Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Wellness through Interior Design

There's a massive forum campaigning for wellness in the built environment concentrating on developing sustainable buildings to promote the health and wellbeing of the occupants. While it would appear that this is not rocket science, the effect of the environment on individuals, it certainly is something that appears to have been something certainly not fundamentally considered hence the need for promotion.

Creating spaces that are beautiful, practical and uplifting to the soul is by no means an easy exercise.
One could reflect and suggest that at their happiest their day has been spent in a large country park, or walking by the ocean. To others these wide open spaces make them feel uncomfortable with no sense of control, and they long to be back walking the crowded streets of London.

However if we look at what the mainstream thought is regarding a person's physical, emotional, spiritual and social demands - then a few key topics can be introduced and adapted.

Whether you are hunched over a computer, cooking dinner, playing a puzzle in a care home - appropriate lighting is required. Good strong daylight without glare is obviously ideal. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD, or commonly known as winter blues) is recognised by MIND and other health professionals as causing temporary poor frames of mind. A number of lighting products now exist that mimic the effects of sunlight to help cure this form of depression. We have all either said, or heard someone exclaim "Can't believe I've gone to work in the dark, and come home and it's still dark". Possibly the extent to which more of the population remain undiagnosed is a result of mental health problems being stigmatised.
Considering the home, no one light will assist all tasks. Properly backlit mirrors in a bathroom make it easier to apply make-up. A task lamp will allow a reader to enjoy their favourite book in comfort. Mood lighting creates a softer ambiance. The "big" central light might be employed to assist finding that contact lense that has made its way to the floor. In larger spaces the lux to lumens comes into play - determining how much illumination is granted from the position of the ceiling spots.

The type of air that is in a building is crucial. Opening a window for ventilation is sometimes not the answer, particularly if you live in an area where there are many vehicles passing or if the air outside is so humid that it becomes near stifling to breathe. Air conditioning units, humidifiers, ionisers, air purifiers have all been around for sometime. I remember years ago the fad for introducing negative ions into the air to create positive effects. Where cooker extractor hoods are great for removing unwanted cooking odours or the heavy air surrounding, steam in a shower room has positive mental and physical attributes. Bathroom extractor fans ultimately remove the steam from a room to avoid damage to tiles and walls more than anything else. Still in many old homes the choice is window open- or window closed.

No one likes to hear every step the tenant upstairs makes when they walk across laminate flooring which has not been properly insulated. Likewise people in modern homes with ceramic tiles and leather sofas forget that every sound will become an echo unless there are furnishings that will absorb the sound. In a commercial environment few people would want their private conversation echoed through a public space and often resort to a whispering tone. While this problem is best addressed at construction phase, there are solutions post construction that can assist in the form of surface panels.

So perhaps it is getting the built environment correct before adding those touches that inspire us - colour, plants, art. How often when we are looking for inspiration do we turn our head to a lovely outside view, a vase of flowers or a piece of personal art.

And no, I haven't mentioned feng shui - at least not till now.

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