Healthy Homes: How to Have One… Part 3 – Space

The use of space in different ways in homes is interesting to explore and not as straightforward as you may think. We have seen the typical home change drastically over the years – most significantly the replacement of individual rooms with open plan spaces. The popular culture appears to often be ‘the bigger the better’, naturally arising from the fact that most people are averse to cramped, claustrophobic spaces. However there is no general rule proportioning the amount of space to the quality of a home. You will find that in a home if a room is excessively large this can also negatively impact the space, just as a cramped room can.

The best approach is a balanced one, and the function and qualities desired of a room need to be taken into consideration. Smaller areas can feel very cosy and comforting while large spaces can feel very freeing and relaxing. Large rooms can evoke a sense of grandeur, whereas smaller rooms can project a ‘homely’ feeling. Determine what you want to feel in each space and plan accordingly. A combination of different sized spaces tend to work very well together, as contrast between room sizes can heighten the unique feelings evoked by each room.

If you are not starting from scratch and already have a house there are certain things you can do to manipulate the spaces you have to achieve a greater or smaller sense of space. If you have a small space and want it to appear larger firstly remove as much clutter as possible – clutter presents many different elements that jump out at the eye, grabbing attention and making a space feel busy and small. Streamline what is on display, whether you reduce the number of items, display only things of a select few colours, or put items in matching storage pieces. The use of mirrors in spaces give the appearance of greater space, and also increases light into rooms (if you want more light in your house read our previous post on achieving natural light in your home); as do lighter coloured walls, ceilings and furniture. You will be surprised at what you can do with a small space if it is planned well, a space does not have to be big to feel big.

Now, larger spaces often feel very enjoyable to be in and tend to be less cluttered to the eye. However if a room is too large and there is no hierarchy of elements within it, it can make it less enjoyable to be in. One trick to deal with this is to delineate different spaces within the room. You can easily create ‘nooks’ within rooms with the arrangement of furniture cordoning off a section, large rugs also can demarcate an area, as does different lighting focused on different areas, darker coloured walls and ceilings, or you can install a room divider (think bookcases, planter boxes/trellises for climbing plants, shelving screens ).

Additionally, a disadvantage of large houses and spaces are that they are more expensive to build, to heat or cool, and also more laborious to clean. So don’t think you need to have a massive space to build an enjoyable house, with careful planning you can ensure every space in your home feels just right.

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Healthy Homes: How to Have One... Part 2 – Material Selection

The materials that your house is made of and is furnished with can have a big impact on the spaces that you live in.

 

You may be surprised to know that some materials that your house is constructed with are toxic. Products can often release harmful chemicals which become airborne, often found in paints, plastics, vinyl, protective coatings, engineered wood products and insulation. Keep this in mind when you are building and where possible choose materials with low emissions or zero-VOC (volatile organic compound) products. To reduce these effects in an already built house – make sure that you have good ventilation through your house, and where possible clean with damp cloths and mops to minimise dust agitation.

 

In addition to the physical effects of poor material choice, your selection of materials that you furnish your house with can have a significant impact on your psychological health and enjoyment of your home.

 

While sleek, sophisticated materials are quite popular there runs the risk that they make a space feel too clinical. Make sure that you choose a mix of materials that have an interesting texture, warmth and softness. Not every surface or piece of furniture needs to have all three but elements of these within your space will minimise any feelings of discomfort. These are especially suitable for areas of your house where you want to feel more relaxed and cosy, such as the bedroom and the lounge room. If you choose a ‘scheme’ or ‘theme’ when buying these items it will help keep your space coherent and avoid clash and clutter which can be quite stressful to the eye and mind.

 

Some quick and easy examples to make a space more inviting are:

Warm coloured wood, whether it is floor boards or a wooden coffee table.

Warm toned splashback behind your cooktop. You don’t need to choose bright red or yellow but something with warm undertones, or warm colours pulling through can work wonders.

Textured lamp shades.

Wooden blinds or louvres

Thick luxurious curtains

Warm, thick, textured throws and cushions can make an elegant couch much more inviting.

Breakfast bench stools that are padded, have great patterns on them or made of interesting materials.

A warm toned or thick rug on your lounge room floor.

 

If you like to keep your walls and furniture quite monochrome, it is through accessories that you can put some pops of colour and textures and transform a space into something much more inviting. Then if you want to change things up in the future, it is relatively easy and low cost to replace accessories rather than expensive pieces of furniture.

 

What do you think of the kitchen of one of our projects above with warm timber floors and brick accents versus the white kitchen on the right?

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Healthy Homes: How to Have One… Part 1 - Natural Light

This is probably the most obvious feature needed to have a healthy home. Rooms that have lots of natural light feel comfortable and enjoyable to be in, while rooms that are poorly lit feel cramped and depressive. Natural light provides many benefits, psychologically, physically and financially, and is an essential feature in a healthy home.

Exposure to natural light actually encourages the production of serotonin in the brain and releases endorphins, both of which contribute to a happy state of mind. Additionally, natural light provides Vitamin D to your body which is an important vitamin that improves the immune system and helps reduce a long list of various ailments. You will also experience higher energy levels, a more regulated and better quality sleep, and healthier eyes.

With increased natural sunlight in your home comes a reduced requirement for artificial lighting and heating. This reduces the expenses of running your home and also the energy impact on the environment. The only caveat here is that while increasing sunlight into your home you need to consider the high temperatures that we experience in Perth summers and design to ensure that there is not excessive heat gain.

When designing a new home or renovation, natural light will be a significant consideration, in the orientation and layout of the home and the fenestration. Some practical tips for in the meantime:

  • Adding a mirror will reflect light into a space
  • Lighter colours reflect light more; consider painting a dark wall or ceiling, add a light coloured rug on a dark floor, paint your window frames a lighter colour, replace any large dark pieces of furniture with lighter coloured furniture.
  • Add a skylight
  • Replace heavy curtains or blinds with semi-sheer curtains or frosted glass to increase light but maintain privacy.
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