Updated: Feb 5, 2022
I hope year 2022 has been kind to you so far! Now that you have your personal goals for health, relationships, career etc. nicely listed for the new year again, what if in 2022 you also committed yourself to think about your surroundings more mindfully? What if this year you were to become more conscious and demanding in regards to what it is that you want to bring into or get rid of your home and workspace? By this I don’t just mean adding or removing things based on their looks, functionality or trendiness, but rather considering how your design decisions help you to achieve an optimal state of wellbeing at home.
Welcome to the world of wellness focused interior design!
This post is the first part of two-part series, which will help you to design your home for health and wellbeing: first to become conscious of your wellness drivers, and then to introduce you to the wisdom and design choices available.
A wellness focused interior design and architecture has been gaining steady momentum during past few years (just think about concepts of biophilia, KonMari, Wabi-sabi, slow interior design etc.), and the ongoing pandemic has only increased its demand. However, the connection between aesthetics, built environment, art, health and wellbeing is nothing new. In fact, quite the contrary; many Asian (Feng Shui and Vastu Shastra for example), Middle-Eastern and native American cultures - so called high-context cultures - have already thousands of years emphasised how surroundings greatly influence one’s physical health and emotional state of mind - even one’s luck and overall success in life.
But what is wellbeing anyway? Especially in Western cultures we tend to associate wellbeing to the many physical aspects of living like relaxation, proper sleep, right nutrition, exercise, career, physical and financial safety (you are now probably thinking about your New Years resolutions...), but as we know, it’s so much more. Wellbeing is also very much about person’s ability to live according to her values (clarity of what is important, non-negotiables in life), one’s ability to feel gratitude, love and care in the course of daily life, as well as having joyful experiences; meaningful social interactions and experiences of flow-state and intrinsic motivation. It’s about feeling that one is in control of his own life. And as the Eastern cultures have taught us for thousands of years, it’s also about mindful, balanced (choosing ‘the middle-way’ instead of extremes) and slow living.
So, how could we turn our homes into such wellness heavens that holistically support all aspects of wellbeing?
In modern times, architecture, phenomenology, neuro-, social sciences and psychology (environmental and colour psychology) among others, have each tried to answer this question from their point of view. Most recently also neuroaesthetics (combination of neuroscience and cognitive psychology) has started the herculean task of mapping the neurological foundations of our physical and emotional responses to aesthetics, built environment and art. Until we fully understand these fascinating mechanisms revealed by the science, there is however quite amount of wisdom available already now to wellness proof our homes.
Start with your wellness drivers
Before implementing any generic design solutions - no matter how wellness boosting they’d claim to be - it’s first wise to step back and get curious about your physical, social and emotional needs. In terms of wellness this can be sometimes a bit tricky, as wellness often carries different connotations to different people based on their life’s experiences and has strong cultural ties. Therefore, it is important to be candid and clear what it is that is really important to you personally in terms of wellbeing.
A useful way to start exploring this is via your core values, beliefs and aspirations, as they affect everything you do or don’t do in life. If you are not yet clear about your true drivers, simply think of who you are, where you come from, what experiences you’ve had and/or choices you’ve made and where you are aiming at in life; ie. what kind of life you’d wish for yourself, where, and with whom. Write. List. Whatever comes to your mind! See if any common patterns or themes emerge.
More specifically, regarding your home and way of living, ask yourself:
Why did I choose the home I currently live in? What does it tell about my values, beliefs (visible and hidden), current life situation/style, and priorities? Does my home reflect the values and life I aspire to live by? Does it support my current life situation?
Which relationships and what kind of social life is important to me? How does my current home enable to foster these connections?
What memories and emotions words “home” and “homely” evoke in me? What emotions I would like my home to evoke in me?
How do I usually feel in my current home? When and where do my anxieties spike or I feel overwhelmed? When and where do I feel most safe, calm and restful? When and where do I feel most inspired and productive?
Which objects, elements or aspects in my home are the most important to me? What I can and cannot live without?
Are there enough interesting details and stimulation for the senses in my home? Which sensory stimuli are the most important to me in creating a home ambience?
After further clarifying your key physical/functional, social and emotional drivers with the help of above questions, choose 3–5 most important of them. Although you would not live alone, it is still worthwhile to do this exercise alone at first, and only after each of your family member is clear about their own wellness drivers, to form a synthesis. After this, estimate how much time you already dedicate to each of the items on your list, and how does your current home support them. Based on this, identify and prioritise all the sifts you would like to see in your home in the future.
Once we first take the time to gain awareness of our personal drivers, and how things make us feel at home, it later becomes much easier to narrow down the right design solutions for our purpose and prioritise them. By doing this kind of exercise makes us also feel in more control of the choices in our home (and life), which itself can lead to improved mood and sense of wellbeing. Or like Alain de Botton brilliantly summarised in his book The Architecture of Happiness:
“Bad architecture is in the end as much a failure of psychology as of design. It is an example expressed through materials of the same tendencies which in other domains will lead us to marry the wrong people, choose inappropriate jobs and book unsuccessful holidays: the tendency not to understand who we are and what will satisfy us.”
In my next post, I will write about the many design choices available for improving wellness at home.
Until then, I wish you lot’s of love and luck in defining the drivers for your future wellness heaven!
(Inspirations: The Architecture of Happiness by Alain de Botton; Design a Healthy Home by Oliver Heath; Hyvän Mielen Koti by Maaretta Tukiainen)
I'm an interior designer who writes stories about interior design inspirations, ideas, furniture and architecture from around the world. My mission is to entertain you and show how the world is full of interesting design stories - to make you look your own surroundings differently. You are part of a story! I also run an interior design studio Onni Interiors. Welcome to be part of Design Stories!