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Designing A Sense of Calm For The National Immigration Law Center

Design Trends

Much like design is used in health and wellness to create a sense of peace and serenity for patients in a medical office or in a home workspace during uncertain times, so too can it be used to create calm for professionals working in high-stress and emotional work environments.



Interior designer and artist Sarah Barnard knew this would be a key component of her work designing the new Los Angeles headquarters of the The National Immigration Law Center (NILC). The Center is “exclusively dedicated to defending and advancing the rights of immigrants with low income,” and quickly outgrew its original space. They enlisted Barnard’s help to create a pragmatic and supportive new environment for those with high-pressure workloads, which would also welcome the flow of a diverse group of social justice professionals. “The original space was very minimal and impersonal, and we wanted to design a space for them that embraced the culture and work of dedicated team members,” stated Barnard.


While striking this balance might be tricky, Barnard always welcomes a design challenge, as a core element of her work is around creating healthy, happy, personalized spaces that are deeply connected to nature and art. In fact, Barnard’s focus has long been around socially and eco-conscious design work. She stated, “Our clients rely on us to specify healthy, natural spaces that are free from toxins. Healthy workspaces increase employee satisfaction, wellbeing and productivity. For nearly 20 years our firm has relied on Dunn-Edwards for Zero-VOC solutions."


When it came to colors for the space, Barnard shares that cultivating a serene space was top of mind. “For the color palette on the walls, we specified cool, neutral colors to help mitigate stress. In a high-energy work environment, it's beneficial to have spaces of visual quiet to pause. The light neutral hues also provide an excellent backdrop for hanging artwork and highlighting bright accessories to keep the area cheerful and lively, without feeling overly busy.”

To achieve this, she worked with Dunn-Edwards colors Silverlake (DE6379), Gray Wolf (DE6354) and Snowflake (DEW384). The combination of colors are reminiscent of quiet, overcast days at the ocean, providing an air of tranquility.



The other lively elements to which Barnard speaks is an art exhibition by immigrant artists called "Defend and Advance" which reinforces the organization’s ethos the artworks of which are displayed through the headquarters.



Going beyond color, Barnard utilized additional design elements to further decrease the everyday work pressures faced by those at the Center. “There are generally many moving parts that contribute to stressful situations or stressful work, and interior design can have a significant impact on easing some of that emotional strain,” she notes. For example, the Center employs open spaces free from clutter which might add unnecessary visual chaos, as well as low, deep, comfortable furniture, and a "privacy office," which is a designated calm room where staff members can decompress.


Photos by Chas Metivier, Courtesy of Sarah Barnard.