How to give your home a feel-good makeover (without spending a fortune)
For years, workspaces have been designed for the well-being of people. Now, this design philosophy (which can have a positive impact on the physical and emotional state of mind) is extended to our homes. reports Amanda Cassidy.
The links between art, aesthetics, the built environment, health and well-being are not new, but applying it to our residence the environment begins to gain momentum. Depending on the function of our home, it is essential to create an environment that stimulates our senses in a positive way or improves productivity (or relaxation).
For example, if you want to increase communication and conversation in your home, you’re unlikely to focus the living room around the 60-inch TV. In fact, these connections are so crucial that they have even seized the interests of science. Environmental psychology leads the charge when it comes to the relationship between people and the importance of the environments we choose to surround ourselves with. Neuroaesthetics is another emerging field that explores how our brain responds to art, beauty, and design.
Denise O’Connor is an architect and interior designer. She is also MD of Optimize Home and Optimize the design and regularly contributes to home-inspired topics in print and television; “Our home plays a huge role in influencing our emotional responses. But the biggest impact is, in fact, the little things.
Clutter – shoes piled up at the bottom of the stairs, the kitchen counter without much space to do much – these things impact our mood and even our sleep. Having a messy environment is not conducive to relaxation. It plays on your mind without you even realizing it. Making small changes can have a real benefit in streamlining your outlook and the way your home works for you.
Denise identifies, with her clients, the types of healthier habits they are trying to foster, then designs their space with this in mind. “A big bugbear for many is too much screen time for their kids. In my house we have a press where we load up all our tech – we plug it in and close the door – it’s really out of sight, out of the way of the Whether you want to entice your children to read, have the books handy or create a little reading nook, it’s all about adapting your home to reflect the type of life you want to lead.
Light is one of the most underutilized parts of home design. It also happens to be one of the most important when it comes to creating the desired mood. “Light is increasingly becoming a key element in home design. Natural light will always take center stage, but using light-reflecting materials like glass or metal can really transform a home.
We encourage our guests to open windows to the garden to strengthen this connection with nature. Also bring indoor plants. Consider upgrading to a dimmer switch and watch the color temperature of your bulbs – if it’s too cool it can be unpleasant to sit in at night. Try softer, warmer tones.
But isn’t it just Feng Shui by another name? The ancient Chinese earth science has recently gained popularity. It encourages harmony in the home by allowing the free flow of energy. It sounds complicated, but the idea of having the bed facing the window is naturally much nicer than facing a wall. Keeping the hallway clear of clutter also makes perfect sense (if not a bit impractical). Denise thinks focusing on wellness at home is a little different.
“Architects can be a little funny about this, but years ago when I was working in London, an architect friend of mine who had spent a lot of time studying this pointed out that Feng Shui had principles of very solid underlying design. But to be honest, it’s more about understanding yourself and what works for you. You are looking to create a tailor-made space that suits you as an individual or as a family.
So, as we all struggle to keep up with the Joneses, are we missing the point? Denise says we have to find out what we want from our own space; “People’s requirements are all so different. What worked for your mother or your neighbor will not always work for you. I’ve heard of people who have done tremendous work on their homes and yet haven’t improved their lifestyle much.”
“We need to step back and look at what you actually want – not what someone else has.”
It only makes sense that our home sparks joy. More than ever, we are focused on improving the home rather than moving, so it seems logical to consider the health and well-being of our family as part of this. Not to be dramatic, but the recent Marie Kondo craze is a great example of why arranging our home in a way that makes us happy can have truly positive consequences. I realize now that open shelving makes me cringe. I look at my living room cum kitchen cum playroom cum study cum LEGO museum in horror. Not surprising, I sigh.
Of course, my chi would be considerably more balanced if I had a huge laundry room. My chakras would love to build a starter room. I would be totally zen if only we had this extra lair.
But any home makeover that matches your desired optimal well-being is surely going to cost you dearly? “It doesn’t have to cost the earth,” Denise explains. “Simple things like changing the color palette, creating dedicated spaces, or removing some of the things you like to look at – art, photos, furniture, can all add to the feeling of well-being.
Strip down, decide what works and what doesn’t, and soon you’ll figure out how you want the most important aspects of your home to make you feel.