Interior Design continues to consider and incorporate health and wellbeing into styles, trends, and design philosophies. Wellness becomes more and more prevalent in our requirements and desires when we decorate our homes, and this has been meaningfully recognised by designer Oliver Heath who has written a comprehensive list in his book ‘Design a Healthy Home – 100 ways to transform your space for physical and mental wellbeing’
Oliver refers to the evolutionary ethos of Biophilic Design, originally proposed by biologist E. O. Wilson, which states we are innately drawn to the outdoors as this in turn has a positive impact on our physical bodies. A concept that says we exist with a close connection to nature to survive and thrive. For example, it is known that if we can see and look out onto nature, our blood pressure and heart rate drop, and we are able to recover from stress and exhaustion far quicker than in an urban environment.
The 3 values of Biophilic Design
- Nature in the space – the actual physical nature we can see and touch
- Nature analogues – references of nature
- Nature of the space – copying the qualities of nature
Oliver shares that if we follow these principles when designing our homes, we can form a happier and healthier space that will improve our mental and physical wellbeing and essentially ensure we feel calm and comforted.
In his book, Oliver breaks down the Biophilic Design considerations when decorating into key categories:
To design a space with serenity and health in mind you should carefully reflect on your colour palette. We know that different colours emit differing emotional responses so it is imperative to select options that will guarantee a sense of composure and tranquillity. This is where Biophilic Design comes in, as it has been proven that hues we find in nature make us feel relaxed and joyful. Think of natural blues that prompt images of the sky and seas, or vibrant greens that mimic earth and trees, as well as yellow, mauve and purples which help us imagine sunsets and sunrises. These natural inspired tones will evoke a calm connection to the outdoors and ensure your home is a place that promotes and encourages healthy living and peace of mind.
Use colours in your home in the same proportions you might find them in nature
Oliver explains the definition of fractal fluency as repetitive patterns we can find in nature. When decorating our home, we must select imagery inspired by the outdoors which will therefore have a restorative effect on our wellbeing. Evidence demonstrates fractal patterns reduce our stress levels by 60%, but Oliver is careful to point out the pitfalls when designing a home with pattern in mind. He states patterns should mimic how they appear in nature, for example intricate details should be lower down whilst more light, flowing imagery should be higher up – as they would be found in the outdoors. Consider how much pattern you decorate with to avoid overwhelming and invading the space, choose selectively and turn to botanicals, florals, and trees for inspiration.
To ensure a happier, healthier home we should add plenty layers of texture. Haptic Invitation is described as ‘an appeal to our sense of touch to have a positive tactile experience’. If we let nature motivate our choice of texture in the home, we ensure it is a space of harmony, warmth, and comfort. Scientific research has demonstrated that wooden flooring for example, decreases blood pressure and upsurges our sense of optimism and confidence. By decorating with natural inspired textures there is a connection to the outdoors that gives a sense of belonging and awareness.
WHAT WE DO AT HOME
Over the last couple years working from home (WFH) has become common practise for many of us, and this in turn has a significant impact on our homes and how we use, see, and feel within them. Oliver stresses the importance of designing a home that is multi-functional for all our daily and weekly activities, as well as using nature as the driving force when doing so. It is imperative to designate a separate space for work, play and relaxation. Consider the ergonomics of your space, for example, at a desk your chair should be comfortable and supportive, the computer screen should be a safe distance for your eyes and your keyboard should allow for your arms to stretch out. Our design elements must reduce distractions, incorporate clear minded organization and efficiency as well as energise and stimulate our senses.
Dedicate space and furniture that will help bring people together over shared activities and skills
In ‘Design a Healthy Home’ it is claimed that bonding with other people is the key to happiness. Oliver stresses the importance of designing our homes with social interactions and connections in mind, as this will enhance our sense of self. Heavy traffic areas such as the entrance, living space, kitchen and garden are crucial. In particular, the kitchen is often seen as the centre of our home, where we spend majority of time, where the family comes together, and we share stories and experiences with one another. To design a healthy kitchen, you must incorporate lots of seating, layer lighting from task to ambient and even designate organised space on your worktops for healthy appliances such as juicers. Every little detail should be considered.