interior design and health

How Interior Design Impacts Your Health and What You Can Do About It

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Interior designers can recommend suitable design strategies that enhance the quality of life inside man-made physical environments. They also influence consumers and suppliers toward green practices and sustainable products

Sophia Calima

We spend more than 85% of our lives indoors. Our homes, schools, workplaces, malls, restaurants, gyms, stores and places of worship, and others, impact our health, well-being, success and quality of life. A specific branch of public health, called environmental health, focuses on how natural and built environments affect us. Although housing, transportation and neighborhood characteristics are its main concerns, interior design is also an essential part of this holistic process.

how interior design impacts your health

Interior designers can recommend suitable design strategies that enhance the quality of life inside man-made physical environments. They also influence consumers and suppliers toward green practices and sustainable products. The Collaborative on Health and the Environment narrowed down features of indoor spaces that can affect human health and well-being. These are: noise, temperature, humidity and mold, light, air quality, lead paint, electromagnetic and radiofrequency radiation and water quality. In contrast, the WELL Building Standard focuses on water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort, mind and air.

clearing the air

Many cleaning agents are harmful to humans and animals. They release fumes which irritate the throat, eyes and nose. They also cause headaches, respiratory problems and sometimes, even cancer. Switching to organic and nontoxic ones will benefit you and the environment

Sophia Calima

Airborne contaminants can lead to building related illnesses (BRI). Gases, particulate pollution, chemicals (benzene, formaldehyde, xylene, TCE, among others) VOCs, phthalates, HFRs and PFCs impact indoor air quality. Most of these are found in common building materials like: pressed wood products, carpet backing, fire-retardant fabrics, adhesives, household cleaning agents, paints, plastics, detergent, varnishes, inks, among others. Interior designers can reduce the presence of these contaminants by selecting better products and processes like: sustainably harvested local woods instead of pressed wood products; low VOC paints which produce less vapors than traditional ones; materials which improve thermal insulation; and other design techniques. Once you move into your new space, try to be more discerning when purchasing consumer products. Many cleaning solutions are harmful to humans and animals. They release fumes which irritate the throat, eyes and nose. They also cause headaches, respiratory problems and sometimes, even cancer. Switching to organic and nontoxic ones will benefit you and the environment. If you’re curious, try Clean Mama’s recipes for DIY homemade cleaners. Air purifiers with HEPA filters remove allergens and pollutants. Dyson, Sharp, Xiaomi, Honeywell, Intellipure and Levoit have good reviews. Pure essential oils with antimicrobial properties and an ultrasonic diffuser also purify indoor air. Himalayan salt lamps from Pakistan are “natural ionizers” (and I find the soft, warm glow very relaxing). In some circles, practices like smudging white sage and burning palo santo are used to cleanse the air. Also, remember to open windows to clear out stale air and let it flow!

what we see everyday can either empower or discourage us

Basic human needs can be satisfied by indoor places through nonverbal communication. What we see everyday can either empower or discourage us. Our immediate environments can also support our goals or hinder our efforts. When we become aware of how these indoor settings shape our lives, we become more mindful of what we surround ourselves with🕉

Sophia Calima

Interior design elements also influence our emotions. Positive feelings have a soothing and healing effect on the body. Colors, light, configuration, scale, spatial perception, proportions, acoustics, materials, shapes, textures and natural elements, drive us to think, feel and act a certain way. American psychologist Steven Reiss identified 16 basic desires that motivate us. These are: power, curiosity, independence, status, social contact, vengeance, honor, idealism, physical exercise, romance, family, order, eating, acceptance, tranquility and saving. These basic human needs can be satisfied by indoor places through nonverbal communication. What we see everyday can either empower or discourage us. Our immediate environments can also support our goals or hinder our efforts. For most students, it’s easier to complete a homework on a well lit desk with a comfortable chair. An inviting living room set up encourages get-togethers, while a quiet corner inspires reflection. Decanting pantry items into clean, reused glass jars help to declutter, and bins for waste segregation minimize environmental impact. When we become aware of how these indoor settings shape our lives, we become more mindful of what we surround ourselves with🕉

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