Design has the amazing ability to affect our physical and mental wellbeing. Just ask anyone who got through 2020 in a less-than-ideal living situation!
Designing and building healthy spaces is even encouraged by the CDC, who deems the interaction between people and their environments a major issue concerning public health.
But you don’t need to be a governmental agency, or even a design professional to create healthy interiors at home.
Here are ten tips for creating comfortable, nourishing spaces through interior design.
Something as simple as natural light can provide a tremendous boost to your health and wellness. Numerous studies have concluded that natural light improves productivity, alertness, mood, and overall psychological health. It’s also incredibly important to our natural circadian rhythm, which regulates our sleep, digestion, and even internal temperature. Not getting enough natural light can contribute to depression and other deficiencies in the body.
If you’re lucky to have natural light at home, let it in. This can be as simple as swapping out heavy curtains for sheer ones, or moving big furniture away from the windows. A simple curtain tie that you can easily use to let more light in is effective.
In new constructions, designing around natural light sources is becoming increasingly important; for example, planning home offices around windows. Installing dimmers should be routine in my opinion, as you’ll be able to dim the lights as you get closer to bedtime to start preparing your mind to turn off. I also like to use materials that reflect light, such as glass and polished metal.
If you don’t have as much natural light in your home, switching to LED lights can make a big difference. LED bulbs help make your home more cheerful because they mimic natural light – especially in the winter. They are also highly energy-efficient.
Even if you do have natural light at home, pay attention to the range of your lightbulbs. Lightbulbs’ color temperature is depicted in Kelvin (K), and the higher the color temperature, the brighter and cooler the light will be. Ideally, you want “cool white light” (3500K-5000K) in work settings during the day and “warm white light” color temperatures (1800K-2700K) for your home at night.
Cool lighting (think the “blue light” that your phone and computer emit) keeps you alert and prevents you from straining your eyes when reading or working. Warm lighting, on the other hand, makes environments more welcoming and relaxing. Making the switch to warm lighting at night helps prevent sleep disruption.
Pay Attention to the Air
Have we ever been more conscious about what we’re breathing in? Maybe not, and yet we tend to forget about the air quality within our own homes.
Indoor air is typically dirtier than the air outdoors (that is, unless you’re behind a big truck). It’s never a bad idea to use an air purifier, as they pull in air via internal fans and filter out harmful particles like bacteria and dust. It makes the air you breathe healthier, especially in the rooms you use the most.
But the basics of designing for air quality start during renovation or new construction plans. Exhaust fans are a necessary part of healthy design, as they pull out any toxic chemicals along with the smoke from cooking, as well as protect your family from mold & mildew, and interiors from discoloration and bad odors. Having an exhaust system in your home is code, but spending a little extra on a top-rated one can make a difference.
Exhaust fans can also be stylish! I am all about statement hoods in the kitchen lately.
They’re also important in the bathroom, as they help lower humidity to stave off mold and mildew from steamy showers.
Speaking of humidity, when was the last time you measured how humid the air in your house is? Never?
Between 30 and 50 percent humidity is the goldilocks level, but most of us live in homes that are too dry or too moist. You can test the humidity level in your house with a hygrometer, which is an inexpensive tool available at any hardware store or online.
If you’re building your house from the ground up, consider adding a whole-house humidifier to your HVAC to automatically control humidity levels in your home.
Otherwise, you could turn to humidifiers and dehumidifiers. Dehumidifiers are especially necessary in basements over the summer to prevent the growth of mold and mildew, bacteria, and dust mites which can ruin your things and cause allergies.
But during the winter, cranking up the heat can lead to too-dry air. Using a humidifier in your living room or bedroom while you sleep can prevent dry sinuses, dry skin, and chapped lips. Low humidity levels can also dry out wood furniture, floors, paint, and wallpaper. Some humidifiers eliminate germs and reduce the transmission of viruses and bacteria!
Humidifiers and dehumidifiers don’t have to be an eyesore, either. There are a lot of sleek options available, like this wood grain one from Objecto.
Whether or not they help with indoor air quality (the jury’s still out), plants are natural mood-boosters. According to some studies, plants can reduce stress and even increase memory and concentration!
Plus, of course, they’re beautiful and they give you room to play with colorful and gorgeous planters.
One of my favorite design tricks is to brighten up bathrooms with humidity-loving plants such as bamboo or philodendron. That lush touch transforms your home into a wellness retreat.
If you consider yourself brown-thumbed, the ever-popular snake plant is notoriously hard to kill.
Choose Safe and Sustainable Materials
Designing healthy spaces requires paying attention to your products and finishes. Oftentimes, toxic chemicals sneak their way into your home through cabinet and furniture finishes.
