Wellness design materials to watch

Wellness design materials to watch


With many Australians spending more time at home than ever before there's never been a bigger desire for homes that are not only functional, but help to improve our quality of life.

Clever tradies and designers have been able to capitalise on these trends, offering smart solutions to allow wellness-minded customers to bring more health and vitality into the home. Here's how.

1. Let fresh air flow

Danny Juric, director of Plus Architecture Brisbane, says there are many ways tradies can help their customers improve air quality in homes.

"We're often [asking questions] about the materiality that we use, and how does that affect the physical health of the people who use those materials," Juric says.

He says they pay attention to things like volatile organic compounds [VOCs] ¬ which are gases that can be emitted from certain liquids and solids and have adverse health effects – in products they use.

"They can be emitted from carpets and fabrics and paints, and your choice of product can make a big difference," he says.

"We're also relying a lot on natural breeze ventilation for fresh air, introducing louver windows in high rise buildings in Queensland, which is really unheard of."

Good home positioning can also mitigate the need for much artificial heating and cooling.

"Using passive solar design, so that you're allowing the northern sun to come into your property in winter [is ideal] … as is having an air-sealed house with a heat recovery ventilator so that your home is comfortable all year round," says Frances Cosway, design director of White Pebble Interiors.

"Hydronic heating is also much nicer than having a reverse-cycle unit on the wall blasting hot air into you face, which leads to headaches and fatigue."

On top of prioritising a client's health at home, Juric says it's important to consider the health of the workers creating the products we use in construction.

"We won't specify composite stone bench tops from our office any more because of the health implications that have come to light," he explains, referring to cases of silicosis arising in construction workers from cutting artificial stone.

"Six months ago it was what we actually specified but now we're back to using marble mostly."

2. Use natural materials and colours 

Opting for wood, stone and earthy colours can really bring a feeling of vitality and harmony into a home.

"When you go out and have a walk in nature, it completely changes your mindset, so if you can create that connection to nature inside, it makes a big difference to how you feel," Cosway says.

"Using materials like timber, petrified timber and natural stones – anything that is from nature – to bring that connection with the outdoors."

When it comes to paint and surface colour choices, Cosway says the most important thing is for clients to go for colours they love, not just what's on trend.

"Surround yourself with colours you love – [ask your clients] what makes you feel relaxed?" she asks.

"As a general rule, it's the colours of nature that make people feel relaxed – it's the earthy greens and pastel colours and blues."

At the same time, making a home as low maintenance as possible offers quality of life improvements that can benefit mental health, whether that's through clever storage or using easy-to-clean surfaces.

"We are re-employing laminate finishes for joinery and cupboards – you [often] can't discern them from timber, and they're a highly resistant and low-maintenance material," Juric says.

"Look at how you can optimise the functionality [of the home], such as where the laundry is positioned – for a lot of people, how you do your laundry is key to a successful low maintenance existence."

3. Designing for good mental health

From home offices that promote mental focus to multi-purpose spaces that can double as a yoga studio or workout nook, there are a myriad of opportunities for tradies to help people maximise their happiness at home.

"We're designing homes that actually promote healthy living – it's really exciting," Juric says.

"We're turning the traditional media room into a home office giving you the ability to separate yourself from the rest of the home [using] doors, acoustic treatment and backdrops that are elegant when you're on Teams or Zoom."

Where possible, Juric suggests giving home offices a separate entrance from the house and considering innovative ways to promote healthy work habits.

"We're introducing daylight, fresh air and a zip for cold water, encouraging
[clients] to get up, stretch their legs and back, and to get hydrated [in work breaks]," he says.

"We're [also trying to create] a mental shift so that, at five o'clock when you clock off, you'll be able to exit the [work] zone and move into your family space."


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