12 Ways to Promote Wellness in Your Home
Experts share tips for enhancing your physical and mental health at home
Here, three experts offer advice on how people can promote wellness in their own homes. While there are many elements to take into account when building a new property, from the foundation to the roof, this list focuses on small, doable adjustments you can make.
Jamie Gold is a kitchen designer, a certified wellness coach, and author of the book, Wellness by Design: A Room-by-Room Guide to Optimizing Your Home for Health, Fitness and Happiness.
In her book, safety is an important aspect of staying well at home. This includes making sure contractors are licensed and that they build in line with Building Regulations, choosing nontoxic materials, and minimising the chances of an at-home injury.
“Eliminating the possibilities for falls at home is crucial,” Jamie says. Some of the biggest tripping hazards around the house include rugs, wires, shoes, bags and pet bowls.
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To minimise tripping hazards, Jamie recommends creating a spot where everyone in the household has a specified place to stash their outdoor things before entering the rest of the home. She prefers to take her shoes off and put on house shoes. This prevents tracking germs inside.
In addition to a designated area for shoes and a place where people can sit and put them on, Jamie also recommends having a spot for everything you need to grab before heading out of the house, including coats, bags, phones, sunglasses and keys.
“We’re always time-pressured to find things such as a backpack, sports equipment or keys before leaving the house,” she says. Staying well-organised means not only not tripping over these things, but also saving time and preventing the frustration and stress that comes from frantic last-minute searches when you’re trying to get out the door.
Another way to stay organised is by getting rid of things you don’t need or that don’t bring you joy. “Start by focusing on what’s needed for the space for functionality, and by looking at what’s getting in your way,” Jamie says.
This doesn’t mean you have to clear out all of your favourite objects; it means editing them down to the things that make you happy and having designated display spots for them. In this living room by CAVdesign, wall-hung shelves and drawers keep books, sculptures, photos and other objects neatly corralled.
Hire a professional home organiser to help you get started.
Jamie’s also a big advocate of promoting the preparation of healthy foods in the kitchen. This means an uncluttered and hygienic space that functions well for meal preparation.
Some of her suggestions include maintaining clean and clear worktops; creating designated zones for prep, cooking and clean up; incorporating a steam oven or combination oven into to help keep the nutrients in your food, and keeping small appliances you’ll need for healthy meal prep, such as a blender, close at hand.
Promoting wellness at home has brought about a relatively new standard for buildings and designers. The International Well Building Institute based in the US offers the WELL Building Standard, which focuses on “features of the built environment that impact human health and well-being”, along with a WELL-accredited professional certification for designers.
Laura Britt is a WELL-certified interior designer who helped the owners of the Dallas property seen here create a healthy home. She forged strong connections to nature throughout the house. These glass doors off the kitchen allow the couple who live here to enjoy views of their garden while working at their kitchen island.
The room also includes a window seat, and the glass doors provide direct access to a deck, as well as an edible garden, which makes it easy to gather fresh ingredients for garden-to-table meals.
Interior designer Laura Freeman of Merits Design Group has always focused on designing for wellness and is currently studying to become a WELL-certified professional. She gave the bathroom seen here a makeover, but says the most important move she made was replacing the extractor fan.
“This house was 24 years old, and so was its bathroom fan,” she says. “Older fans are ineffective and don’t extract allergens and moisture like they should. It’s so easy for mould to build up. Even a subtle amount can create poor indoor air quality.”
In general, Laura recommends fans that are rated for energy efficiency and have a CFM (the amount of air movement measured in cubic feet per minute) of 80 or higher (or 38 l/s – litres per second).
Interior designer Shannon Ggem thoroughly studied how design can affect health in healthcare-related settings. Then she worked on two self-contained room types for immunocompromised children undergoing lifesaving treatment, and for their accompanying family members, for the Los Angeles Ronald McDonald House. She is also a speaker on biophilic design for the National Kitchen and Bath Association.
Biophilic design is based on the idea that people have an innate tendency to seek connections to nature. Because we spend so much time indoors, bringing organic materials, shapes and colours that remind us of nature into interiors helps us feel connected to the natural world. In the bedroom seen here, Shannon used natural colours and fibres to promote wellness. For example, the cotton velvet sofa is a deep leafy green.
A fiddle-leaf fig adds a natural element to the corner of the room and helps with air filtration. The homeowners also wanted wall-to-wall carpeting in the bedroom for sensory purposes – softness under their feet and sound control. “This carpeting is 100% wool, which is natural and which humans have figured out how to keep clean for many years,” Shannon says.
A good night’s sleep is so important for maintaining good health, so make your bedroom a relaxing sanctuary. Jamie recommends mitigating any light in the bedroom that can affect sleep. Whether the illumination comes from a streetlight, a floodlight or passing cars, she suggests using blackout blinds or blackout-fabric-lined curtains to help ensure a good night’s sleep.
Shannon emphasises the importance of maintaining natural circadian rhythms, which can be interrupted by indicator lights. These are the small lights on things such as surge protectors, air filters and clocks. She recommends covering them with electrical tape to keep them from affecting sleep patterns.
While faux plants can provide some of the good feelings of biophilia, Laura advises her clients to get rid of them. “Fake plants harbour so much dust and allergens. Unless you’re constantly cleaning them, it’s impossible to keep the air quality clean with them around,” she says.
While she’s all for real plants and the air filtration they can provide, she knows some people just can’t keep up with maintaining them. “Getting rid of fake plants still improves the current air quality by eliminating of all that dust,” she says.
When buying new pieces of furniture or accessories such as rugs, do your research on materials. Part of creating a home that promotes wellness is choosing non-toxic furnishings.
The owners of the home seen here both work in the healthcare field and were very aware of how many toxins could be brought into a home through furniture and finishes. They hired Laura to decorate the home to the WELL Building Standard.
“We were extremely diligent in designing with non-toxic materials to lessen the toxic load in the space. All furnishings were carefully vetted to ensure they were healthy and didn’t bring toxins into the home,” Laura says. Toxins include heavy metals, formaldehyde, PVC and volatile organic compounds.
For example, all the rugs in the house are woven from organic materials, including jute, cotton, wool and silk. And not only are the upholstery fabrics organic and free of carcinogens, but the cushions they cover are made of formaldehyde-free foam and down.
Over the past couple of years, more people than ever have learned what it’s like to work from home. And many have found that the spaces they haphazardly set up are giving them aches and pains.
“The ergonomic aspects of an office include an adjustable chair, setting the keyboard position and having a phone that functions well on speaker or headphones,” Jamie says. “If you’re working with paper, you’ll need good light. Lighting includes natural, task and ambient light.”
She also notes that while natural light is wonderful to have in a workspace, you’ll need to place your screen out of the way of any annoying glare or add window coverings to eliminate it.
An office can tend to have a tangle of hazardous wires, too. Plan accordingly with furniture placement or outlets in the floor to avoid tripping hazards.
“I also recommend ‘dancing between drafts’. After I finish a task, I like to turn up the music and dance like nobody’s watching and hope that no one is,” Jamie says with a laugh. “I also like to walk around the room when I’m on the phone.”
Calm spaces provide balance. This includes balance between colours and elements and mirroring two sides of the room to create symmetry.
“Bilateral symmetry is familiar to us because so much of nature has bilateral symmetry,” Shannon says. “For example, think of how you can fold certain leaves in half and they are the same on both sides. Human beings respond positively to bilateral symmetry because of nature.”
Bringing this kind of familiar and neatly organised balance to a room’s layout helps to make it calming.
Which ideas would you take from this article? Share your thoughts in the Comments.