The Role of Comfort in Wellness at Home

Comfortable family room with oversized sliding doors to outside. By KGA Studio Architects.

Staying healthy and well is top of mind for most of us right now. Whether you’ve spent the past month – or longer – sheltering in place, there’s been more than enough time to discover whether your home is comfortable or not. As I write this, Colorado is getting ready to lift its stay at home order and shift to “safer at home”. Only time will tell exactly how this will play out. What I do know is, all of this time at home has got me thinking about ways I can create a space that promotes wellness, rather than one that adds to my stress. Cabin fever aside, how comfortable you feel at home can play a direct role in your over-all health and wellness. And, if you’re suffering from cabin fever, planning a home improvement project or remodel can be a great distraction. We all know that things like eating well, getting enough sleep, and exercising are good for reducing stress levels. However, what you might not be as familiar with is the role of comfort in wellness and ways your home can help passively reduce stress.

The Role of Comfort in a Better Life

There’s a wellness formula I’ve started applying to my life that I’d like to share.  When you’re comfortable, you’re able to relax; and when you relax, your stress levels go down.  When you’re less stressed, you’re happier, more productive, and better able to handle whatever surprises life might throw your way.  It boils down to comfort = a better life.  This idea is simple and straightforward, and certainly isn’t anything groundbreaking.  So, why are comfort and self-care the first things we cut out when we get busy or stressed?  Don’t worry, I’m guilty of it too.  It’s no secret that stress and exhaustion can make you less productive, generally disorganized, and emotionally depleted.  Why not make sure your home is working for you to help you fully recharge and effectively manage stress in the precious time you have? Here are some of my favorite design ideas and things to think about to make sure your home is contributing to your wellness.

This upper level loft features a full wall of built-in shelving for the homeowners’ book collection.

Create Storage That Works for Your Lifestyle

We all love looking at magazine-worthy photos of dreamy, clutter-free, designer interior spaces, but most of us probably feel like the minimalist lifestyle represented in many of those photos just isn’t achievable for us.  Well, here’s a secret.  If you get creative and efficient with the spaces and storage in your home, those magazine-worthy spaces could absolutely be your real life.  When you’re talking with your architect about the program for your new custom home or remodel, it’s important to consider the livability and practicality of your space.  If there’s a space in your home that always seems to collect clutter or just makes you feel bad, stressed, or overwhelmed, there’s a chance that problem can be solved with creative design!  You’ll be amazed by how much better you feel walking in to your dream space day after day. What’s even better is how much time you’ll get back not having to constantly fuss over spaces that just aren’t working for your lifestyle.

Flexible spaces like this craft room can adapt to serve many different purposes as your lifestyle and needs change.

Look for Flexible Spaces

Another idea worth considering for your new home are flexible spaces that can grow and adapt to your changing lifestyle. Designing in spaces that can help you prepare for the unexpected will help you feel at ease in your home, and could help you avoid a possible move if life throws a curve ball your way. Speaking of curve balls, odds are you’re working from home right now due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Recent events are a perfect example of how useful flexible spaces can be. What was once a guest room, playroom, or junk room is now a home office. These days, if you have a home office with a door, you’re one of the lucky ones! In the future this space might go back to being a guest room, or could function as an art studio, recording room for a podcast, or whatever you need it to be. As time passes, this room might accommodate new hobbies, or allow you to host family for the holidays. If kids enter the picture, this space could serve as a play room so you aren’t constantly stepping on the Baby Shark toy in the hallway just after you’ve put the little one down for a nap. The opposite is also true – once kids are grown and living on their own, their rooms can turn into all of the above. For more on flexible spaces, check out these ideas from KGA.

A retreat can be as simple as this built-in window seat in the master suite.

Don’t Forget to Include a Retreat

I’m willing to bet if you look at your dream home Pinterest or Houzz board closely, you’ll be able to pick up on a theme. Do most of your pins include a spacious living room with soft colors and inviting furniture? Maybe it’s an outdoor living space perfect for escaping from the demands of your daily life. My board’s theme is a spa-like bathroom with vaulted ceilings, tons of natural light, a soaking tub, and deep windowsills for plants, much like the space pictured below. No matter how your dream retreat space manifests, you absolutely deserve to include it as part of your custom home or remodel program. Splurging on a space like this now can play a big role in your ability to recharge in the comfort of your own home for years to come.

This spa-like master bath is a great place to relax and recharge.

Climate Control is Critical for Comfort

I love curling up on the couch with a book and a cup of tea to recharge, especially on cold days. The only problem is, my couch sits right under a large window, and I always end up grabbing a jacket just to get comfortable. Windows are great for letting in beneficial natural light and a breeze of fresh air on a warm day, but inefficient windows are no way to create a stress-reducing space. Consider doing yourself a favor and talking to your architect or builder about more efficient windows. Better windows combined with the right installation and insulation techniques to avoid cold spots help create a comfortable climate in your home. You’ll likely get the added bonus of a more energy efficient house by doing so, and a smaller energy bill will definitely contribute to helping you relax! Depending on your home, it might also be worth exploring radiant floor heating. Typically more efficient than baseboard or forced air heating, radiant floor heating won’t stir up asthma-aggravating dust and allergens, and it’s a far more uniform way to heat a space. It’s also a nice treat to keep your feet warm year-round!

House plants are the simplest way to bring nature into your home.

Incorporate Nature into Your Home

There’s enough scientific data out there to convince me that nature is good for reducing stress. While we might not be able to get out for a walk or a hike every day, we can certainly look at ways to incorporate nature into our home to help passively reduce stress. Biophilic design is the practice of incorporating recognizable characteristics of nature in our built environment. The aim is to reconnect us to nature, taking advantage of the many benefits nature has to offer. This can be as elaborate as an indoor or outdoor water feature or as simple as adding a few house plants. Using natural materials like wood, stone, and natural textiles can also help you connect to nature. Most natural materials come with the added benefit of being inherently low VOC, so you can feel good about using those materials in your home. My favorite way to bring nature into my indoor environment is through plants (don’t worry, I don’t think architecture will be going back to the world of retro built-in indoor brick planters anytime soon!). There are lots of companies nowadays like The Sill, an online based nursery that ships potted plants directly to your door. The plants come with comprehensive information so even the most novice of green thumbs can successfully maintain some indoor plants!

Outdoor spaces create a great retreat that also gets you close to nature. This one even has a fireplace to cozy up by on cool nights.

Your Space Should be a Reflection of You

Ensure your home is a space where you can feel comfortable and reap the benefits of recharging by making your home a reflection of who you are.  Be sure to communicate with your architect about your style preferences and lifestyle.  You want your home to be something that continues to inspire you day in and day out.  Knowing more about you and having access to your curated Pinterest or Houzz boards will help ensure your architect is able to make your home the relaxation station you deserve!

With so many avenues to pursue a more comfortable home environment, I hope you feel that at least some of these are within your reach.  Let’s make sure your home is working for you, not against you, so you can recharge effortlessly and continue to rock anything life throws your way.

About the Author

Shannon Ricketts joined KGA in March of 2019. A native of Albuquerque, New Mexico, she now calls Boulder home and can’t get enough of the Colorado lifestyle. Pretty much any time of the year you can find Shannon and her fiancé enjoying the outdoors with their rescued black lab, Shadow. Some of their favorite activities include backpacking, trail running, gardening, and winter camping. Shannon is passionate about living sustainably both in terms of reducing waste and prioritizing well-being.

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