Looking to create a healthy home for you and your family? Architect Kate Hamblet, RA, from Balanced Home, Balanced Life spells out what you need to know to make your home as healthy as possible.
You care about your health and wellness, so you make sure to work out and eat healthy foods. But did you know your house can also improve your health and well-being?
As an architect, I have learned many ways a house can not only decrease risk of diseases like respiratory illnesses and cancer. A truly healthy home can improve your energy levels, increase cognitive function, boost productivity, decrease stress, and inspire you to eat better and make movement a bigger part of your day.
I discovered the power of a healthy home when I transformed my own home a few years ago to enhance the health and happiness of my family. It took the arrival of my son and a very stressful first year as a new parent to realize that our home was hindering our health and our happiness.
By implementing wellness design strategies, I was able to reduce stress in our lives and improve our health and well-being. You can read all about the transformation here.
The idea of transforming your house into a healthy home may sound daunting. But don’t worry, there are actually a lot of small changes you can make to your home that will have a big impact on your health, happiness and longevity.
Let’s dive into seven elements that make for a healthy home so you can transform your own home into one that helps you live healthier and feel great!
⇒ Download the free checklist by following the link at the end of the article.
Indoor Air Quality and a Healthy Home
Did you know that the air inside your home is likely to be 2-5 times more polluted than the air outside your home? It’s unfortunate but true that building materials, furnishings, finishes, and household items like cleaners and body care products emit toxins that negatively impact the air you breathe.
What are the impacts of poor air quality?
- Eye, nose and throat irritation
- Cognitive impairment (brain fog)
- Shortness of breath and upper respiratory illnesses
- Increased risk of asthma in children
- Increased risk of cancer
The impact poor air quality can have on your short-term and long-term health is no joke. That’s why it is so important to work on improving your indoor air quality.
How to Improve Home Air Quality
1) Add a bench to your entryway: Your shoes collect outdoor pollutants like pesticides, heavy metals and bacteria, and if you don’t stop at the front door, these pollutants will be tracked all over your home. Put a chair or bench in your entryway to encourage your family members and your guests to sit and take their shoes off as soon as they enter your home.
2) Add some house plants: Many house plants help purify indoor air. Snake plants, spider plants and Boston ferns are all great air-purifying options. Here are the best plants for cleaning indoor air.
3) Clean green: Avoid harmful chemicals in conventional cleaners by choosing plant-based and homemade cleaners.
4) Buy furniture without air-polluting chemicals, especially your mattress: Many consumer products are made with chemicals very harmful to health. Look for furniture made with the Green Guard seal, and when possible, choose things vetted by MADE SAFE. Here’s the most affordable truly non-toxic mattress on the market. (Yes, with the coveted MADE SAFE certification!)
5) Turn on the bathroom fan while showering: Mold, which needs moisture to survive, is a major source of poor indoor air quality. Make sure to eliminate steam by turning the bathroom fan on before getting into the shower. This will significantly reduce the likelihood of mold growth within your bathroom.
If you are in the market for a new bathroom fan, consider installing one with a humidity sensor. The fan will automatically turn on when it senses a high level of moisture in the room.
6) Get a high-quality air filter. One of the top-notch air filters from EnviroKlenz can remove VOCs and fragrance chemicals and other airborne particles from your air. Save 15% with the code savvy15. Pure Living Space carries additional options. (Get 10% off with the discount code ‘Savvy.’)
Related: Green Remodeling Tips
Water Quality and a Healthy Home
Just like air quality, water quality is vital for your health. Whether you have municipal water or well water, it’s likely that your water contains chemicals, bacteria and/or heavy metals.
If you want to find out what’s in your water, have it tested through a local lab or water treatment company. You can go to your state’s department of environmental services website to find out how to test water in your area.
What are the impacts of poor water quality?
- Gastrointestinal illnesses
- Reproductive issues
- Neurological disorders
- Increased risk of cancer (especially if well water is contaminated by naturally occurring arsenic and radon)
How to Improve Home Water Quality
Filter your drinking and bathing water: It’s important to use a high-quality water filter to reduce your exposure to the pollutants found in most water supplies. Consider installing drinking water filters at every level of the home. If you want to have easy access to healthy, great-tasting water, add under-sink filters to an upstairs bathroom sink or a basement wet bar sink.
Remember, your drinking water isn’t the only water that needs to be filtered. Bathing water is important to filter so that you aren’t inhaling and absorbing contaminants as you bathe. Here’s more on why you should consider getting a shower filter to protect your family from chlorine and other water contaminants you don’t want in your healthy home!
Light Quality and a Healthy Home
Humans have an internal clock that runs on roughly a 24-hour cycle and is controlled by the tones and levels of light received. This is called your circadian rhythm, and it is based on the schedule of the sun. The type of light you are exposed to at diﬀerent times of the day can aﬀect how you feel throughout the day and how you sleep at night.
