Discover how your home could be making you ill

Discover how your home could be making you ill

Since the start of the pandemic most of us have been spending more time than ever before at home, and despite the gradual return to ‘normal’ life, many will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. 

Therefore, as a result we wanted to partner with our interior design expert, Sharmeen Shahid to reveal the top home interior hacks that can improve your mental and physical wellbeing. There is a lot more to an interior than what you just see, as the design of a space can affect many aspects of life, including your health.

In order to help you switch up your space so you can keep happy and healthy during these unpredictable times, Sharmeen has shared valuable insights into common interior mistakes and the negative effects they can have, such as how dark spaces with minimal natural light can exacerbate depression and low moods, and how old furniture can worsen conditions like asthma or allergies. As well as sharing the common errors made, Sharmeen has provided her top simple tips on how to tackle the issues identified.

Sharmeen’s top ten interior hacks that can improve mental and physical wellbeing are:

1. Avoid Creating Dark Spaces 

Avoid creating dark living spaces that have little natural light, which can often make them feel claustrophobic. Sunlight is proven to aid depression as it causes a person’s brain to produce serotonin, alleviating pain as well as making people feel happy, and an increased level of light has also been proven to increase productivity within a space.*

To combat dark areas and increase the level of light, main living areas, such as the bedroom and lounge, should have a good source of natural light via a window or skylight. If that's not possible I recommend installing soft natural lighting that mimics sunlight (avoid ‘white light’ that’s often found in offices and hospitals) and decorate with live plants that exhume a calming and tranquil atmosphere. Alternatively accessorise with bright colours or mirrors which light will bounce off, brightening and uplifting the room.

2. Regularly Clean Old Furnishings

Older furnishings are more likely to house dirt and any commonly used item can be a hotspot for bacteria, from sofas to curtains. Such items are known to worsen symptoms of conditions largely affected by bacteria and dust such as asthma and allergies.

To avoid replacing items, we recommend investing in good quality goods which will last a long time and to thoroughly clean any heavy or commonly used furnishings at least once a month. For example, vacuum furnishings with heavy material such as curtains and sofas, and wash sofa cushion covers where possible. Carpets are also a hotspot for dust and dirt, therefore as well as your normal vacuum, use a professional carpet or steam cleaner every four to six months to lift any excess dirt or stains – this will not only kill germs but will give the appearance of a brand new carpet. Rugs should be regularly dusted, vacuumed and washed outside as well.

3. Separate Work and Living Spaces

Using a room for multiple daily activities, such as work and relaxation, reduces a person's ability to switch off when the workday has finished, which can largely impact a person’s mental wellbeing.

 At the moment this is a common issue for many as working from home is still apparent in lots of households. If there isn't room for a designated home office, try to set up a workstation away from your main relaxation area, whether that’s your sofa or your bed. Also ensure work equipment like a laptop is cleared away and out of sight when the workday draws to a close. This should make it easier to ‘switch off’ from the professional day and support a period of relaxation.

If you need some advice on the best 'at home' desks to buy, read our recent blog here!

4. Consider More Open Room Layouts  

Without a good level of feng shui, a room layout can affect a person’s mood. The aim of feng shui is to find balance and harmony throughout a room, as the placement of objects affects both the interior flow as well as the flow of someone’s personal energy. Therefore, if there is a general restriction of movement a person can live unknowingly with heightened feelings of frustration and claustrophobia.

Poor feng shui can come from regularly having to face a wall or having to squeeze in between furniture to move about the house; therefore, you should ensure furniture faces windows or bright areas, and avoid placing sitting or sleeping areas in enclosed or cramped spaces. Open areas will not only aid the feng shui within your home but will also create the appearance of a larger and cleaner living space.

5. Absence of Personality

Without having personal touches such as photographs, a room can feel cold and unlived in. Although not causing any major physical problems, this will largely affect a person’s mental wellbeing, as it reduces feelings of enjoyment and attachment, which can in turn lead to feelings of unrest and discomfort when within that space.

To avoid this, hang personal photographs that hold sentiment and accessorise walls and shelves with personal belongings and keepsakes. People often believe personal accessories will ruin an interior, however what they forget is a house needs to be a home. Don't worry, if you aren't blessed with DIY skills you can still display your personal touches on free standing shelving, like the sleek Libra Corner Shelf or the cool Scandi Gallery Direct A Frame Ladder shelf!

