Homebuilding, renovations, and wellness. What could they possibly have in common? It turns out, A LOT. Your house has a HUGE impact on your health and well-being. Everything from the materials you choose to build your house with, to the way you layout your rooms, to the placement of your windows, and even the soft-goods you use to furnish your home play a factor in your family’s health, happiness, and longevity. Crazy right?
Scientists and doctors have determined that it’s not crazy. We now have proof that buildings, especially our homes since we spend so much time in them, play a major role in how we feel daily, how we sleep at night, how our bodies cope with the foods we eat, how much we feel we can exercise, what illnesses we get, and how long we live.
Since you are planning to build a new home, renovate or transform your current home, you have this amazing opportunity to create a home for your family that will have you all THRIVING on a daily basis. VictorEric is aware that designing and building a new home can either hinder or enhance healthy lives, that is why we specialize in wellness design.
Here are tips for incorporating design strategies into your new custom home or renovation project.
1. Kitchen Layout
We are starting with the kitchen, because it’s one of the most frequently visited rooms in the house, and often one of the worst designed. A kitchen should encourage healthy eating and make it easy to prepare healthy meals. For on-the-go parents, the key to preparing healthy meals is to make them ahead of time. For example, batch prepping meals!
The trick to designing a kitchen that encourages healthy eating and meal prepping is making sure you have multiple work zones. This means that there are multiple long expanses of counter space. If you have a smaller kitchen, shoot for at least two areas of three to four feet in length of counter space.
You also want to be strategic in where you place the counter space. It is best to have a large area of counter between the sink and the cooktop. This allows you to easily wash, chop, and cook veggies without having to move too much. Now, place your second work zone area at least 10 steps away from this area. You want the second work area to be available for a second person that is helping you cook or for organizing all of your prepared food. The further you space these two work zones, the less likely you will be in someone else’s (or your own) way.
Your entryway is your first line of defense in terms of keeping toxins out of your home. This is really important because as soon as toxins, brought in by your shoes, get past the entryway, they are going to end up all over your house.
Do your kids like to play on the floor? Probably, right? The dirt from your shoes is carrying bacteria from animal waste, pesticides, chemicals, and heavy metals from roads and other construction. You do not want that dirt where your kids are playing?
So how do you stop the dirt and germs? Encourage people to take off their shoes the moment they walk into your house. Provide room in your entryway for a built-in or free-standing bench, or some chairs. Sturdy seating makes people feel more comfortable and encouraged to sit down and take off their shoes.
Also, keep in mind that if you have little ones, you may want to provide a lower seat for them, so they don’t have to sit on the floor to take their shoes off and on. (This will also help prevent them from becoming a trip hazard.)
Another benefit of having a bench in the entryway is that it can double as a storage unit. You will always need plenty of storage in your entryway to keep the energy flowing.
3. Living Room Windows
If you aren’t busy in your kitchen, then you’re probably hanging out in your living room. Since we tend to spend a lot of time in the living room, we want to make sure we have good air quality. The easiest way to bring fresh air into your home is to open the windows!
Unless you live in a highly polluted area or off a busy road, the air in your home is probably going to be more polluted than the air outside your home. Not many people realize that indoor air tests about 2-5 times more polluted than outdoor air. Nice, huh? Sometimes a portable HEPA filter and ionizer are all you need to keep your family breathing easy but some people design their home with sophisticated HVAC systems to keep the air at the peak of purity without the tripping hazard of a floor unit.
I see more and more fixed picture windows going into modern home designs. Fixed means that windows cannot open. While it’s fine to have some fixed windows, especially if you are trying to capture a beautiful view, you definitely need to have operable windows in your living room as well. Operable windows bring in the fresh air, replacing the stale, toxic air from the off-gassing of foam pillows, carpet, and furniture. This reduces your family’s exposure to toxins but also improves your cognitive function by adding oxygen to your air.
4. Bedroom Flooring
Bedrooms are where your body recovers from the day while you sleep. Your brain is processing all your experiences from the day while your body is rebuilding health and strength. That is why the bedroom is the most important room in the house to ensure that you have healthy indoor air quality.
I encourage homeowners to install hardwood or linoleum floors in their bedrooms. These are the healthiest flooring options for good air quality. Both flooring choices are easy to clean and made of natural materials. Linoleum is naturally anti-microbial and anti-static, making it even easier to clean than hardwood.