Bad artificial lighting plagues most office buildings and many homes. Plus, many of us spend our day without seeing natural daylight at all.
What are the impacts of bad lighting?
- Not being able to fall asleep or stay asleep
- Lack of energy and productivity during the day
- Headaches and distraction from glaring light
- Decreased happiness from lack of exposure to natural daylight
Your body wants bright light in the morning to suppress the production of melatonin, a hormone in your body that aids in sleep. In the evening, your body wants low levels of warm light and then darkness to start creating the melatonin again.
Natural daylight is the best way to keep your circadian rhythm on track, but if you can’t get natural daylight throughout the day, artificial light aligned with nature’s clock works also. You want your circadian rhythm on track so you can get restful sleep and have energy during the day.
How to Improve Light (and Sleep) Quality in Your Home
Opt for shades instead of curtains: You want to enjoy natural light during the day and reduce energy consumption. But sometimes sunlight can overheat spaces or cause glare which leads to discomfort, distraction and stress.
To control the sunlight, choose translucent shading devices instead of heavy, opaque curtains to allow natural light in while controlling glare and overheating.
Choose warm, orange-colored lights for your bedroom: Put orange colored light bulbs in your bedroom reading lamps to help your body transition to a sleep state.
Add blackout shades to your bedroom windows: Block outside light at night with blackout shades. You want total darkness in your room to get the most restful night’s sleep.
Related: Foods that Help You Sleep
Comfort and a Healthy Home
Obviously, you want to be comfortable in your home. It’s surprising how long people can put up with uncomfortable situations in their own home. Comfort in a healthy home includes issues of thermal comfort, noise and smells.
What are the impacts of an uncomfortable home?
- Lack of productivity
- Angry or irritable mood
- Sleep disruption
- Lack of motivation
- Damage to ears
How to Improve Comfort in Your Home
Add a space heater or fan: Try to tackle a thermal comfort problem at the source by improving insulation, windows and air tightness with these easy energy saving tips, which will help you heat and cool more efficiently. Get a home energy audit and take steps to save energy on heating and cooling. If you still have a thermal comfort problem, bring in equipment to help you be more comfortable.
I lived in a home where the bedroom was the only freezing room in the house, and I waited far too long to get an electric space heater because I was concerned with the environmental impact. When I finally added the space heater, I started sleeping better, and getting out of bed in the morning was much easier.
Use the range hood: Not just for air quality, a range hood will help clear the air of unpleasant cooking odors that might end up as a distraction as the smells linger for a day or two.
Design Your Healthy Home For Quality Food
Savvy design can improve how you eat! Most of us are busier than we’d like, and we can sometimes turn to convenience foods that aren’t so healthy.
What are the impacts of a home that doesn’t support healthy eating?
- Too much processed and junk food
- Recommended amounts of fruits and veggies aren’t consumed
- Produce is wasted (here’s how to waste less with root to stem eating)
- Poor diet linked to heart disease, Type-2 diabetes, hypertension, and cancer
You know that an apple is healthier than a candy bar, but that knowledge isn’t always enough to keep you from choosing the candy bar. A kitchen designed specifically for healthy eating will encourage healthy habits and make it harder to make unhealthy decisions.
Eating healthy doesn’t have to be complicated! Here are 5 simple rules for healthy eating.
How to Encourage Healthy Eating in Your Home
Keep fresh fruit on the counter or table: Make it easy to grab a healthy snack before any unhealthy snacks come into view. Display ready-to-eat fruit and veggies on the counter or kitchen table, and hide the less healthy treats in the pantry, out of sight and out of reach.
Consider open shelving: If you are looking for a DIY project to revamp your kitchen, consider replacing one or two upper cabinets with open shelving.
Exposed shelving can help make the kitchen feel more inviting. The first step to creating healthy food is to create a kitchen that you actually want to enter. So the more open and visually pleasing you make it, the more likely you will be to cook in it.
Grow plants and herbs: Another benefit of open shelves is that they can provide the perfect place for your fresh herbs or house plants. Growing fresh herbs in your kitchen will encourage you to cook a healthy meal because you will be so excited to cook with something that you grew yourself! Plus, the plants will provide refreshing life to your kitchen, drawing you into the space. Here’s more on how to grow vegetables indoors.
Are you planning a kitchen renovation or building a new home? Click here to discover the many ways you can design a kitchen that will encourage healthy eating.
Also be mindful of the pollutants cooking on a gas range can add to your indoor air. Here are some things to consider when using a gas range or trying to choose between electric and gas.
Movement and a Healthy Home
Just like healthy eating, you know you need to exercise. Do you always do it? If you set your home up to encourage movement, you might be more likely to exercise.
What are the impacts of a home that doesn’t promote movement?
