5 Elements That Support Wellness at Home
The Intersection of Wellness and Home Design was one of the educational keynote talks at the Fall High Point Market in October. Experts on the panel for design professionals discussed ways to improve health, wellness and comfort with style, and they shared their perspectives on the best approaches. Here are five key points they focused on for promoting good physical and mental health through home design.
1. Air Quality
There are plenty of ways to set up a house for good air quality, whether it’s designing its spaces to create cross breezes or installing the latest in air purifiers. One approach the panel touted was living walls, which add a pleasing natural element while helping to purify the air.
Panelist Michael Peterson, a business coach for designers and founder of Visionary Design Marketing, helps his clients become experts on wellness in design.
Peterson offers scientific studies to back up the idea that design can promote wellness and healing. For example, he cited research published in The Journal of Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation that found that horticultural therapy lowered the blood pressure and heart rate of cardiac patients in a program at the Rusk Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine at New York University School of Medicine. In other words, tending to gardens, houseplants and fresh flowers at home might promote wellness.
Incorporating plants into home design also is an element of biophilic design, whose principles establish links with nature to create healthy indoor environments. In addition to plants, the use of natural materials can help establish these links.
In this bathroom by Searl Lamaster Howe Architects, knotty wood walls, a slate floor and views of the tree canopy lend a woodsy outdoor feeling indoors.
Panelist Lori Miller, founder of interior design firm LGC, has degrees in counseling and interior design, and she began her career as a mental health therapist. Her background in both disciplines has been beneficial in using psychology to choose colors that evoke a mood, as well as in easing navigation and enhancing comfort around the home for people with dementia.
Miller noted that biophilia isn’t just about living walls and natural materials, it’s also about evoking a favorite outdoor place — for example, creating a room with a beachy feel through artwork and the color and material palettes.
Creating easy access to inviting outdoor spaces is another way to promote wellness through design.
Using lighting to promote wellness means incorporating natural light and creating a pleasing ambiance with artificial light. Miller noted that today’s LED lighting options can change color in a way that helps change mood.
James Patrick Walters
Panelist Charles Pavarini III’s firm, Pavarini Design, specializes in architectural interiors, custom furniture and lighting. He was on the board of directors of the Designers Lighting Forum of New York for 29 years and began his career in theater set design.
Pavarini noted that today’s controllable and adjustable light technologies can work with natural circadian rhythms. This results in a more productive day as well as a good night’s sleep. In the evening, amber light can promote calming down and quiet meditation.
In this design by James Patrick Walters, soft amber light from LED candles next to the bath promotes relaxation.
The natural light pouring in through the skylight and clerestory in this bathroom can help wake a person up in the morning and prepare them to face the day.
3. Ergonomic Comfort and Movement in Space
This key point includes creating floor and furniture plans that make it easy to flow through a space. In universal design, this means removing any obstacles, such as a rug that can be tripped over, and leaving enough space between furnishings for a wheelchair or walker to pass through.
This point also incorporates finding harmony and balance in our indoor spaces. Panelist Clodagh, who uses one name, focuses on the healing aspects of design, and she creates balance by utilizing the ancient principles of feng shui and considering how all five senses will experience the design. Clodagh’s wellness-in-design approach also incorporates the latest advances in chromotherapy, aromatherapy, sustainability and biophilia.
Comfort also means achieving an uncluttered feeling in a space. This doesn’t have to mean a strict minimalist style, but it does mean curating favorite books, knickknacks, photos and other mementos and maintaining a clean and airy feel by finding proper places for them.
Comfort also includes individual pieces of furniture. For example, even if the current work-from-home movement doesn’t last, a proper ergonomic chair is a worthy investment.
4. Thermal Comfort
Maintaining a comfortable temperature is another key element of promoting wellness in design. Technology can be a big help with this, whether it involves a smart thermostat or heated floors. Homes with a tight envelope also promote thermal comfort. Windows or doors that aren’t drafty allow for greater control over heating and cooling systems.
Regan Baker Design Inc.
Achieve thermal comfort on a smaller scale by placing things like throw blankets and warm slippers where needed.
5. Acoustical Comfort
Acoustical comfort refers to finding a quiet refuge at home. While the average house may not have space for a dedicated meditation room, any place of respite will do. It can be as simple as a favorite reading chair in a bedroom.
Panelists also noted that music plays a part in acoustical comfort. One example is matching music to the mood you want to evoke while cooking. The soothing sound of water splashing in a fountain is another example of acoustical comfort.
Put work away. When it’s time for unwinding in the bedroom, put work away. This can mean locating a bedroom work area in a closet that can be closed off with curtains or a sliding door. If a desk is in the bedroom, put papers and electronic devices away when the workday is over.
Wanda Ely Architect Inc.
In this space, seen here and in the previous photo, architect Wanda Ely tucked an office off the bedroom in a small separate area. Natural light, wood accents and a comfortable lounge chair promote wellness within the cozy space.
Think about scents. Engaging any of the five senses can affect mood. Adding pleasing scents such as fresh eucalyptus or lavender will enhance the way you experience your home.
How to Make Your Home Make You Feel Good
Think about the goal of feeling good as soon as you walk in your home.
Consider how you want your home to look, feel, smell and sound.
Remove, fix or put away things that are bothering you, particularly dust-collecting clutter.
Make small changes to enhance your mood — light a favorite candle; experiment with different furniture arrangements until it feels right; locate your desk under a window with a favorite view; place a speaker where you want to listen to your favorite music; pot a grocery store basil plant and put it in the kitchen; cozy up a place of respite with a throw blanket; change out a lightbulb that’s not warm enough; put your lights on dimmers.