It’s been a year since Dayhouse Studio and OMNI Self-care published our article “Healthy Dwelling” describing how to design health-focused biophilic interiors for people living with chronic disorders. In this blog post, I summarize key messages from the article, including WHY and HOW we can create home and commercial spaces that support our mental and physical health.
The article “Healthy Dwelling: Design of Biophilic Interior Environments Fostering Self-care Practices for People Living with Migraine, Chronic Pain, and Depression” was published in the February 2022 issue of an open-access International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. Since then, it has been accessed over 7,400 times, and referenced in 8 other articles (Google Scholar analytics).
And no wonder its success with "6 out of 10 American adults" and "4 out of every 10 children living with chronic diseases", there are real-life prospects for improving at-home health care. The Healthy Dwelling article highlights opportunities for creating therapeutic interior environments by combining biophilic design principles with disease-specific self-care practices.
A - Therapeutic Environment for Migraine Sufferers
For example, how can you design a home environment for people living with migraine? We suggest that the lighting conditions play an important role in preventing migraine headaches.
Based on research studies, a combination of indirect natural light, narrow-band green LED light, and dimmable cove lighting can help a person to reduce migraine headaches. As shown in rendering A, designing biophilic spaces dedicated to foster relaxation (including aromatherapy), can support stress-reduction for people living with migraine pain.
I will be writing in an upcoming blog about my personal journey with migraine and the elements I have used to significantly decrease their numbers and intensity. These methods can work!
B - Therapeutic Environment for Chronic Pain
People living with chronic pain can benefit from exposure to natural sunlight and a smart lighting system supporting natural circadian rhythms.
Biophilic elements, such as fresh flowers, indoor plants, natural materials, a soundscape and spaces promoting physical exercises, social support and relaxation can contribute to pain reduction.
Rendering B, a therapeutic interior for people with chronic pain, illustrates the importance of integrating specific landscaping design, a biophilic intervention. In addition, many people are not aware of research studies supporting music for pain relief, so soundscapes can also provide therapeutic benefits.
While this example is most conducive to a commercial space, e.g. a commercial gym, these elements can be implemented into any home environment as well.
C - Therapeutic Environment for Depression
Since a mental health crisis has been at the news forefront, designing for people living with depression seems more timely than ever. Creating therapeutic spaces which can reduce depressive symptoms and prevent relapses includes a brightly lit interior.
The use of strategically placed windows allowing direct sunlight to shine through is ideal.
However, as an alternative to direct sunlight, there are new lighting products on the market that emulate the experience. While not bringing the same punch natural lighting would, there are benefits nevertheless. Check out this lighting technology as an example.
Based on research studies, home environments fostering mindfulness meditation, yoga, physical exercise, and listening to music can further support the reduction of depressive symptoms.
Explore rendering C illustrating how these components work together with self-care practices, providing a therapeutic environment for depression.
Design and Photo Credit: Dayhouse Studio
But what if you could only focus on one design element that would be helpful across all chronic illness categories or the prevention thereof? What would it be? Creating a sense of refuge.
At Dayhouse Studio, the biophilic principle called “refuge” is a key design element we add into every environment. We have come to believe it is an essential component to creating any therapeutic environment.
So what is a refuge? It is space that elicits a sense of safety, protection and relaxation. I will be writing an upcoming blog on all things refuge and how to design one. Tune in if you are interested in learning more or check out the Basics of Biophilic Design!
What about other Chronic Medical Conditions?
These health-focused design principles can apply to diverse chronic medical conditions, ranging from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease to arthritis and fibromyalgia.
As mentioned in the article, they also apply to residential homes, hospital-at-home programs, as well as workplaces, healthcare and hospitality facilities and other commercial spaces.
It’s time for architects, interior designers, developers and construction companies to rethink real-life prospects to improve the health and well-being of their clients.
Unique Design Ideas from the Article
What are some unique design ideas described in the Healthy Dwelling article? Using a smart lighting system delivering specific light wavelengths (e.g. green and blue-zero) is one strategy to improve health conditions through the light therapy principles.
Of course, regulating the circadian rhythms through the use of interior lighting can improve quality sleep - and this by itself can improve the immune functions and cardiovascular health.
Samsung The Art Frame TV: Dayhouse Studio design and photo credit
Another unique design idea is to use the Frame TV (by Samsung®) as a means to create a multi-sensory environment by combining biophilic elements with soundscapes. Since most households have a TV in the living room anyway, why not make use of this TV to display biophilic art and to play relaxing music, when not watching movies or other TV programs.
What about Prevention?
Of equal importance to improving health care outcomes, is the prevention of chronic diseases. Creating healthy homes using eco-friendly materials, toxin-free household items, air purifiers (in particular when outdoor air pollution reaches unhealthy levels, as it does here in Salt Lake City), daily self-care, and stress-free activities in nature are necessities in order to reduce the risk of developing any number of chronic conditions.
Enjoying fun time with friends and family is as essential as enjoying quiet and meditative time alone. Did I mention healthy nutrition?
Those who like to go deep into the science of things, I hope you will explore the “Healthy Dwelling” article where you will learn more about the scientific rationale and practical solutions behind health-focused biophilic interior design.
This article has over 160 references, and it was peer-reviewed, meaning that independent experts in this field reviewed the manuscript and provided their comments, before the revised manuscript was approved for publication by the journal’s editors.
Let’s start a conversation! Reach out to me and share your comments and questions. Are you ready to redesign your living spaces to bring more of nature indoors?
* A Chatbot free blog