Inactivity leads to:
- Weight gain
- Lack of motivation
- Decreased happiness
- Body pain
- Chronic conditions and diseases
I know how hard it is to get to the gym or go for a run after work when you have a family. But don’t let that be your excuse. Set your home up for movement and exercise so that it is impossible to ignore and easier to fit into your schedule. A healthy home will encourage movement throughout your day.
How to Promote Movement in Your Home
Carve out space for workouts: If you live in a small, crowded house, this may sound impossible. But you might be surprised where you can find space if you really want to. Look at your living room to see if you have extra furniture in there that never gets used.
Removing it could make way for a space to do a workout video. Storeable exercise equipment like a mini stair stepper, resistance bands, or weights can be stowed under the sofa or in a storage ottoman.
Do you have a playroom with miles and miles of toys? Try consolidating (and donating some of) the toys and share the room with your kiddos. Creating a work out zone in the playroom may also encourage your kids to work out with you.
A home gym does not need to be gigantic, but it does need to be big enough to work out comfortably. If you try to work out in a closet, you are going to be miserable and not keep up with it.
Keep your laundry room in the basement even though you hate going down there: Having laundry on a different level than the main living space may seem like a pain, but it is secretly making you more active. The more laundry you have to do, the more stairs you’ll climb!
Create standing work spaces: While exercise is important, not sitting for long stretches is as well. If you tend to spend a lot of time on your computer, make a place you can stand for some of it, or consider a walking desk. Here’s more info on avoiding what’s known as sitting disease.
Calm and a Healthy Home
Your home should be a sanctuary, a place to come home at the end of a crazy day to decompress. When I come home, I want to open the door, feel a sense of calm wash over me, and leave all the stress outside.
But if your home is cluttered, disorganized, and dark, with no connection to nature, your stress levels will never go down. You will have no place to recharge. The stress, anxiety, and overwhelm will never subside. (Here are some other effective ways to reduce cortisol.)
What are the impacts of a home that doesn’t promote calm?
- Increased stress and anxiety
- Decreased happiness
- Gastrointestinal issues
- Cardiovascular disease
How to Promote Calm in Your Healthy Home
Bring on the plants: It has been proven that humans thrive when we have a connection to nature. It triggers happiness and speeds up recovery time when we’re sick. But unless you make it a priority to get outside, you’ll miss that connection to nature.
We also need to bring nature inside. One of the easiest ways to do this is to incorporate plants into your home. You do not need to create an indoor jungle, but place plants throughout your home to create calm and happiness wherever you are.
If house plants aren’t for you, incorporate nature with non-living elements. This could be a coffee table made from a tree stump, a wind chime made of sea shells or even nature-themed wall paper. (Just remember to choose wall paper that is not made of vinyl, which offgasses chemicals that affect air quality.)
Declutter: A major stress factor in our homes is clutter. Decluttering your home is a big process and can take a while. I’d recommend starting either in your entryway or your bedroom. These are the areas you see when you come home at the end of the day and wake up to in the morning, so they can instantly trigger stress.
Smart storage solutions: Once you have reduced the amount of stuff in your home, you can add in some smart storage solutions to conceal the stuff that might otherwise become clutter. Seating that doubles as storage is a wonderful thing. And having storage drawers opposed to shelving is perfect for kids, so they can easily put their own toys away without anyone having to organize them afterwards.
Important: Don’t let concerns about creating a healthy home stress you out!
If you want to start making improvements to your home to encourage a healthier lifestyle, then you are already on the right track. When I started my healthy home transformation, it took me months to implement all the strategies that improved my family’s wellness.
Take your time, and make small changes. And feel empowered because every change you make is having a positive impact on your family’s health and well-being.
If you crave more guidance during your transformation or are planning to remodel or build a new home, the Designed For Wellness online course is perfect for you. This course walks you room-by-room through the exact process for creating your own healthy home. You will gain the power to create a home that keeps your family safe and aligns with your healthy lifestyle.
Don’t forget your checklist! Grab your free download that includes the full list of tips plus bonus ideas.
Kate Hamblet is a licensed architect and the founder of Balanced Home, Balanced Life, a business dedicated to helping health-conscious families create homes that support and promote health, happiness and longevity. As a wellness architect, she has a passion for integrating wellness, health and sustainability into architectural design.
With over a decade of architectural design experience, Kate has the expertise to guide families toward the creation of a home they will fall in love with, while keeping them safe and encouraging a healthy lifestyle. Kate helps homeowners create their dream home through custom home design, consulting services and her online course, which walks homeowners through the process of creating their own healthy home.
Kate has been an educator and advocate for environmentally responsible and occupant-focused design throughout her career. She currently sits on the board for the US Green Building Council New Hampshire Chapter, which is an organization that promotes the importance of designing buildings that enhance the health of both the planet and people.
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Disclaimer: Content on this website is intended for informational purposes only and is not meant to provide personalized medical advice. I draw on numerous health sources, some of which are linked above. Please consult them for more information and a licensed professional for personalized recommendations.