Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today

Building With Wood Grain

Visible wood grain is a powerful stress-buster.

Research consistently shows that seeing wood grain (responsibly harvested, of course) in our homes and offices boosts our mental well-being and performance; using wood with visible grain in interiors can be a good idea, a very good idea.

When we see wood grain our stress levels fall, it's a particularly good design choice when relaxation is the goal—whether that’s a dentist’s waiting area or a family room where the whole family, with their varying entertainment preferences, plans to spend time together. With falling stress levels come enhanced mental performance, wood grain is a positive choice for any place where you’ll be taxing your brain to resolve tough issues, whether the resulting solutions are likely more analytical or more creative.

The benefits flow to our brains when we look at wood on furniture, walls, or floors. Many people place a high priority on hardwood floors when they’re assessing potential new homes or considering renovations. This is consistent with the research on stress levels and visible wood grain, as well as the links in our world between hardwood floors and middle (or upper) class living situations. This cultural association is somewhat reduced in areas where outside surfaces, sand for example, mean that there can be a lot of abrasive material on shoes walking across any wood floor.

The wood grain pattern itself seems to be the root of the positive implications of using wood. Therefore, artificial wood can lead to the same sorts of psychological benefits as real wood—as long as those artificial wood patterns truly look like real wood. Also, if artificial wood is used it’s important that there is enough variety in the flooring—used in any space so that there are not unnatural appearing duplicates, for instance. This means, for example, that a particular knot that appears in a stretch of artificial wood flooring should only be visible once in the expanse of wood, as would be the case if real, natural wood was used.

To reap the benefits of wood grain, that grain has to be visible; ebony finishes don’t have the same psychological power as oak finishes.

There is a sweet spot for the amount of wood used in a room, and that is around 45 percent of surfaces. Research shows that when the concentration of visible wood grain gets above this level, the value of wood-in-use begins to erode.

Wood grain is a powerful de-stressor; it’s a great tool for keeping life hassles in check.

More from Sally Augustin Ph.D.
More from Psychology Today
More from Sally Augustin Ph.D.
More from Psychology Today