing this, trauma-informed home design becomes a crucial tool in creating environments that contribute to the experience of dignity, safety, and a feeling of hope toward recovery.

Applying this approach to your home requires considering some architectural elements. Therefore, here are the key steps to implement best practices for trauma-informed care.

Layout and spatial considerations

Applying trauma-informed design to your home organization means creating open and flexible spaces. Both openness (reflecting the capacity for various physical arrangements) and flexibility (referring to the capability of spaces for different functions) play crucial roles in creating environments that cater to the unique requirements of trauma survivors.

Trauma can influence individuals’ preferences regarding their physical surroundings. Flexible spaces allow for the easy rearrangement of furniture and layout, enabling you to customize your environment according to all of your family members’ current comfort levels and preferences.

For example, choose an open floor plan that allows you to do fluid movement and visibility throughout the main living spaces, such as the common room. Also, you can select modular and easily rearrangeable furniture to adapt the living spaces based on your household’s needs.

Sensory elements

Sensory elements play a significant role in influencing emotions, memories, and perception. Carefully curating sensory elements in your home can evoke positive emotions, provide comfort, and contribute to the formation of positive memories. These elements become powerful tools for designing spaces that support emotional healing and resilience.

Therefore, you can utilize sensory elements within your home to create a sense of safety, comfort, and support, fostering a positive and healing atmosphere. These impacts become key factors in enhancing the overall well-being of anyone who needs a home as a sanctuary.

The following are the two most important sensory elements that you need to pay attention to when creating a home that is friendly for trauma survivors:


The role of lighting is crucial in trauma-informed design homes as it serves as a vital element for individuals to gather visual information from their surroundings. Beyond its functional aspect, lighting significantly shapes the atmosphere, affects mood, and influences the overall sense of safety and comfort within the living space.

Read more: The Vital Role of Ergonomic Furniture in Modern Living Spaces 

It is recommended that you install a soft, diffused, and adjustable lighting system. For example, you can use a combination of overhead lighting, task lighting, and ambient lighting to create depth and warmth.

Additionally, installing a dimmer switch can support the flexibility of lighting level adjustment, allowing spaces to adapt to different needs and moods and offering you and your family members control over the living environment.


Choosing colors for your home is not only for aesthetic purposes. Color can impact occupants’ motivation, concentration, sense of peacefulness, perceived usefulness, and creativity. Carefully selecting colors for your home cannot be overlooked because you want to create a positive and supportive atmosphere.

Read more: Improve Your WFH Performance With Interior Color 

For trauma-informed home design, you can utilize the following color palettes:

  • Vibrant color palette. You can utilize colors like soft coral, sage green, buttercream yellow, terracotta orange, and Fuschia pink to create an atmosphere that stimulates motivation, creativity, and concentration. It is recommended to be used in the living room, common room, home office, and kitchen.
  • Pastel and neutral color palette. You can utilize colors like baby blue, soft lavender, soft mint green, blush pink, and soft peach to create an atmosphere that fosters a sense of peacefulness and serenity. This palette is recommended for the bathroom and the bedroom.

Personalizing private space

A home becomes a sanctuary for healing and self-expression as a private space. Thus, the ability to personalize this intimate environment becomes crucial to creating a supportive and therapeutic atmosphere.

Read more: Form Meets Function: The Essential Guide to Balanced Home Decor 

Your private space should offer a sense of safety and security. Having choices for personalization allows you to tailor your home to align with all of the family members’ emotional needs.

By having options to personalize private quarters, each family member can learn to respect the need for privacy and provide a space for each other to fully express feelings without judgment. Enhancing the sense of control and safety within your home can be achieved in some ways, which are:

  • Building walls and fences as a border between your home and neighbors.
  • Hanging curtains to cover your windows.
  • Ensuring your front door lock is functioning properly.
  • Adding decoration in your private room to enhance your territoriality.
  • Establishing quiet time.

In conclusion

Trauma-informed design aims to create healing home spaces by prioritizing safety, transparency, choice, collaboration, beauty, and joy. This involves considering architectural elements, layout, and flexibility to accommodate trauma survivors’ unique preferences and comfort levels.

Sensory aspects like lighting and color are important for shaping emotions within the home, contributing to well-being. Personalizing private spaces is key, allowing your family members to tailor living spaces based on their emotional needs, safety, acceptance, and privacy.

Integrate trauma-informed design principles into your home to support the healing journey of trauma survivors. Prioritizing intentional and thoughtful design ensures your home becomes a haven of comfort, understanding, and support for all living there.

If you would like to see more resources on trauma-informed design, check out the Home Organization Science Labs. The lab uses the research of the Institute for Life Management Science to produce courses, certifications, podcasts, videos, and other tools. Visit the Home Organization Science Labs today.

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