As a designer I’m all too aware that we often dive into projects thinking about the large visual features – how will the style of the spaces be defined, what material the floor will be, what colour the walls will be painted – rather than what impact the space will have on the wellbeing of those who use it.
In the human-centred approach my team and I use, we ensure that people are at the heart of any design; rather than just focusing on aesthetic impact, the experience of the space through all the senses is considered. The aim is to create beneficial multi-sensory journeys through spaces.
This means not only focusing on the larger features but considering the smaller moments where we connect with materials on our haptic journey as well. Door handles, handrails and light switches all offer beneficial interactions with materials throughout the day. It is important to ensure that these features support our sensory wellbeing, whether that be the comforting warmth of wood or the cool of a metal surface; this often-overlooked attention to detail can make a real difference to daily life.
Schneider Electric can help with switches and sockets – choose stone and wood for a connection with natural materials, metal and glass for cool tactile stimuli, and Kvadrat Fabrics for subtle colour and texture. The customizable nature of these products creates a personal touch, and the adaptability allows users to be in control of decisions.
When it comes to specific rooms in the home, remember that we start and end our sensory journey each day in the bedroom; it’s where we retreat to, where we want to feel relaxed and secure, and wake up rejuvenated for the day ahead. So, consider introducing softer textures and lighting here, with a calm, clutter free sophisticated aesthetic.
Now, in the kitchen and bathrooms, hygiene is key. The sensory journey continues here with harder, cooler, wipe-clean surfaces. Coming into a post-COVID era, we are now more aware than ever of the touchpoints in our spaces, with light switches, door handles and communal electrical appliances being high up on the ‘to disinfect’ list.
Schneider Electric’s silver ion technology in the white antibacterial range of switches and sockets supports a germ-free environment and conveniently takes away some of the need for continuous cleaning.
If you saw my last blog post or have read our eBook about the ‘home of the future’, you will know that the health and wellbeing of both people and planet are a priority of mine. Creating homes that are fit for the future requires some innovative thinking around materials, too.
So, here are seven tips for how to specify materials that support wellbeing of both the users and the wider environment:
- Start by analysing the different areas you are creating in the home: what will they be used for and how will people want to feel in them? (e.g., relaxed, energised, social).
- Define each ‘zone’ accordingly, and then create a palette of colours, textures, patterns and planting for each that creates a rich and sensory diverse environment.
- Work with your client to identify the level of sensory stimuli and types of materials they prefer, so that you can create spaces that feel comfortable to them. For example, adaptable functions such as dimmable lighting enhances occupant experience.
- Use locally sourced materials for larger features (for example, local timber for beams, flooring or wall panels). Not only will this reduce the carbon footprint of your design, but it will also help your client feel connected with the local landscape and support their sense of belonging.
- Choose low or VOC-free materials for improved interior air quality (preferably with a Green premium ecolabel). VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) can have long term negative health effects if we breathe them in.
- Design in textural contrasts to create mindful moments between spaces and features i.e., contrast cool stone with warmer timber surfaces.
- For restorative spaces, create harmony between the colours and textures in soft furniture and your fittings to create a well-considered scheme (You can use Schneider Electric’s ‘Find your style’ tool to help visualize material, colour and switch combinations).
Schneider uses a product sustainability programme called ‘Green premium ecolabel’ that provides transparent information on hazardous substances, material content, environmental impact and end-of-life instructions for all of their products.
In a post-covid era, we need to go beyond designing purely for aesthetics towards creating spaces that support and nurture occupants. Appealing to all the body’s senses will create a richer and more engaging experience. When designed well, this can benefit both people and planet.
For more on how to do this, read our new eBook, ‘Designing Sustainable Homes for Healthy Living’. Here, we discuss new consumer trends and what they mean for home design, how designers and architects can incorporate these changing needs and interests into their work, and which smart technologies can be used to support sustainability and healthier living.
This post was written as part of a paid partnership with Schneider Electric.