Creating Interior Atmosphere, Book by Senior Lecturer


Senior Lecturer in Interior Design, Jean Whitehead, discusses her book. 'Creating Interior Atmosphere: Mise-en-Scène and Interior Design’. A publication that examines and explores the parallels between cinematic and theatrical manifestations of the interior to the practice of interior design.

Jean told us, “The book was commissioned by Bloomsbury after an initial ‘pitch’ that recognised there was a niche in the mark for this type of publication. Interior Design as a taught discipline traditionally borrows heavily from architectural theory and this has resulted in a practice that values architectural remodelling, but sadly places less emphasis on the softer and often marginalised aspects of the decorated interior. This book aims to re-evaluate interior decoration through the cinematic and theatrical lens of mise-en-scène.”

The book aims to introduce an alternative way of considering interior decoration that extends the traditional scope of books devoted to this subject by introducing ‘mise-en-scène’ as a means for constructing interior atmosphere. Behind the colour palettes and trend forecasting interior decoration is a fascinating topic that requires the student, designer or interested amateur to ‘conjure’ readymade interiors out of thin air. These interiors, always strong on atmosphere are central to the study of interior design. How interior atmosphere is created, and how space is perceived is central to Jean’s book.

By taking inspiration from the worlds of film and theatre, this book explores cinematic concepts and its interdisciplinary application to interior design. It aims to introduce a fresh theoretical perspective. The writings of Bachelard, Böhme and Pallasmaa were hugely inspirational as was the watching of countless films. The creation of atmosphere is central to the concept of the decorated interior – whilst there is a strong link to film theory, scenography and the ‘staging’ of space in the creation of an interior environment.

Jean continued, “The book allowed me to explore interior atmosphere through the cinematic lens of ‘mise-en-scène,’ via an analysis of the narrative, physical and psychological elements of the interior. I have always been interested in the creation of ‘interior atmosphere’ as this is key to understanding the role of the interior designer. We are design ‘magicians’ that learn how to create and ‘stage’ space and impact on the user experience.”

Jean was lucky enough to present this research at the ‘World Design Summit’ in Montreal, Canada. It has been published by Bloomsbury, whilst an abridged version is available via the ‘Film and Furniture’ design blog. Jean was recently the recipient of the ‘Visionary Tutor Award for Interior Design’ by the Society of British and International Designers (SBID).