Making a Sanctuary of your Home with Bobby Berk

Our partner and favorite Interior Design Expert, Bobby Berk, reminds us “A harmonious home equals inner peace.” A calm exterior leads to a calm interior, and when we are at peace we can be more mindful and productive.  At Molekule our mission is to help make your home a sanctuary using science to clean the air, and we also like to provide other methods for peaceful home design. Here we’ve collected some ideas that are not only intuitive, they’re also backed by research. 

Keeping your home neat is a great step, but putting effort into a peaceful approach to interior design can foster creativity, personal growth, and a healthy way of life. The short answer is experiencing nature and natural elements promotes a feeling of wellbeing. Finding any way to make your home feel a little more like a pleasant forest scene is the best overall strategy, and here are some specifics.

 

  1. Be mindful of how airborne contaminants build up indoors

You consume air more often than anything else, and some pollutants can be more concentrated inside than outside because without wind pollution can concentrate. Off-gases from synthetic materials, odors, fumes from cooking, and carbon dioxide from breathing are just a few of the pollutants that can build up indoors. These airborne substances can irritate your lungs or worse- even mildly elevated levels of carbon dioxide can impair higher brain functions and damage internal organs over time.

Source control is a good way to keep overall levels of contaminants down. Scented cleaning products release volatile organic compounds into the air, so switching to warm water and soap for most surfaces can help to improve air quality. If you burn candles, vegetable waxes have a smaller negative impact on air quality than paraffin. 

It’s not an option to stop all indoor sources of air pollution, so be sure to always use the exhaust fans above your stove and in your bathroom. Cooking releases all kinds of particles and gases that can be unhealthy over time, and letting water vapor condense in your home can lead to mold.

Letting in air from outside is a great way to dilute any contaminants that build up. Even cracking the window a little can help to reduce their concentration, but another option is to use a portable air purifier like Molekule. PECO technology in Molekule air purifiers cleans the air using the same techniques as the sun, and can remove off-gases, dust, pollen, fine particles from cooking and many other contaminants all while fitting in with almost any home decor. Keep in mind that ventilation is still important because no air purifier deals with carbon dioxide from your breath or carbon monoxide from flame.

 

  1. Show a love for living things with plants

Biophilic design is the idea of incorporating nature and natural elements into architecture and interior spaces. Almost everyone loves plants, but most of us don’t realize how important they are. Not only do plants provide their own style and design, they can have positive effects on your mind and body. Just having plants around can improve blood pressure, short-term memory and even healing. Handling and repotting plants is a proven calming activity, possibly due to natural microbes thought to mimic antidepressants that live in soil.

The best plants to pick are plants that will be comfortable in your home and that you’ll be comfortable taking care of. Most plant nurseries will have an indoor plant section with hardy choices like Golden pothos, snake plants, spider plants and other species that don’t need direct sunlight and are resistant to under and over watering. If you typically have difficulty keeping plants alive, Bobby would remind you that artificial plants provide the same visuals. One study even found that experiencing a biophilic space in virtual reality had similar benefits as real life, which means even pictures of plants are a good idea.

 

  1. Use lighting that complements the space and common activities

The best lighting for our bodies is daylight during the day and a little low firelight at night. Bright electric lights that shine a full spectrum of white light might be great for seeing what you are doing, but they can cause circadian rhythm disruptions and sleep problems. Cool light, which is more blue like the sky, can help in the daytime with performing activities, but can disrupt sleep patterns at night because it can inhibit melatonin production. Warm or more red light, like from a fire, does not inhibit melatonin production and may even improve night time alertness for certain tasks.

After you’ve opened any blinds you have to let in the daylight, you can supplement with some choice electric lighting in the right spectrum. Most bulbs will have a four digit number followed by a K to represent their color spectrum. 2000K to 3100K is warm light and 3100K and 4500K is cool light.

Cool lights are best in rooms where you want to be productive during the day, like the kitchen or home office. In the bedroom or in relaxing after-hours rooms a more warm light can be better for a calm evening. If the same living space is used productively during the day and for relaxation at night, put a cool bulb in an overhead fixture and a warm bulb in a table lamp, then switch over when the work is done to help create your evening sanctuary.

 

  1. Neutral landscape colors and naturally rough textures are inviting

Following lighting is color and texture. Traditionally, the warm and cool palettes are flipped compared to lighting when considering the color of a room. Blue is considered by many to be calm and serene, with red at the other end of the spectrum representing excitement or anger. However, research shows that a combination of brightness, saturation, and other factors is more important to the emotional impact than the specific color or even the cultural association. Perhaps most importantly, paired colors evoke less of an emotional response, so using a second or accent color can help to cancel out colorful associations. Then, texture adds a whole other dimension that strongly influences how each hue makes us feel.

Of all aspects of interior design, color probably has the most confounding choices- Bobby has 6 favorite grays and did a whole project just about white. Color choice depends on the typical activities in each room, natural lighting, furniture choices, and personal preference. Peaceful color palettes are not too bright or dark, and use neutral colors common in natural landscapes like white, ivory, tan, and light grey mixed with blue and green.

Bobby likes to suggest using “layered texture” to give a space a more natural depth. Texture in this context is the patterning of the colors, like the grain of wood, the weave of fabrics or rugs, wall art, or anything else that breaks a solid color. Layering textures would be something like placing rugs over wood floors or knit pillows on a couch. Finding art or materials that have the textures that richly layer nature like wood, rock, grass, and leaves will further enhance the feeling of a calm sanctuary.

 

  1. Organize everything so you have space to think

The home is an extension of the self, so the state of clutter in our homes can impact our sense of wellbeing. When ignoring cluttered items, your brain still has to process them, which breaks your concentration and effectively lowers your working memory. Simply having too many things scattered about can also increase your stress, emotional exhaustion, and tension. In comparison, having an orderly space has even been found to have direct benefits like helping with making healthy eating choices. However, it is important to point out that disorderly spaces can be better for creativity, so keep that drawer or bin of art supplies and scraps.

It is difficult to keep a home clutter free and even more difficult to declutter a home. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, it is best to have a system. Then take it a little bit at a time, starting with one room or one table top. Actually removing things from the house is important for your health, but just making your home look organized can go a long way. Bobby has several easy tips for organizing right here.

 

Nature is a great inspiration for design choices that make a home a sanctuary that provides a sense of wellbeing simply by living in it. Most of us believe our homes are extensions of ourselves. Design a home that incorporates calming natural aspects like clean air, plants, firelight, and a lack of scattered artificial objects to make a more peaceful place to be.

Keep an eye on Molekule’s blog and  Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts for more about the science of air quality and wellbeing.

Written by

Haldane King is a molecular biologist by education, a statistician by training, and a researcher by nature. He spent 15 years in the market research world helping to grow all types of companies from pharmaceuticals to software to insurance. Haldane has researched the world of air quality, air pollution, and air purifiers at Molekule and now proudly attends to the molekule.com/blog blog.