To limit your family’s exposure to harmful contaminants, stay away from plastic-based materials and those that contain toxic chemicals like VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) and formaldehyde, as they’ve been linked to irritation, headaches, and even nausea. Formaldehyde in particular has been federally restricted by the EPA because of its link to increased incidences of asthma.
Whenever possible, opt for natural materials like porcelain, ceramic, or stone. When it comes to textiles, save up for hand-crafted wool or other natural fibers instead of settling for cheaply produced polypropylene throws or rugs.
Opting for natural and eco-friendly materials is a great way to ensure you’re creating a happy, healthy environment in your home, and it doesn’t have to be drab! There are so many options today for products that are both stunning and sustainable, like the ones we sourced for this modern home in Oakton.
Stash Clutter Out of Sight
Research shows that disorganization and clutter can cause anxiety and discomfort. There’s no room for that at home! Messes are a visual distraction that raise our cortisol levels, could literally keep us up at night, and even make us more likely to over-snack and make poor eating choices!
Clearing clutter can not only leave you feeling more relaxed, but it can also minimize allergy-causing dust.
When renovating or restyling your home, consider built-in storage, especially in the laundry room and kitchen to keep cleaning supplies out of sight. You can always add easy storage solutions to hide away toys such as organizers, beautiful woven baskets, or ottomans with hidden compartments.
Embrace Ergonomics… in the Bedroom
You’re probably tired of hearing about home office design tips for function and comfort. But have you taken the same approach to your comfort in the bedroom?
My design philosophy is to always prioritize comfort, because aesthetics can never make up for pain or dysfunction! But when it comes to where you lay your head to rest, ergonomics are especially crucial.
Ergonomics is not only about physical positioning and safe movements, but also about efficiency. So if you want to get the best sleep possible, you should utilize design to optimize for it.
A good mattress will absolutely change your life. Finding the right one is extremely personal, so take advantage of brands’ try-out-at-home offers until you find the perfect one for you.
And don’t skimp on bedding, either! Making your bedroom your sanctuary is vital to waking up feeling recharged and emotionally ready to tackle each day. Choose soft linens that soothe away the day and pillows that have some firmness for support.
One more thing: invest in black out curtains. Unless you’re the kind of person that uses the sun to wake up at the crack of dawn (good for you!), get better rest by blocking out all light while you sleep – especially if you live in a city.
Select Easy to Clean Surfaces
We’re all hyper-aware of germs right now. Let’s turn that awareness into an opportunity to design spaces that are always easy to keep clean.
Instead of porous surfaces that can trap bacteria and allergens, opt for ceramic and porcelain tile that are inhospitable to bacteria, fungi, and mold and which you can disinfect without worry that you’ll damage the finish.
One of my favorite new technologies is touchless faucets for the kitchen, which allow you to wash your hands while making dinner without spreading messes and germs.
Make a Grand Entrance
Speaking of germs, having a space for shoes at the door is the easiest way to make sure the outdoor world and its dirt stays outside. It decreases the amount of cleaning you’ll have to do, and it can be an additional space to play with decor.
Designing entryways is one of my favorite things! A functional space to put keys, masks, and mail makes life easier every single day.
Entryway must-haves? A place to hang your coats and bags, place umbrellas, and a mirror to peek at on your way out.
Play With Textures
You may have heard that colors can impact our mood and wellbeing. For example, neutrals and natural colors are calming, while red is stimulating and energizing. In my experience, much of our emotional responses to color are subjective and personal, and you should choose colors that make you feel good.
Textures, while also subject to our personal whims, can be fun to play with and can also impact our wellbeing! I like choosing textures based on the season. For example, I trade out the wool blanket on the couch for a linen one in the summer. Surrounding yourself with textures that match the mood and the weather helps us feel one with our environment, allowing us to relax.
Most of All – Design For Yourself!
The most important advice I can give you in regard to designing for wellness is to design for yourself! Trust your gut. Whether that means choosing furniture based on your initial reaction to it, or taking the extra time to interview multiple interior designers until you find one you feel gets you, you and your home deserve it!
Creating a space filled with objects that are both meaningful and beautiful is a balm against whatever may be happening. It helps you feel comfortable and surrounded with love and positive energy. That’s why highlighting family keepsakes, travel mementos, and family portraits is an essential part of my design process.
Take the time to figure out what the small things are that make you happy. Is it fresh citrus on the kitchen counter? Hydrangeas on the coffee table? Your family’s vacation pictures in clear view? It’s those small, personal touches that make a house a home.