Designing Your Home to Make You Feel Good and Healthy

By Jennifer Tzeses

From perfecting your lighting to ending noise pollution, here’s how to make your abode better for you

The meaning of “home” has taken on even greater significance lately. As we’re sheltering in place, it continues to evolve as more than just a refuge—it’s a workspace, a place for homeschool, a fitness studio, and a center for entertainment, to name a few examples.

Ensuring a healthy mind and body by cultivating a sense of wellness in our spaces is more important than ever now that our homes have to serve so many purposes.  Below, tips on how to set up spaces within your home that makes you feel good.

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Separate Your Workspace

Designating a separate space for work can not only help encourage focus, but it can also help us better decompress when it’s time to put work away for the day. 

“When working at home, we’ve completely lost that point in time where labor and leisure are separated,” said New York City-based architect Kevin Lichten. 

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And, if it’s not possible to have a separate room for a home office, Jamie Gold, a San Diego-based wellness design consultant and author, suggests dividing a space with a visual separator, such as a large planter, bookcase or screen to help you “leave” work by closing it off to view when you’re relaxing.

Have Adjustable Lighting

Dimmable lighting and different light sources like floor and table lamps are great ways to encourage relaxation. Downward lighting, which is what most people have in their homes, can be very intense and direct. 

“If you change the light switch so that it’s dimmable, then it suddenly becomes much softer and more inviting and relaxing,” said Gala Magriñá, of Gala Magriñá Design, based in Long Island City, New York. Turning off overhead lighting and even lighting a candle also reduces brightness and fosters relaxation.  

Color temperature is another important factor. 

“As the sun moves through the sky throughout the day, it actually changes in color and that change in color communicates with our body’s circadian rhythms,” Ms. Magriñá said. One of the things it tells our body is whether to boost or lower our energy. The color the sun gives off in the late afternoon before sunset is a warmer, pinkish color versus a bluer color during the day ,when we’re meant to be productive, she said. “So, opting for warmer toned light bulbs in rooms designed to relax in is another great way you can use lighting to encourage relaxation.” 

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Fill Your Space With Plants

Plants create a calming, welcoming atmosphere and improve indoor air quality, Ms. Gold said. “Plants are also proven recovery facilitators, so if someone is dealing with a physical issue, including plants in a meditation area may provide additional wellness benefits.”   

Plants also reinforce our connection to nature, which is known to reduce stress levels, heart rate and blood pressure and boost your mood, Ms. Magriñá said. They also help purify the air by producing oxygen. She recommends adding a bamboo palm, snake plant, Areca palm or spider plant, which “are all great air purifiers and help in removing formaldehyde, which is one of the most common toxins found indoors.” 

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Create Space to Meditate

Setting aside an area to be still, present and focus on breathing can help reduce stress. “This can be as simple as designating a quiet space in your home for daily reflection and gathering in elements you find soothing but not distracting—a favorite rug or mat, a throw, pillow, a speaker for music and a candle and/or plant,” Ms. Gold said. While everyone’s space is going to be a bit different and personalized, “the key is that it’s a quiet, designated area that invites and supports regular, intentional reflection.”  

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Since meditation requires you to close your eyes and disconnect, which can make you feel a little vulnerable, Ms. Magriñá prefers a small nook or corner of a room next to a window. 

“If you can dedicate an entire room to it with a closing door—even better. However, you really don’t need much to meditate,” she said. Her essentials include a comfortable chair or floor chair (this allows you to sit on the floor but with your back supported) and a blanket to keep you warm.

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Cultivate Calm 

“Calmness is centered around the idea of congruence,” Ms. Appleton said. “Things having their own place and space in the world, and when they are out of order physically or emotionally, we start to slip into chaos.” Being tidy and identifying a place for your physical things can help you feel calmer and allow you more mental space to think clearly. 

Another way to create calm is by reducing noise pollution. “This can be done during a remodel or new-construction project with your choice of layout and building materials, but it can also be done in an existing home with the addition of things such as plants, rugs, lined window coverings—as well as replacing noisy vent fans with quiet models and hollow core doors with solid models,” Ms. Gold said. 

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Encourage Better Sleep

From a logistical perspective, investing in a comfortable bed, ensuring temperature and humidity are stable and having good window coverings with blackout capabilities all help with getting a good night’s rest, Ms. Magriñá said.  She also believes the lighting we’re exposed to in the evening before sleep plays a huge role in how well we sleep. “I have my living room, bathroom and bedroom lights all on dimmers.” 

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Ms. Gold recommends installing a digital thermostat that adjusts to a recommended cool temperature, which is ideal for sleep. “If you have a partner whose inner thermostat is different from your—as is often the case–layered bedding lets you choose your coverings according to your preferences,” she said. “Many people can’t sleep with total quiet. For them, a white noise machine or ceiling fan can be helpful.”   

Scents can also help you relax. “I have a lavender spray that I use to spray my pillowcase with right before I go to bed, and by the time I hit the pillow, I am ready for a good night’s sleep,” Ms. Magriñá said.

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