How do I achieve a healthy home? It's all about BALANCE! A healthy, balanced approach and mindset will filter down into how you structure and plan your interior, and also help you approach elements that might be out of your control. In this article we look at how you can achieve a healthier more balanced home through the choices and decisions you make along the way.
Think about the people you share your space with
When we live on our own, we have the luxury to style and furnish spaces to suit our own personal tastes and circumstances. When we live with others, we need to consider and accept that they might have different needs and tastes that deserve to be taken into consideration.
By listing everyone's needs down in a logical order, we can design spaces to suit a variety of characters with equal success. A starting point is to focus on what you agree on and not the points of conflict. Always build from a positive! Being understanding about what members of your household need from your home and from individual spaces will allow you to work together. You don’t have to agree with each decision – you simply need to respect that everyone has a reason behind their needs and requirements.
Once we have a healthy mindset to our home and understand the balance each member of the household brings, we can work together to meet everyone’s needs. This goes for how a room is used, furnished and decorated.
Consider what you need versus what you want
Part of the process is to consider what a space needs, and to reduce the unnecessary purchases that can result in an overly crowded, chaotic or cluttered interior. We should apply the same thought process to our homes as we do with the coveted ‘capsule’ wardrobe.
Consider your needs and separate these from your wants. There is nothing wrong with wanting things or a style – but it helps to make clearer decisions if you can clearly separate what is necessary from what you desire. Needs should be given priority and wants should be given extra scrutiny. To ascertain if a purchase is a want or a need, ask yourself: Why do I want it? How will it impact my life (positively and negatively)? How often will it be useful / beneficial? What do I do with it while I’m not using it or when I’ve finished with it? Does its’ shelf life represent good value? Is there anything else I could use instead?
How can I be more sustainable in my purchasing?
Questioning purchases is something I have put to my design clients to ensure Pascoe Interiors’ projects adhere to our self-imposed Sustainable Design Policy – something I’ve had in place long before it was fashionable to consider sustainability.
The underlying message is, consider longevity, value for money and land fill when you make purchase decisions. Also, consider the sustainability of the supply chain. There is nothing wrong with choosing a cheap fix quickly delivered by Amazon for occasional purchases, but broadly we all have a responsibility to buy local where we can. Local might mean your village store for some products; for others it’s buying from a British or even European company to reduce the land miles a product travels to get to you. I’m not against purchases from further afield, but is it really necessary? Understanding where products come from, and the chain that is behind them is a great way to focus your mind on all things you purchase – from clothes and food to furniture and machinery.
Once you’ve considered your ‘capsule interior’ and the needs of others in the household, you can start to share and implement ideas. The beauty of the design process is you can consider wild and potentially big projects relatively cheaply on paper to work out if they’re mad or workable. A little madness in our lives and homes in itself can offer balance to level out the sage and sensible. Where you don’t have the option to make big changes, there are small changes we can all easily implement to improve our lives.
How can I avoid clutter in my home?
It is often the clutter – the piles of ‘stuff’ that we trip over, that interferes with our eye line, which causes most of us stress day to day. If we can remove this clutter, we remove the stress and we are healthier due to our homes being more orderly.
A point of compromise here is respecting that we all define ‘clutter’ differently. One persons beloved belongings are another persons clutter. There is a minimalist and collector in all of us – we’re just often at different points on the spectrum, so a degree of compromise on both sides will go a long way.
Shared areas can only receive a more cut throat approach to clutter if the collector in your house feels confident they have a space where they can keep and enjoy the belongings that give them pleasure, away from constant view of the minimalists in the home. A collector who has ample storage and some display space is likely to embrace a more minimalist approach to the rest of the interior; and the minimalist is likely to appreciate the collection if displayed in a more controlled manner. The result should be win win if we can remove the stress that causes the conflict.
An orderly home isn’t an unachievable goal reserved for those with the luxury of time on their hands, it’s something we can all achieve with one simple change to our homes – too ensure we have more than enough storage for our belongings!
A time proven mantra of mine is “A place for everything, and everything in its place”. If we have enough storage to store all we need out of sight, we can achieve clutter free interiors if we get into the habit of putting things away. This doesn’t mean our interiors should be devoid of personality – designing a display space to inject personality is important too; but it does mean we plan our storage carefully.
We need the right kind of storage in the right place. For example – rather than wall hooks for coats and a shelf for keys in your hall, consider a coat cupboard and a bowl on the shelf for your keys (to keep them contained); straight away you’ve reduced clutter and increased order.
I’ve heard a lot about biophilic design, but what is it and how can it improve my life at home?
