Promoting well-being at home (Bricks & Mortar)

PH Lampan (1958), Paul Henningsen Photo: Holger Ellgaard

The following extract was first published in The Times’ Bricks & Motar supplement. You can find the full article, Light up your life with these home decor tricks here.

“What makes a happy house? That’s a question that interior designers and developers are asking more and more, in a bid to create homes that promote better mental health. This is particularly appropriate in January — the month when bad weather, dark evenings and post-Christmas debt can combine to give you the blues. If you are renovating this spring, here are the things that you need to consider for better peace of mind.”


Bad lighting can be linked to depression. However, experts say that when looking for a solution people are making the wrong choice—they replace lamps and chandeliers with spotlights. “Studies have shown that you experience emotions more intensely under bright lighting. In hospitals and laboratories this is important, but you do not always need this in your home,” says Ben Channon, a mental health expert at Assael Architecture who specialised in mental health and mindfulness after he became depressed when studying for his architecture degree.
“There is a level of lighting that everyone needs in the daytime, but too many people sit in cold, bright lighting during the evening too, and this can affect your circadian rhythm [body clock]—it tricks your brain into thinking it’s daytime when it’s evening. That can make it harder to get to sleep, which has a negative impact on mental health. People would be better off choosing lamps that create a warm feeling and a glowing light.”

“Construction companies are increasingly using wellbeing experts, such as the development consultant Ekkist, to design their properties.”

Choosing lighting with ambience is a specialism of companies such as Louis Poulsen in Denmark. Its lights are available from a variety of retailers online, including Nest. The company’s renowned Artichoke lamp costs £5,000, £10,000 for the largest version, but replicas can be bought for much less.
“Construction companies are increasingly using wellbeing experts, such as the development consultant Ekkist, to design their properties. Ekkist specialises in homes with a “daylight-first approach to lighting, meaning that you are relying more on natural light as opposed to artificial lighting, helping to maintain your body’s natural rhythms and chemical responses.”


Experts say that living with (or near) nature is important for mental health. Well-being specialists talk of the biophilia hypothesis, pioneered by the American biologist Edward O Wilson, which makes the correlation between being close to nature and positive mood.
Many modern developments have been designed with nature in mind. The rapid rise of living walls, self-sufficient vertical gardens that increasingly feature in development courtyards and terraces, is a testament to this. Surrounding yourself with greenery is the easiest way to lift your home. Andy Sturgeon, a landscape gardener whose book Potted focuses on houseplants, recommends moth orchids, which are beautiful and easy to maintain; trendy hanging cacti and succulents; and Swiss cheese plants, popular in the 1970s, but coming back into fashion.
“There is this aspect of nurturing something—of looking after it. It gives people a tremendous sense of reward and well-being,” Sturgeon says.
Ian Bayliss, the co-founder of Bowler James Brindley, the interior designer, says “Don’t be afraid to go mad with plants and hide the gadgets.”


A low-cost and simple way to make an impact on how your space feels is through colour. Yellow, for example, is proved to stimulate serotonin release, which makes you happy, while greens and blues can make you feel calm.
However, be careful. Different colours are appropriate for different people—and the tone of the colour you chose matters too. Marianne Shillingford, the creative director of Dulux, the paint company, says: “Yellow is positive and uplifting, it makes you think of spring, baby chicks, sunshine and warmth. However, there is a darker element of yellow. If you put yellow with black, you think you’re going to be stung or bitten. So we would recommend softer tones—an egg-yolk, for example.”