There’s something about the new year that has everyone feeling reflective about their health habits. Resolutions are made to spend more time at the gym, eat more sensibily and prioritise much-needed downtime. Something that can be added to that list of life areas to transform for 2018 is our home environment which can have as much (if not more) of an impact on our health as these seemingly more obvious resolutions.
“Housing and built environments have a profound impact on human health. In developed countries, 80‐90% of the day is spent in built environments and most of this is in the home,” a World Health Organisation housing report suggests.
Thankfully, the design world is shifting and more and more interior designers are prioritising environmental concerns as well as aesthetic ones. With “an abundance of natural light and a strong connection to nature”, Echlin’s newest project Leverton House serves as a stylish case study for creating a healthy home.
Sam McNally, Echlin co-founder and design director, comments, “Lifestyle is at the core of our designs; we recognise that mood, wellbeing and happiness are all shaped by what surrounds us and we are committed to making these spaces as stylish but also as user friendly as we can. We want this house to be lived in and enjoyed throughout the generations.”
Transform your health and the enjoyability you find at home so that yours can be enjoyed for generations to come by following these home and life-enhancing tips.
1. Pare back
Less clutter is, evidently, good for both body and spirit. A pared back home means less dust and less risk of accident as well as being mentally serene – it has been said that “mess causes stress”. A Lifehacker article “How Clutter Affects Your Brain (and What You Can Do About It)” explains, “Similar to what multitasking does to your brain, physical clutter overloads your senses, making you feel stressed, and impairs your ability to think creatively.” Easy on the senses, less stress and creative thinking – sounds just what 2018 needs.
Pared back needn’t suggest minimalism as Leverton House proves, it’s simply the concept of Occam’s razor – a belief that the simpler of two options is preferable. Avoiding overly designed furniture pieces and arrays of little accessories (which would more effectively be replaced by a larger objet) will feel so much more composed, creating a more calming home environment.
2. Store smart
Storage, whether built-in or free-standing, is a lifesaver for creating an environment which fosters a healthier mindset and aids in maintaining a pared back aesthetic. If you don’t have lots of existing storage in your home, consider adding a bookshelf, display cabinet or sideboard to supplement; if you’re lucky enough to have a lot of storage space, maximise it with careful planning and Tetris-like packing skills. And don’t forget smaller storage boxes for change, keys, remote controls and cables and storage jars for kitchen countertops.
Store smartly by keeping essentials close at hand and at eye level (and less used items stored up higher or lower) and avoiding overloading a cupboard with too many box stacks which prevent getting in and out easily. Culling your wardrobe and cupboards seasonally will keep your belongings at a sensible level before they get too overwhelming or, worse still, start to affect your mental and physical health. You’ll thank yourself when you have to search for your favourite winter coat or need your tyre repair kit to fix a flat.
Prioritising nothing more than collectedness, Leverton House uses a bank of hardware-free cabinets, lit simply by under-cabinet lighting and refreshingly accessorised with natural pottery and foliage.
3. Use restful, natural colours
Whilst everyone will have a unique personal reaction to colours and their various tones and shades, there are some reactions which are universal. Typically, blues, greens and neutrals are considered the most calming colours – just what the beginning of the year and thoughts of spring call for.
Green is revitalising and alleviates anxiety, inspiring the mind to think of nature and new life. Such positive energy affects the mind and body in the best possible way. Green is, thankfully, the easiest colour on the eye (with most purples being the most confusing for the eye to process so proceed with caution!) Blue, in particular, is often associated with calmness and peacefulness and it miraculously lowers blood pressure.
But, remember, not all hues are made alike. “Although red, yellow and orange are in general considered high-arousal colors and blue, green and most violets are low-arousal hues, the brilliance, darkness and lightness of a colour can alter the psychological message. Colours act upon the body as well as the mind,” a Pantone think tank found. A subdued green or warm blue is the best for maintaining a relaxed, comforted and open mind.
4. Incorporate a living element
For a truly healthy home, natural colours shouldn’t be the only organic element of a space. Filling your home with vases of plants and blooms will make its environment healthier. The advantages of having plants in an interior are well-documented and include clearer air and healing and mood-improving properties. Who wouldn’t want all of that in abundance in 2018?
A Berkeley Wellness article from this summer explains, “Living plants provide more than decoration: Research has shown that greenery in the home and workplace can lower stress, positively affect your mood, and even affect the cleanliness of the air you breathe.”
No longer only seen in commercial spaces, the trend towards green or living walls – a vertical garden of sorts – is, pardon the pun, growing. In a smart move to bring the outdoors in, Leverton House’s large windows offer views of a central “green core” courtyard.
5. Capitalise on natural light
According to a 2013 Royal Institute of British Architects campaign, 63% of [people] rate natural light as the most important aspect of a home.” Maximise whatever window space you have by allowing natural light to flood into your home for an uplifting glow every day.
Daylighting – the most visually pleasing, mood-boosting and cost effective light solution (so long as it can be controlled) – has been used for millennia and its stimulation for the human body and mind is ultimately the reason. It can, however, sometimes come at a premium so use what you have as much as you can, especially during the shorter winter days.
Sheers or other lightweight or adjustable window treatments, carefully placed mirrors and glass paned doors are all solutions to maximise the natural daylight available. Just beware of glare.
6. Use hypoallergenic materials
The materials we use inside our home are so very important to the quality of its internal environment and play a sometimes forgotten role in its creation. Chris Ward, Marketing Director for luxury mattress brand and Royal Warrant Holder, Hypnos, offers some expert advice.
“Allergens are everywhere – both outdoors and indoors, including in your bedroom – so
it is important to use hypoallergenic materials to counteract this. Mattresses made from synthetic materials can trigger allergies, but Hypnos only manufactures mattresses which are made from generous layers of the finest natural breathable fibres, such as wool, cashmere, silk, alpaca, mohair, camel hair and silver. Not only do these fillings help to promote air flow and reduce moisture to help regulate body temperature, they also repel allergens to enhance the whole sleeping experience. Natural and sustainable fibres work in harmony with the springs to maximise airflow and breathability. Also, fillings like wool provide resilience, comfort and support, as well as actively helping to remove moisture and repel allergens.”
Stick to naturally hypoallergenic materials to keep your home clear of potential allergy issues and create an altogether healthier home.
7. Ventilate regularly
One of the main culprits of Sick Building Syndrome (SBS) is poor indoor air quality. A Homebuilding & Renovating article warns, “‘Our indoor air quality is affected by three main factors: Longer-term emissions from materials in the building fabric and furnishings; our own activities, such as cooking, and ourselves, through things like perfumes and washing detergents.’ The main issue is around reducing or eliminating the amount of new toxins released into the internal air — and of course ensuring adequate ventilation to ensure they can be removed quickly.”
Plants do their part to clear pollution from the air but it’s also necessary to ventilate your spaces. There are a few ways to ensure your home’s air quality is as good as possible. Open your windows regularly (even in colder temperatures) and allow the air to circulate. Ventilating regularly like this reduces damp, mould and bacteria as well as clears the air of dust mites which could aggravate allergies. If you use an HVAC system at home make sure it’s working efficiently.