Biophilic Design is the link between design and nature. It’s currently de rigour in interiors & construction to inject natural elements into buildings. It isn’t a new theory, it’s simply become a popular idea through the press and media, which is a positive step. In the past, we didn’t need a word for it – materials and products in our homes tended to be made of natural materials before the introduction of plastics. Wallpaper used to be exclusively made of paper, but now the market is flooded with vinyl, metallic and plastic versions. And it was common place for homes to be adorned with plants – from potted flowers, large leafy plants to trays of vegetable seedlings.
You could look at it as a sad reality that we need a fashionable new phrase to encourage nature back into our homes, but we should see it as a positive step. When plastics came to the fore, it was a wonder product to make bright new products for our modern homes. There is certainly a place for plastic, though my wish is that we look on it as a valuable resource that must be recycled and reused as many times and as diversely as possible, but now we need to rein back and inject nature back into our lives.
Are there quick tricks to a healthier home?
Plants in your home are a quick and easy way to improve your environment. They not only look good but studies show they can reduce stress, boost your mood and eliminate air pollutants.
Controlling ventilation is also key. Identify where you have or need ventilation and how you can add mechanical aids to control the natural status quo.
Consider the air quality outside your home. If you live on a very busy road, the noise and pollution might deter you from throwing open your windows. Here a filtered or fully mechanical air circulation system might be beneficial.
I live in a new build – what’s your top tip for making my home healthier?
Maximise ventilation and increase air circulation. Often new builds have smaller windows, or restrictors preventing windows opening fully; so consider other ways of circulating air and creating ventilation – adding in mechanical solutions to bolster the potentially limited air flow through the restricted windows.
New builds also often struggle from a lack of storage, as often the room proportions are smaller. Developers don't like to limit floor space with storage, which ultimately results in less floor space for inhabitants as free standing storage nearly always is more bulky. Consider having bespoke fitted wardrobes and cabinetry fitted in your home.
What about an older property?
Aim to improve insulation (walls, flooring, windows) to make the home more eco and sustainable to heat and cool.
Grants are often available for cavity wall insulation but not all properties are suitable for this. The simplest way to ascertain if your house is built with cavity walls or solid walls is to look at how the bricks are laid. If all the bricks are of even length or if the width of your wall is 270mm or more, you probably have a cavity wall (the easiest place to check your wall thickness is at a doorway). If you see a combination of long bricks and short bricks (brick ends), then it’s likely you have a solid wall which can’t be filled with insulation.
If you are laying a new floor, take the opportunity to add in insulation. This can simply be an insulating sub floor (underlay, ply etc) laid under the flooring, or – even better – insulate between the flooring joists as well to plug all the gaps. Once a new floor is laid on top of insulation you will feel a marked difference in the warmth of your home.
Older houses suffer badly from draughty windows due to their construction, most have single glazed glass or out dated double glazing that is not very effective. While traditional windows are seen as original features worth saving, you need to weigh up the value of sustainability with the value of original features. Sadly many original windows don’t have deep enough frames for them to take gas filled double (or triple) glazed units so your only option is to replace the windows.
Take time to research the different styles and materials available, and stick as close to the original style, finish and materials as you can. Avoid high gloss PVC as a replacement; ensure your new windows feature the same traditional detailing and do not deviate from the glazing style, for example, if you have a four pane sash, maintain a four pane sash.
Shop around! Where you can, choose a smaller local firm over a large national firm, and don’t be fooled by amazing discounts if you sign by a certain date; these discounts simply hint at the actual value of the product you are getting. By spending a similar amount with a local firm you are likely to be getting a better quality product from someone with lower overheads for you to cover. Buying local is a sure fire way to make sustainable decisions for your home.
Update your heating system, not only to make it more efficient, but to consider how you are using your space. Now more of us are working from home, we need flexible heating control or supplementary heating to allow us to warm certain spaces all day as opposed to the entire house.
How do I work with clients?
In many initial meetings with new design clients, the conversations nearly always come back to a couple explaining they need help because their styles and needs are at odds with one another. While that might be the case, we can always find ways to design an interior that is harmonious for both tastes and desires without conflict.
The starting point is to put aside the aesthetic elements and to focus on the practical considerations first. Once we’ve agreed the important basics such as storage; lighting; electrics; overarching use for each space – we can then start to fill in the aesthetic layers. We begin with the base palette – a colour scheme that repeats throughout the house, to link spaces and provide a calming interior that is seamless between rooms. Adding in texture and accent colours comes last – and by this point all the decision makers have worked together to build the scheme so tend to be very much on the same page and able to see how their favourite colour can sit alongside their partners colour, even when at the outset such a harmonious compromised seemed worlds away.
If you would like to discuss your interiors project with me then please book a call to begin discussions.