Homes that increase wellness

Homes that increase wellnessElevate a room’s physical experience by incorporating softening elements, such as wood, plants and rich woven fabrics / Image Credit: Supplied

The design of physical space or interiors isn't just about choosing the right colour for the walls or making a statement with designer home accessories or glitzy office spaces. Good design is used to connect emotionally with the physical space, where the wellness impact of space goes beyond physical health or experience.

Interior design has an impact on social interaction as well as emotional experience and wellbeing, which is why we often describe some places as warm, welcoming, soothing or calm. Such environments promote a positive emotional outlook and are often considered restorative environments, which in turn improve concentration, work performance and better lifestyle habits.

Today our exposure to indoor environments is at an all-time high, with most of us spending over 80 per cent of our time indoors, whether at home, work, school, malls, fitness centres, coffee shops and more. But what many people don't realise is that buildings and everything in them can affect human health and well-being. Recently there has been extensive research dedicated to studying these environments and creating healthier indoor spaces in which to live, work and play.

There is a movement taking hold to make healthier indoor spaces a priority in both residential and commercial real estate because built environments can affect human health and wellbeing, and that by building healthier indoor environments, we can actually preserve and enhance human health and quality of life.

Biophilic design is an approach to building design that improves physical and mental well-being by connecting people and nature. In the workplace most office goers would ideally want natural light, indoor plants, a view of the outside and a way to perhaps integrate the outdoors into the indoor space — these are precisely the key elements of biophilic design. This design concept, which is all the rage, is an innovative way of designing the places where we live, work and learn by bringing back elements of nature that we have lost while erecting concrete labyrinths.

The unique relationship of architectural and urban design with nature is what defines biophilia itself. These are architectural and urban designs that reflect and include nature to create energy and atmosphere. When it comes to office spaces, a biophilic approach can ultimately affect productivity of workers and staff.

Now more than ever there is great emphasis on healthy work environments, where design takes into account air flow, light and balancing internal and external spaces so that employees can enjoy their breaks. Biophilic design is the only way to enhance performance and manage stress. One of the earlier examples of biophilia in architecture can be seen in the Acros Fukuoka building in Japan. Here urbanization and nature merge, not only providing a beautiful setting, but also providing oxygen to the city itself. As time goes by we will see increasing examples of biophilic designs across the world and in the UAE as well.

Here are some ways in which the physical experience can be elevated.

1. Urban rooftops. If you work in a concrete jungle, it's almost impossible to experience sunlight or have a slice of the open sky all to yourself. The same can be said of all things trees, shrubs, grass and flowers in an urban environment. Research tells us that interacting with nature or even simple hot house plants can be sensorially stimulating and normalising, which is why cities in the West, especially New York, have gone all out in landscaped terraces, rooftops and other outdoor spaces.

2. Biodynamic lighting. Light, especially daylight, helps regulate hormone levels, particularly melatonin and cortisone, and plays a vital role in our physical and mental well-being. Biodynamic light is an artificial light source that replicates the dynamic variations of daylight and sunlight through a light management system. Thanks to biodynamic light, the same biological effects of natural sunlight can be recreated in working environments, such as offices and even healthcare facilities. Artificial light can vary in quality and quantity to mirror the rhythm of natural light, offering a lighting solution that has a positive impact on vision, the biological clock and health.

3. At a more personal level one should strive to create the ideal house that gives you a sense of well-being and promotes a healthy outlook. The goal is to create a home that is not only beautiful and inviting but that is clutter free, has plenty of light and addresses practical issue such as storage and functionality. To begin with consider the mood you want your home to have. Answer this question and you will be able to identify the right colours, materials and elements. Have a place for everything. Being able to simply put things back where they belong makes cleaning and tidying your space easy and helps eliminates unnecessary stress. Incorporate lots of softening elements, such as wood, plants, fresh flowers, scented candles and rich woven fabrics with contrasting elements such as glass, mirror, stone, metal or concrete.

The aesthetic and physical balance in your living space will spill over into your subconscious level and help you find internal balance.

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: Raj Khaneja, Special to Property Weekly

The author is Managing Director of Rectangle Interiors, an interior design and fit-out consultancy firm that received the Designer of the Year award from Dubai Municipality last year


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