Here’s how you can design your home in ways that improve your well-being and put you on track to feeling great.
3 November 2022
Top image: Design by HOFT, featuring an artificial skylight in a flat
Text by Janice Seow
When you begin the process of renovating your home, do you start by thinking about the way you want it to look, and the functional requirements you need? Do you factor in the way you want your space to make you feel, too?
Modern life can be highly stressful, and often, we look for stress relief in leisure pursuits, and address it through exercise, food, and herbs and supplements. But let’s not forget that good design can have a positive impact on our well-being. So when you start to plan the design of your home, or even a simple makeover, think about how it can help you ease the stresses of the day, relax, and find joy.
Here are some design activations at home that can help with stress relief.
The emotional and cognitive benefits of being exposed to nature are well-researched and well-known. It improves attention and mood, and is healing. It can help to reduce blood pressure, muscle tension and the production of stress hormones.
Did you know that natural analogues (indirect strategies that rely on an analogy with natural shapes and forms) and even images of nature have their benefits?
A study focused on biophilic design was applied to various settings, one of which was a windowless hospital room. The space was filled with plants, furnishings made from natural materials, and a colourful wall mural of plants and animals in a Savannah-like setting. The result? A significant decrease in stress and aggressive behaviour among patients.
Think about how you can incorporate nature into your home. Even in small apartments, there are many ways you can create a garden. Turn a corner into a green space, dress up a tall shelf with potted plants, or invest in a vertical garden system.
In areas where plants aren’t feasible, or if you simply do wish to have to tend to plants, include photos and artwork of nature, and insert designs inspired by organic shapes and/or are made of natural materials such as rattan and bamboo.
Are you getting a decent amount of natural light at home? Sunlight is thought to increase the brain’s release of serotonin, a hormone associated with boosting mood and helping a person to feel calm and focused. It can also help you sleep better at night, and help fight depression.
At the start of your home renovation, look at the plan, and work with your interior designer on ways to rearrange the spaces to bring natural light deeper into the home. For example, the bedrooms in this three-room flat (above) are ‘connected’, where the window-facing study corner is separated from the guest room by curtains that can be drawn to allow light to filter deeper into the space. The master bedroom next it has also been fitted with a large glass panel (it replaces the original wall) so that the light and views can travel even further into the unit.
Sleep is an essential function. You need it to help your body and mind to recharge, and to help it remain healthy and stave off diseases. You need enough sleep for your brain to function properly, and the lack of it can impair your ability to concentrate and think clearly.
When you’re stressed, it might be hard to get to sleep or sleep well. Or vice versa, you get stressed when you can’t sleep! A well-designed bedroom can help. Ideally, the bedroom should be designed for sleep only. However, if you live in a small apartment and require a work area in you bedroom, consider pocket doors or other ways to conceal the area when you aren’t working, so you won’t be reminded of never-ending deadlines when it’s time to rest.
Think about the lighting plan. Dimmers are important as they allow you adjust the level of brightness to suit the activity and transition from active to sleep mode. It can also add to the room’s general illumination or be softened to enhance its mood. Accent lighting is typically used to highlight specific features in a room, but can also provide softer ambient light for a cosier atmosphere. Recessed light and wall sconces are some examples. Also, note the colour temperature, which is measured in Kelvin (K). Warm white light is popular for homes and 2,700K is ideal if you want a warm and cosy vibe.
Your choice of colour can also have an impact on how well you sleep. Across the board, experts agree that blue comes up tops when it comes to sleep. It is a calming colour that brings to mind the vast sky, and rivers and oceans. A Travelodge study found that 58% of their participants reported feeling happier too, when waking up in a blue room. Other popular colours touted as best for sleep include buttery yellow, warm browns and beige, neutral green shades like sage, silver, soft pink and good old white.
The bathroom is one of the only rooms in the house where you can go for absolute privacy and alone time. Beyond that, many will agree that there’s no better way to destress after a long day than by taking a nice, warm bath. And it’s not just a general ‘feeling’ of well-being either. According to Dr Bobby Buka, a dermatologist, the skin releases endorphins in response to the soothing warm water. Submerging ourselves in warm water can also be therapeutic and reinvigorating because it causes an increased blood flow to the skin.
Make your bathroom a sanctuary. Wrap it in comforting and soothing colours, and bring in plants, elements of nature and sunlight too (where possible). Design it like a spa if you prefer. Flats and apartments typically have small bathrooms, but there are ways around it. Increasingly, homeowners are looking to expand their bathroom space be merging two bathrooms, or placing the vanity outside the bathroom, so they have more bathing space, and possibly even room for a tub.
Invest in quality products that provide luxurious showering options. For example, the Rainfinity overhead shower from hansgrohe is designed to envelop your entire body in water. There’s also the Statement collection from Kohler with seven spray types, including a warm-misting Cloud spray and a Deep Massage, among others.
Many of us live in flats and apartments, and space (or the lack of it) is often an issue. You may find that you have nowhere to go when you’re stressed and desire some quiet time alone. If your home can provide for it, plan a designated room that you can go to chill. It could simply be a study or guest room that’s designed for comfortable lounging. Or better yet, an entertainment room with everything you need to relief stress and have a good time.
Even if you don’t have that ‘spare room’, you can still carve out pockets of space for a hobby, or have cosy nooks in the bedroom and elsewhere where you can go.
Apart from keeping you physically fit, exercise can help to reduce your stress levels. More and more, people are setting up exercise zones in their homes, and they aren’t all in designated rooms either. This apartment below has simple exercise equipment hanging from the ceiling for the owners to do their yoga and calisthenics workout.
Sometimes, what we need is to connect and be in the company of others. Consider open-plan living spaces that can nurture conversation, but also think about how these spaces can be flexible to accommodate the need for privacy.
Have you ever felt overwhelmed by the mess around your house? The stress is not all in your head. According to the Journal of Environmental Psychology, clutter can negatively impact one’s well-being. It can also increase stress levels and decrease productivity.
At the start of your renovation, think about the amount and type of storage you need, and plan ahead to what you might need in the near future too. Concealed and seamless storage are great for maintaining a clean and minimalist looking home. There are many other nifty ways to hide and organise your stuff, such as platform beds with lift-up and pull-out storage, clear boxes on open shelves that makes it easier to look for things, and all sorts of multifunctional furniture with storage compartments.
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