6. Lack of Life

It has been proven that the inclusion of plants and greenery in a space improves air quality and the mood of the people within it. Plants bring a peaceful atmosphere to a room and can often combat issues other interior mistakes can bring, as well as add depth and colour.

As with everything, moderation is key, so be conscious not to overpower a space with greenery, because it can be time-consuming to maintain and adds to the appearance of clutter. Therefore, to find the right balance for you, we recommend starting by adding one or two manageable plants such as a Mother-in-law's Tongue or a Spider Plant into your larger living spaces. If you want to add greenery to smaller darker areas where plants will not have good access to sunlight, try plants that need less maintenance such as a succulent or cactus. Faux plants can also make great additions, as they will add the same visual effect as living plants, but of course do not need any nursing. 

7. Bad Circulation and Temperature Control

As mentioned, the aim of feng shui is to find balance and flow throughout a room, which can be done by the placement of objects, however flow is also largely affected by sources of air and temperature. If a room has bad circulation and temperature control, whether it is too hot or cold due to air or heating sources, a person’s comfortability within the space will be influenced.

Temperature imbalances can be caused by several issues from small windows to poor insulation. The inclusion of weighted furnishings, such as rugs and heavy throws, will warm up a space and make them cosier. Whereas if a room lacks air and is too warm, you should avoid the use of heavy materials and furnishings. To cool a room, you should open up a space where possible, by having minimal accessories, furniture, and avoid dark colours. This will help ‘air’ the space without having to implement major construction.

8. Clutter

Clutter has been proven by various studies to leave people feeling anxious, stressed, or even depressed. 

Decluttering a home sounds simple but is often very time consuming and can bring about a whole host of other stresses with the process. Splitting up the job of decluttering a home will make it more manageable and therefore less stressful. Focus on the three main living areas, your bedroom, kitchen, and living area. As well as restoring the flow within your home, these specific sections are likely to hold the most clutter, therefore by sorting and reassessing the belongings within them first, you will be able to achieve more in a shorter amount of time.

To move forward and keep on top of your clutter levels, try to reassess and sort belongings every two to three months.

9. Negative Colours

Using colour is a way to convey your personality, mood and emotion. The colours you pick to decorate your home with contribute to the overall feel it has. According to feng shui, dark colours are believed to negatively impact relaxation. Colour psychology is a crucial aspect in decorating as colour palettes that include blacks, dark blues and greys all portray a negative and sad demeanor.

Bright and light colours are great additions to make a space feel positive. Neutrals and pale shades of blue and pink are great options for rooms you wish to relax in, such as your bedroom or living room, as the softer shades will make the space feel calm and serene. In areas you wish to entertain, such as your kitchen, try experimenting with brighter pops of colour like yellows or greens. Both colours communicate happiness and the joy they convey will uplift and energise the room’s atmosphere.

10. A Bad Night’s Sleep

Sleep is crucial to us all and a bad night of sleep can have awful affects on our body’s physical health and our happiness. Assessing what caused your bad night of sleep is the first crucial step, whether it is due to noise, lighting within a room or from your bed itself.

To get the best night’s sleep possible we recommend investing in the best mattress you can afford. Although expensive, a mattress will last you years and is a vital accessory in the running of your day to day life. Subjects such as light and noise are all dependent on you personally, however like the mattress I recommend investing in valuable goods in order to make any improvements. For example, if you struggle with lighting whilst you sleep, investing in some good black out blinds/curtains is worth the money or if noise is the issue, double glazed windows can help block out the sound from outside. 

Nick Moutter, founder of Olivia’s, said,

“Over the last couple of months most of us have spent more time at home than ever before. Even though lockdown in the UK has started to ease, many of us are still working and spending leisure time from the comforts of our own homes.

“As such, most people do not realise the negative affects badly designed interiors can have on our health. Therefore, we wanted to partner with our team of interiors experts to share some of the top hacks out there to improve both a person's mental and physical wellbeing. We hope the list helps anyone currently struggling at home, and looking to improve their personal space.”