More than being beautiful and functional, our homes must boost our well-being and make us happy.
To do this, architects and designers should look into the science of how buildings affect our mental health.
According to Dr Eve Edelstine, architects can utilise the findings in various neuroscientific studies to help them design buildings better. She leads Perkins&Will’s Human Experience Lab team, and they take a look at how our brain and body behave concerning the building’s design. They found out that factors such as indoor air quality, daylighting, noise control, colour, texture, and dimension affect our perception, thoughts, emotions, and actions.
Welcome to neuroarchitecture.
Do you want to know how science can help you design a home that’s good for you? Continue reading to find out:
Design around people
What neuroscience says: People are overworked and overstimulated because there are a lot of things happening in this fast-paced society. We’re feeding the body and brain more information than it can actively process. It has a significant impact on our well-being. [Source]
Recommendations: Your homes are the only place where you instantly recharge after a busy day. Make it your personal and private haven. Create spaces that are free from digital distractions so you can focus on spending time with your family and friends. It can be an open-plan family room that’s connected to the backyard, or any outdoor area as long as it supports the value of people coming together.
Invite an ample amount of sunlight
What neuroscience says: Day lighting is as crucial as artificial indoor lighting. Sunlight keeps our body’s circadian rhythm regular. [Source]
Recommendations: Engage an architect who will help you plan the location of the windows to allow ample amount of morning light to come into your home. A great one will also make sure your windows will frame the relaxing and refreshing view seen from your home.
It is great to have a large and full window in areas you use during the day (e.g. family room, bedroom). Arrange the furniture properly to make sure you feel the sunshine come in.
If you have a home office, make sure that your work desk is near a window. Whenever you’re feeling stressed, take a quick look at the outside world.
Block light at certain times of the day
What neuroscience says: Light and darkness are needed to normalise our internal biological clocks or circadian rhythms. Our homes and cities are well-lit from morning until night-time, which affects our sleeping patterns, mood, eating habits, and digestion.
As much as you want to maximise daylighting in the morning, you also need to block the intense sun rays in the afternoon and provide darkness at night.
Recommendations: Don’t forget to install shades on your windows so you can block the afternoon sun and the light from the streets at night. Keep your bedroom dark during bedtime — make sure no lights come in from the other room, a computer, or a cellphone. Plan a layered lighting scheme to improve your bedroom interiors. Consider installing dimmer switches and lamps with tri-colour bulbs.
Block the noise
What neuroscience says: Pleasant sounds at one moment could be unwanted at another.
Recommendation: Have a combination of absorptive and reflective materials to distribute sounds differently. Install acoustic paneling in the walls to keep noise from travelling to the next room. Soft carpets and area rugs absorb sound and create a quieter space.
Connect with nature
What neuroscience says: Humans have an innate urge to affiliate with other forms of life; biophilia as we call it.
Recommendation: Invest in a home that offers beautiful natural views. Incorporate glazing to connect your home to the Earth. Use natural building materials in your interior design. Put a small water feature in your garden (pond, fountain, birdbath, water bowl, etc.). Nestle it near lush greenery. The sound of trickling water is relaxing and beneficial to our mental and physical health.
Open your space
What neuroscience says: People enjoy open spaces more than enclosed ones.
Recommendations: You don’t need to live in a McMansion to pull off an open-plan interior. Instead of focusing on the size of the room, pay more attention to its design. Small spaces are beautiful and cosy when functional and designed well.
With a talented designer on your team, you can create a home that suits your specific needs. Plan the layout, so the flow feels natural and uninterrupted. Open your space to make it feel more spacious.
Cut the clutter
What neuroscience says: Adults living in cluttered homes report a decrease in satisfaction in life. Unlike others, they are not proud of their home. They feel more stressed, and they tend to eat unhealthy food.
A comfortable and clutter-free environment is essential to your mental hygiene. Having too many things crammed in a small space is distracting and chaotic.
Recommendation: Prioritise storage when designing your home. Declutter — keep a few items that you need.
Create a home that promotes well-being
Your home is more than a building where you stay. It is where you live; it shapes you as a person. Do everything to maintain happiness in your home and see how it affects your life as a whole.
If you need help renovating or building a new (better) home, contact us.