Live Well, Stay Well
American residential trends center on lifestyle and life stages to create environments that contribute to health, happiness, and longevity. It’s a philosophy referred to as living in place or livable design. In design, it’s “a forward-thinking concept that beautifully integrates long-lasting functionality for the ever-changing lifestyles of today’s multi-generational families,” according to Kerrie Kelly, creative director, Kerrie Kelly Design Lab and a member of the National Kitchen & Bath Association.
“Livable design is not a single feature, but a series of elements that likely escape conscious notice,” explained Kelly. “They work in concert to enhance the functionality, flow, beauty, and safety of the home.”
Livable and Visitable
Top priorities include easy cleaning and maintenance; faucets and door hardware that are easy to manipulate or voice-controlled, and layered lighting. These goals can be accomplished utilizing on-trend designs—think architectural vs. institutional, Kelly said. Barn doors, for instance, slide easily and allow for a wider opening than a traditional doorway. French doors open wide for easy maneuvering of a wheelchair, walker, hand-truck, or stroller.
A universally “visitable” home has a zero-step entrance, doorways with a minimum of 36 inches of passage, and at least one bathroom on the main floor with no threshold.
For an easy-access shower, a wet room is tiled from floor-to-ceiling and is curbless to avoid tripping, and allow easy roll-in access.
Customized cabinetry includes motorized and vertical-lift doors, interior lighting, and vanities that push aside to allow easy wheelchair access.
Working Toward Wellness
Wellness is currently a $1.3 billion industry, with 8 percent growth expected by 2022, Kelly noted. “People spend 90 percent of their time indoors. It’s important to spend this time in the healthiest possible environments.”
Light the Way
Good lighting encourages proper circadian rhythms and optimizes visual, mental and biological health.
“Light is the main driver of circadian rhythms. It impacts our sleep cycles, mood, symptoms of depression, healing and recovery,” Kelly noted. “Integrating daylight and electric light, along with traditional requirements for visual acuity and comfort, can lead to healthier and more productive environments.”
To maximize these benefits, introduce products that mimic light in nature, enhance light exposure, balance light to control glare and address circadian rhythms to support sleep and wellness.
Not Too Hot, Not Too Cold
The thermal environment is one of the highest-ranked factors in determining human comfort indoors, she observed. It impacts buildings’ energy consumption; how people experience their environments, and health, well-being, productivity and enjoyment of a space. Incorporate products that control air temperature, zoning for heating/cooling, humidity, and even a heated floor or toilet seat.
Acoustical comfort means people can hear properly, and unwanted sounds are minimized. This can be optimized with sound barriers, fabrics, acoustical tiles, and other materials that absorb or mask sound, which also help with speech intelligibility.
Of course, all the physical elements of design for healthy living contribute to a healthy mind. Depression and anxiety contribute to 4 percent of disease and are among the largest causes of disability. The built environment can help mitigate these outcomes. Design features to boost mental health include access to nature, restorative spaces, sleep support, and use of organic materials.