If you are going to install a hardwood floor, make sure it is solid hardwood rather than engineered wood. Most engineered wood floors are glued together with formaldehyde, a known carcinogen, and a major contributor to poor air quality.
Linoleum is a natural product made from linseed oil and other natural materials. Linoleum can be fun for kids’ rooms because it comes in a lot of colors and patterns and its relatively inexpensive and easy to change as they grow into different styles.
You want to avoid carpet because the material is full of chemicals that will release toxins for years after the carpet is installed. You might have noticed the smell of new carpet has, that is the smell of harmful chemicals releasing into the air and entering your body. The harm does not go away once the smell vanishes. Even though you can’t smell carpet after a few weeks, the chemicals are still being released it degrades, and as the carpet becomes host to germs and bacteria.
Carpet is also harmful to air quality because it is a perfect trap for toxin-carrying dust. Dust is basically just a vehicle for toxins to attach to and travel all over your home. The dust gets embedded in the carpet and vacuuming does not sufficiently remove it. Every time you walk through your bedroom, your feet stir up the toxic dust and spew it into the air.
5. Bathroom Safety
Bathrooms are known for their injury potential. Wet feet, hard surfaces, and tripping hazards don’t mix well. If you plan to install a shower as opposed to a bathtub, choose a zero-threshold shower. This means that there is no lip to step over when you get into or out of the shower. This may seem minor, but tripping over the shower threshold is a very common accident.
Bathroom design is often neglected and left to the end of a project, and VictorEric does not want that to happen to your bathroom!
A big part of a healthy home is creating a calm atmosphere. VictorEric thinks about the bathroom layout early in the process to make sure you can fit all the pieces you want in there. After all, it’s the place you start and end every day. A great way to bring calm into your home is to create a spa-like bathroom. Consider adding elements like a soaking tub (bonus points if soaking in it gives you a view to the outdoors), a small sauna, or even a shelf where you can add plenty of calming and mood-boosting plants, salts, lotions, or bubbles.
6. Home Office Desk
You might have heard that sitting for 8 plus hours a day is terrible for your body. The health impacts have been equated to chain-smoking and obesity. So, with that said, if you work from home on a part-time or full-time basis, make sure you incorporate a standing desk in your office.
When you include a standing desk in your office, plan to have another table that can hold the typical desk necessities like a pencil holder, paper organizer, etc. This is because most standing desks move up and down, and with all that movement, you want to keep your standing desk free of loose objects. This means that when you are sizing your home office, figure at least 7 feet of desk length, with each desk being about 2 or 2.5 feet deep.
If you like the idea of permanence, opt for a built-in counter (either standing or sitting height) that runs the full length of one wall. If you go for a counter at sitting height you can add a desktop standing desk to the counter.
7. Where’s the Fitness Room?!
All homes should incorporate space for movement. You could include a playful design and have ladders and climbing walls throughout the home. Or you could be more formal and include a fitness room. Or, better yet, you could include both! Whatever route you choose for encouraging movement at home, make sure it is prominent.
The biggest mistake people make when including a fitness area in their home is putting it somewhere that never gets seen. This is a problem because anything that is out of sight is often out of mind. So, don’t hide your fitness room in the basement or the bedroom. You might never go down to the basement, and you are only in your bedroom when waking up in the morning or preparing for bed, not when you have fitness on your mind.
This means that you want your fitness area (or your spaces that encourage movement) on a common path of travel. If you have a two-story house, place it on the first level, unless you know you have other reasons to frequently go upstairs besides bedtime. If you work from home, put the fitness area between the kitchen and the office so that you walk by it multiple times a day. I have a mini-trampoline I keep in the hall and I have to jump on it 10 times before I pass. This keeps the lymph system in tip-top shape, taking years off your appearance.
Incorporating movement into your day is so important for your health and wellness. The more you move around, the more energized you will feel. You’ll also ward off illnesses.
A Healthy Home – A Healthier You
We build and design high performing homes because a healthy home is where high-performance days begin. If you’re ready to talk about creating the healthy new home of your dreams, or a home remodel that drastically improves you and your family’s well-being, contact Ashley today! 604-677-0021