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  • Agnieszka Chromicz

Wellness Design: how to make your home more comfortable

May 13, 2021

The year 2020 started off for most of us like any other year. Then on March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declared a World Pandemic due to spread of the new Corona virus. It seemed like overnight offices closed, airports and borders were shut down and anyone remaining abroad was summoned home. Life as we knew it came to a very sudden stop. People were signing up with Zoom in droves and we started logging incredibly long hours at the computer. Many people were calling this Working from Home, but for many others it seemed we were living at work.

Many individuals and organizations started seeking protection from stress for themselves, their loved ones and for their employees. The topic of Wellness became a point of discussion (again) for the corporations, designers and scientists. For the Interior Designers who were already dealing with people's wellbeing either at the office or at home, the pandemic and a very relatable experience of working from home with children within an ear shot, lack of personal space and time, and too many interruptions, made us reconsider and evaluate how we can achieve Wellness at home and how we translate that for our clients.

One of the Webinars I saw on this topic was called the "Wholistic Wellness- Healthy Families in a Healthy Home". Webinar was presented by Paula Kennedy and she introduced wellness as:

"Wellness is the newest major category in the architectural design build industry along with Sustainability, Universal Design and Technology. Because of its influence over our lives, wellness can be seen as a much bigger topic and include Sustainability, Universal Design and Technology. As Global Wellness Institute defines it: "Wellness is an active pursuit of activities, choices and lifestyles that lead to a state of wholistic health".

Listening to this webinar made me ask myself a lot of questions which revolve around the topic of wellness? What is responsible for our wellness? What are the different approaches and how can I promote wellness at home with my Interior Design background. I found the earliest mention of the term Wellness by the World Health Organization dating back to 1948, when WHO stated that Wellness is about striving toward “physical, mental, and social well-being” and is “not merely the absence of disease.

In 1976, Dr. Bill Hettler, co-founder of the National Wellness Institute in the US, developed a model of wellness that included six dimensions of health: physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual, occupational, and social. Some researchers have since added environmental health, making a list of seven dimensions which “are completely interconnected and interwoven.”

Physical: A healthy body through exercise, nutrition, sleep, etc.

Mental: Engagement with the world through learning, problem-solving, creativity, etc.

Emotional: Being in touch with, aware of, accepting of, and able to express one’s feelings (and those of others).

Spiritual: Our search for meaning and purpose in human existence.

Social: Connecting with, interacting with, and contributing to other people and our communities.

Intellectual: Commitment to lifelong learning and nurturing of our intellectual health when we engage in creative activities, learn new things, and expand our knowledge.

Environmental: A healthy physical environment free of hazards; awareness of the role we play in bettering rather than denigrating the natural environment.

While I was doing my research, I discovered that Wellness has been the topic of conversation for a lot longer than I imagined. Unfortunately with the explosion of so much information (and mis-information) on the internet, it has been often confused with terms such as health, wellbeing and happiness. While there are common elements among them, Wellness is distinguished by not referring to a static state of being (i.e., being happy, in good health, or a state of wellbeing). Rather, wellness is associated with an active process of being aware and making choices that lead toward an outcome of optimal holistic health and wellbeing.

I agree wholeheartedly that wellness is worth investigating and that it is an important and relevant topic, but how can we apply wellness in our homes?

There are several organizations which are the leaders in Wellness (Global Wellness Institute and National Wellness Institute), however the leader in the global movement to transform health and well-being with the “people first” approach to buildings, organizations and communities is the WELL Building Institute.

Certification for the WELL Building Institute and it’s evidence building standard is provided thru a third -party certification from the Green Business Certification Inc. Together with the US Green Building Council, GBC provides an independent oversight of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). Over the last 10 years, WBI has established a WELL Building Standard (WELL), which is a roadmap for creating and certifying spaces that advance human health and wellbeing and can be applied to work on any scale from a single interior space (or your home) to an entire organization.

While we are probably not going to see a certification for Home Wellness anytime soon, I thought it was worthwhile to investigate and learn from this program and apply some of the standards in our homes.

According to the Global Wellness Institute (and their WELL Building Standard), Wellness of any space can be rated in 10 categories such as: air, water, nourishment, light, movement, thermal comfort, sounds, materials, mind and community. While many of their concepts are primarily designed for the office environment, there are many which can be applied in your home.

The list of the categories is much longer, but here are a few which I thought would be most applicable:

AIR: air quality standards, smoking, cooking ventilation, VOC reduction, air filtration, mold control, moisture management, operable windows, toxic material reduction.

WATER: Inorganic (metals), organic (pollutants) and agricultural (pesticides) contaminants, filtration and purification systems, leak and water sensors, water saving fixtures, steam shower/ sauna therapy, hot water on demand (save energy), tankless water heaters (save space).

NOURISHMENT: Food contamination reduction thru cold storage, food storage capacity, eating spaces, gardening spaces.

LIGHT: Low glare home office design, circadian rhythm bulbs, use of accent-task- ambient lighting, dimmable and sensor control lighting, use of daylight, illumination in storage closets, black out blinds or shades, blue light filters, proper color temperature and lumens for spaces with different use.

MOVEMENT: Home gym, outdoor access, color utilization to create movement and improve energy and mood, kitchen circulation.

COMFORT: Accessible design, ergonomics, thermal comfort (ventilation, HVAC), sound intrusion, energy use, heated floors and towels, bathtubs which hold heat, reduction of heat loss thru windows, drapes, multiple control zones.

SOUND: Sound dampening materials (carpet, rug, window treatments), matte/ honed and textured surfaces, noise pollution, sound transmission, healing sounds (music) , open vs closed floor plan (flexible spaces).

MATERIALS: Sustainable products and materials (cork, wood) , materials with reduced toxins, germ reducing and germ resistant materials (corian, copper), low VOC paints, flooring materials which are better for your joints.

MIND: Nature incorporation and biophilia, beauty in home design, aromatherapy, privte areas, craft and reading areas.

BWI is not the only source of information of how to make your home feel more efficient and cozy, there are several other movements which embrace that same idea. I am sure you have come across some of them recently.

HYGGE is a Danish concept, which encompasses a feeling of cozy contentment and well-being through enjoying the simple things in life.

BIOPHILIA which literally translates to “love of life,” it also describes the human drive to connect with nature and other living things.

WABI-SABI is a Japanese term that can be translated to mean "flawed beauty" or "the perfection in imperfection." It often refers to the beauty found in nature which is organic, asymmetrical, or otherwise "imperfect" but still aesthetically pleasing.

FENG SHUI is a practice of arranging the pieces in living spaces in order to create balance with the natural world. The goal is to harness energy forces and establish harmony between an individual and their environment

If you are like most people, the list above must seem pretty overwhelming and hard to achieve. But I hope it is not too discouraging. My recommendation (if you are a do it yourself kind of person) is to make a list of the issues and tackle the ones which are the most problematic first.

While the world is slowly emerging from the pandemic and businesses are reopening and we may stop working from home soon, I hope we will remember to embrace the importance of making your home comfortable and enjoyable.


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