Jamie Gold is a certified kitchen designer, a Mayo Clinic-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 up to code, choosing nontoxic materials and minimizing the chances of an at-home injury.
“Eliminating the possibilities for falls at home is crucial,” Gold says. Some of the biggest tripping hazards around the house include loose area rugs, cords, shoes, bags and pet bowls.
To minimize tripping hazards, Gold recommends creating a spot where everyone in the household has a specified place to put their outside-world things away 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 place for shoes and a place where people can sit and put them on, she 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 are always time-pressured to find things like a backpack, sports equipment or keys before leaving the house,” she says. Staying well-organized means not only not tripping over these things, but also saving time and preventing the frustration and stress that come from frantic last-minute searches when you’re trying to get out the door.
Another way to stay organized 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,” Gold says.
This doesn’t mean you have to clear out all of your favorite 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.
Gold is also a big advocate of promoting preparation of healthy foods in the kitchen. This means an uncluttered and hygenic space that functions well for meal preparation. Some of her suggestions include maintaining clean and clear countertops; creating designated zones for prep, cooking and cleanup; incorporating a steam oven or combi oven into your kitchen to help keep the nutrients in your food; and keeping small appliances you’ll need for healthy meal prep, like a blender for smoothies, close at hand.
Another way to promote healthful eating at home is to keep your food well-organized and easy to access. Use clear glass containers to organize food in the fridge, and make sure everything in your pantry or food cabinets is easy to see and access. The easier it is to see and reach the healthy food, the easier it is to grab it for a snack or for it to inspire a menu.
Promoting wellness at home has brought about a relatively new standard for buildings and designers. The International Well Building Institute offers the WELL Building Standard, which focuses on “features of the built environment that impact human health and well-being,”as well as a WELL-accredited professional certification for designers.
Laura Britt is a WELL-certified interior designer who helped the owners of the Dallas home 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 backyard while working at their kitchen island. The room also includes a window seat that looks out on the garden. And the glass doors provide direct access to a deck as well as an edible garden. This 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 light remodel but says the most important move she made was replacing the fan. “This house was 24 years old, and so was its bathroom fan. Older fans are ineffective and don’t extract allergens and moisture like they should,” she says. “It’s so easy for mold to build up. Even a subtle amount can create poor indoor air quality.”
In general, Freeman recommends fans that are Energy Star-rated and have a CFM (the amount of air movement measured in cubic feet per minute) of 80 or higher. “I like specifying the Broan-NuTone light-and-fan combo units — as a combo it provides a cleaner look in the ceiling, especially in small bathrooms,” she says.
Interior designer Shannon Ggem thoroughly studied how design can affect health in health care-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 colors that remind us of nature to interiors helps us feel connected to the natural world. In the bedroom seen here, Ggem used natural colors and fibers to promote wellness. For example, the cotton velvet settee is a deep leafy green.
A fiddlehead 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,” Ggem says.
A good night’s sleep is so important to maintain good health, so make your bedroom a relaxing sanctuary. Gold 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 shades or blackout-fabric-lined drapes to help ensure a good night’s sleep.
Ggem emphasizes the importance of maintaining natural circadian rhythms, which can be interrupted by indicator lights. These are the small lights on things like surge protectors, air filters and clocks. She recommends covering them with electrical tape to keep them from affecting sleep patterns.
While fake plants can provide some of the good feelings of biophilia, Freeman advises her clients to get rid of them. “Fake plants harbor 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 like rugs, do your research on materials. Part of creating a home that promotes wellness is choosing nontoxic furnishings. For the home seen here, the owners both worked in the health care field and were very aware of how many toxins could be brought into a home through furniture and finishes. They hired Britt to outfit the home to the WELL Building Standard.
“We were extremely diligent in designing with nontoxic 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,” she 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.
During the past year and a half, more people than ever have found out what it’s like to work from home. And many have learned that the spaces they had to 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,” Gold 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.
Also, an office can tend have a tangle of hazardous cords. Plan accordingly with furniture placement or outlets in the floor to avoid tripping hazards.
Because sitting all day has been declared the new smoking, Gold recommends preventing sedentary days. A yoga ball in lieu of a desk chair or an adjustable standing desk like the one seen here can help. “I also recommend ‘dancing between drafts.’ After I finish a task, I like to turn the music up and dance like nobody’s watching and hope that no one is,” Gold 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 colors 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. For example, think of how you can fold certain leaves in half and they are the same on both sides,” Ggem says. “Human beings respond positively to bilateral symmetry because of nature.” Bringing this kind of familiar and neatly organized balance to a room’s layout helps make it calming.
Designing for wellness at home means creating spaces that are good for physical and mental health. It incorporates everything from improving air quality to using textures, materials, colors, shapes and furniture layouts that ease anxiety and make us feel closer to nature. Here experts weigh in, offering advice on how people can promote wellness at home. While there are many elements to take into account when building a new home, from the foundation through the roof, this list focuses on helping renters and homeowners alike with small, doable adjustments.
This content was originally published here.