How to Design a Healthy Home
The Link Between Space & Wellness
Did you know that your home is one of the most important factors that impacts your overall mental and physical wellbeing?
September is Self-Care Month. And while we may think of self-care as the actions we take – meditation, yoga, warm bubble baths, etc. – the spaces around us can have an even more dramatic effect on our overall health. Which makes sense, because we spend so much time in our favourite spaces. You spend a few hours a week in yoga class…but your bedroom? You spend 60-70 hours or more in that space each week. So, it’s understandable that this room and all the other rooms in your home have a dramatic effect on your wellness.
The scientific community agrees. University of Wisconsin Psychologist Shilagh Mirgain has studied the effects of spaces on a person’s wellbeing, and has this to say about the topic: “Your home and work environment are an important influence on your sense of well-being, but they are often overlooked. These are the environments we spend the most time in, so it’s only natural they would have an impact on us.”
As a Vancouver Interior Designer, I spend nearly all my time thinking about healthy spaces. Spaces that can immediately lift the fog from your brain and the burden from your shoulders. And over my many years of designing, I’ve come across a series of key elements that make all the difference in the effect a space can have on the wellbeing of its occupant.
Curious to know what I’ve discovered? Let’s take a look at what goes into designing a healthy home.
“Your home and work environment are an important influence on your sense of well-being, but they are often overlooked. These are the environments we spend the most time in, so it’s only natural they would have an impact on us.”
Is It Right For You?
Have you ever noticed how many people seem to make the popular local coffee shop their home office? Of course you have! It’s impossible to walk in for a latte without seeing a flurry of fingers gracing the keys of laptops.
A certain percentage of people love the energy they get from the chaos of a coffee shop. It fuels their creativity and drives their work. Yet for as many people that fire up their computers each morning over a venti caramel macchiato, there are just as many people that would never consider the coffee shop a proper workspace. It’s too loud. It’s too hectic. There are too many distractions.
So, who is right in this situation? Both! The answer has nothing to do with the space itself; it’s all about how the space affects the individual person.
Designing your home is no different. While you may be tempted to follow trends from the latest design blogs and hip Instagram feeds, at the end of the day the most important decisions should not be tied to what’s “in” right now, but instead need to answer a single question: Am I designing a space that’s right for me?
Designing a space with your own interests and preferences in mind is the backbone of ensuring that your home will be a healthy place for you and your family.
“Ask yourself: am I designing a space that’s right for me?“
It should come as no surprise that furniture plays one of the biggest roles in setting the overall tone of a space. And when it comes to choosing pieces that’ll improve your sense of wellbeing, one of the biggest factors is comfort.
No matter how pretty a piece may be, if it’s awkward or uncomfortable to use, your brain will create a link between that space and being “unwelcoming”. Your goal should instead be to find pieces that make you, your family, and your guests feel totally relaxed and welcome. The kind of pieces where you can sit with friends and a glass of wine, and the hours just melt away.
Now, don’t feel like this means you’re restricted to overstuffed recliners and sectional couches. Thankfully, advancements in design and manufacturing have created a vast collection of furniture that is not only super comfortable and inviting, but looks beautiful too!
It’s no secret that colour can have a dramatic effect on a space. Think back to your dorm room or first apartment. You know, the one that was painted entirely in off-white. It wasn’t the most welcoming or comfortable space, was it?
Countless scientific studies have proven that colour effects our mood. Looking for a serene sense of calm? Try shades of blue and green. Want to create a sense of liveliness in your dining room? Bold shades of dark red will do just the trick.
Consider colour one of your not-so-secret weapons when it comes to setting the tone for your spaces, and ultimately your moods and wellbeing.
Light is closely tied to wellbeing. In fact, it’s one of the core factors in regulating our circadian rhythms – our internal clocks that dictate when we sleep, when we wake, and are unquestionably one of the most important biological processes we have.
As such, the sources of light in your spaces are of vital importance. During daytime hours, look for ways to maximize the amount of natural light you can bring into your rooms. Depending on the orientation and geographic location of your home, sheer curtains may be needed to diffuse direct rays. And at night? Look for ways to incorporate multiple light fixtures of varying brightness, allowing you to set the tone of the space depending on the activity and time of evening.
Even if we spend most of our days indoors, human beings still have an incredibly strong link to nature. In fact, studies have shown that even as little as 3-5 minutes connecting with nature can cause a noticeable reduction in stress and anger levels, and drive an increase in positive feelings.
Don’t have time to escape to the forest during the day? Not a problem. Bringing nature into your home spaces is the perfect way to reap the benefits of greenery every single day, and create a significant boost in your overall wellbeing.
Incorporating plants into your room designs is a must if you’re looking to create healthy spaces. Thankfully, there is an incredible selection of beautiful greenery that thrives indoors, and can really make a space pop visually. Paired with elegantly designed pots and vases, these pieces will serve as beautiful accents in any room, and provide you with a much-needed breath of fresh air!
We’ve talked a lot about what you need to put into a room in order to boost your wellbeing. But what about taking things out?
As many are likely aware, Marie Kondo’s KonMari method of organization is all the rage right now. And for good reason. Clutter around your home has been shown to spike levels of stress and anxiety. No matter how well designed a room may be, if you allow clutter to build, you’ll never truly realize the full welcoming potential of that space.
Whether it’s parting with items or just finding a better method of storage, a healthy home relies on spaces that are open and free of clutter.
Your Health and Your Home
Hopefully by now you can see that a small collection of simple changes can have a dramatic effect on the health of your home. As the world moves faster and our lives become even more chaotic, it’s important that we turn our spaces into sanctuaries. Places that are a reprieve from the stress of our lives, and that boost our moods and increase our overall sense of wellbeing.
As we celebrate Self Care Month, start thinking about ways you can improve the health of your spaces. Got questions? As an Interior Designer in Vancouver, I’ve tackled nearly every type of design question and challenge throughout my career, and would be happy to help you on your journey to creating a healthier home!