Eating right, exercising, getting enough sleep, mastering stress and practicing mindfulness,… it all definitely adds up to longevity and enhanced well-being. Nevertheless we are becoming more and more aware of the role of our surroundings – the built environment in which we live, learn and work — play in this equation. The links between art, aesthetics, the built environment, health and wellbeing are nothing new, but applying it to our home environment is beginning to gather momentum. Wellness focused interior design is an on growing design ethos; it realises that residential and commercial spaces can greatly influence our physical health, as well as our emotional state of mind.
Featured image on top: Chelsea apartment by BoND , photography Erik Petschek
Did you know, that on average, we spend an astonishing 90% of our time indoors? (According to the 2001 National Human Activity Pattern Survey) That’s a crazy high number! This really shows us the importance of the built environment. Research evidence shows a correlation between our health and factors such as providing adequate daylight and views to nature, using colours that promote mental well-being, acoustics, indoor air quality, ergonomics, furnishings, scents and more.
WHAT IS WELLNESS?
The term wellness is generally conotated to various spa treatments, getting a facial with your girlfriend, a relaxing massage or sweat in a sauna. But it is so much more than that. Wellness is an active process of becoming aware of and making choices toward a healthy and fulfilling life. Wellness covers so many dimensions – from exercise, fitness, nutrition to joyful experiences, living in balance, healthy social connections, relaxation, mindfulness, slow living,… It also means creating and living in spaces that nourish our body and mind.
Embarking on a wellness journey is a process of searching for the appropriate “tools” to make you healthier and happier human being, plus discovering your own effective methods to use these “tools” for continued growth and development.
Let’s focus on the built environment for now and brake it down to some key points in wellness focused interior design.
BIOPHILIC DESIGN – CONNECTION WITH NATURE
Biophilia is the idea that humans possess an innate tendency to seek connections with nature and other forms of life. It’s our inherent human connection to the natural world. Biophilic design is an innovative way to harness this affinity in order to create natural environments for us to live, work and learn. Design that connects us to nature is proven to inspire us, boost our productivity and even contribute to a stronger sense of well-being.
It’s necessary to bring the outdoors in and create indoor environments that reference nature in both obvious and subtle ways.
Prado restaurant by ARKSTUDIO, photographer: Rodrigo Cardos
Not every space can be designed to incorporate all the principles of biophilic design, but there are often many contributory elements that will collectively enhance the interior and the wellbeing of those within it. It’s more than just the addition of a pot plant or two! Natural light, vegetation, good air quality, living walls, natural textures, materials and nature views will provide a positive impact. We know that plants make us happier, helps us recharge and even be more productive. (Read more about the positive effects of indoor plants on your wellbeing in this M.T.I. article)
Why light matters you ask? Light is increasingly becoming one of the most important elements in home design: spaces designed around natural light sources, smart lighting systems to better match our natural rhythm, artificial light that mimics daylight,…
When speaking about light, natural light takes the center of the discussion. Something as simple as natural day light can provide a tremendous health and wellness boost. Many studied gives us the proof that it improves productivity, alertness, mood – it can effect our physiological or psychological state.
If you just think about it: how do you feel in a room full of daylight in comparison to a room with just a little window?
Natural light not only affects our day-night rhythm, but also our vitamin D balance. It is crucial because it helps us to absorb the calcium from the food. In turn, we need the calcium for bone formation and stability.
Additionally daylight inhibits the production of melatonin, which ensures that we get tired when it gets dark. Cortisol does the opposite and makes us alert and focused. For people who do not get enough daylight while working, both substances are present in the body at the wrong time. The consequences are:
COMFORT IS KEY – ERGONOMICS
It goes without saying that comfort is key when it comes to wellness focused interior design. Ergonomic design is basically a fancy term for user-friendly. It entails that most of the interior design that is ‘ergonomic’ must be comfortable for the user in terms of psychology, physiology and anatomy. Briefly, the best interior design should be comfortable, efficient and aesthetically pleasing at the same time. It cannot value one of these elements than the other, if not, the space would be ergonomically incomplete.
It should come as no surprise that color can have a strong impact on the mood of a room and how it makes you feel. Color is difficult to discuss as it is largely a matter of personal taste.
The different colors that are used in interior design can really effect the environment and can either overstimulate or under stimulate your space. Lighter colors are considered to by airy and can make rooms feel larger and even brighter. Darker colors are considered to be more refined and make rooms feel more intimate and warmer.
There are some color groups that are more or less generally accepted: and this will help make it easier when deciding what hues to use with your décor. Neutrals are black, gray, white and brown. These colors can establish a balance when using passive and active colors. Active colors like yellow and pink are bright and can excite the mind along with boost creativity. Passive colors like blue and green are cool and can calm the mind and help with mental focus.
But I also think that various colors incite different emotional responses in all of us, so it’s wise to factor in personal preferences when choosing colors, instead of just blindly following these general color advice.
The biggest impact is, in fact, the little things. Clutter – shoes piled up at the entrance, wardrobes stuffed with clothes we haven’t worn in years, the dinning table without much space for actually having a meal. I can’t emphasise enough how these things have an impact on our mood, our relationships and even on our sleep. Have you ever noticed how difficult it is to focus when you’re in a room or home surrounded by clutter? Having a messy environment isn’t going to help you in any way. It plays on your mind without you even realising.
Many people find it extremely difficult to keep their homes free of clutter, and that’s because living without lots of extra “stuff” in our era takes practice. And when we speak of decluttering, we have to mention the Marie Kondo mania. If this name sounds familiar, it’s because the book (The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,) upon which the show is based took over the world when it was first published a few years ago. Her manifesto, which utilizes what she calls the KonMari Method is simple yet brilliant: Only keep items in your home that spark joy, discard the items that don’t, and organize everything in a way that makes items easy to find.
UNIQUENESS – DESIGN YOUR HOME TO REFLECT THE TYPE OF LIFE YOU WANT TO LEAD
PENHA DE FRANÇA by ATKSTUDIO, photographer: Rodrigo Cardoso
If you want to encourage your children to read, have the books close to hand or create a little reading zone, if you want to meditate every morning create a mindful corner,… It is about adapting your home to reflect the type of life you want to lead.
In the end the things that transform a space into a home are the personal touches. And that’s true for improving the wellness aspects as well. Find what small things make you happy and calm when you look at them, and then fill your home with them. For me, it’s personal photographs, my collection of books, my art print wall gallery and candles on my console table.
So this was a fast introduction to the topic, which I will go more in depth in the following posts. I’m convinced that wellness focused interior design will become more and more important in the coming years and soon it will be just as important factor in designing spaces as functionality, aesthetics or cost-effectiveness.