Artist and designer Bailey Li’s unique practice comes from an unusual place: Science. At a point when the designer—who has long had an artistic streak—was feeling down about her creativity (“I think every creative or entrepreneur has this moment,” she says), she came across a spark of inspiration not in a design magazine or art book but, rather, in a scientific theory.
“The science of neuroaesthetics talks about how our environments impact us, how we receive art and what it does, and how we process visuals,” explains the designer. Formally defined in 2002, the term is used to describe research into the ways in which our brains process art. It’s also the driving force behind what would come to set Li’s interior design work apart: Her custom, hand-painted wall murals.
“It hit me at that moment, that design is an opportunity for us to really take advantage of our environments and put things in our environments that really evoke positive emotion,” she explains.
So, she began incorporating her specific brand of art right into her clients’ interiors. With her murals, Li goes deeper than simply selecting artworks to hang within the spaces she designs, instead she conceptualizes the art as a symbiotic part of the interior—one with the power to transform her client’s mood.
Since beginning the practice three years ago, she’s also found it has a profound impact on her own mood. “Once I picked up that brush and roller and started mixing those paints, I couldn’t stop,” she says. “I was addicted to the therapeutic aspect of it for me and the reaction that my client got from seeing a wall that they were the inspiration for and that their environment was the inspiration for.”
Of course, each mural Li paints is completely unique, designed to reflect the setting and the home’s inhabitants. “My clients are my muses,” she says. And while the process starts there, the rest of it is fairly flexible, with Li eschewing mood boards and sample drawings for a more open-ended artistic approach—something she’s able to do more holistically when she’s also in charge of the interior design.
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“As a designer, I am looking at the big picture,” Li explains. “I know what I’m putting in your environment, all the furniture, all the pieces, and this is just the completion of the canvas. This is the backdrop to everything else that’s going in there. And so I pull from the colors that I’ve already decided on, or what the client loves, or what’s going to make the client happy.”
Li’s murals tend to be multi-layered, with the artist sometimes incorporating text (like in a project for her own studio space), natural inspiration, and a wide range of colors.
She’s also partial to metallics for, perhaps unsurprisingly, the added dimension they impart on a surface: “I love working with metallics because metallics are not necessarily overbearing,” she explains. “They’re beautiful earth tones. But when you pair them with other colors or you combine them, they really reflect light in a way that a lot of other elements don’t.”
Ultimately, she sees her work as having a transformative effect on the people who live with it and their guests. “I love that people can walk into their environments and feel like they are entering into an art gallery and have that experience you’d have in a museum or gallery,” Li explains. “People go to art galleries and museums because they are inspired and it sparks something in them that reminds them that there is something beyond what they are currently living.”
Now she no longer grapples with doubts about her creative work. “I realized that interior design wasn’t the purpose for me,” she says. “It was just a passion that I have, but my purpose is to uplift people. And so, as long as I know that I’m doing that, I’m satisfied.”
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