One of the most commonly cited pains we hear when visiting a home for the first time is;
‘we just don’t have enough space’
For homeowners, particularly with smaller plots and limited budgets, whether to extend their home or not is a huge decision.
Many people feel that this is their only option, the first question we ask is this?
‘Do you have a happy home?’
Mental well-being being is at the forefront of discussions right now. Never has there been such a spotlight on both our physical and mental health. With Marie Kondo rising to fame with the hit series Tidying Up, people all over the world are looking to find ways to ‘bring joy’ to their every day lives.
According to Maslow’s infamous Hierarchy of Needs, we need food, warmth and shelter to take that first step on the ladder toward ‘self-actualisation’ – but how can your environment, your home, shape your psychological well-being?
Just by looking at these 5 key areas of design, you can completely transform your home.
Like flowers, humans are living, growing organisms. We all know that if we put a plant in the darkest part of the house, away from sunlight, it will not thrive. Yet we often put ourselves so far down the list we do not consider the implications of a lack of sunlight on our own bodies, not to mention our mental well-being.
So, how can we make sure we are bringing light into our home?
- Roof lights – never a substitute for a window with a view, but as a rule of thumb, the more sky you can see from a window, the more beneficial light you will gain, so for maximising the natural light in your home you can’t beat a roof light. Either in an extension at ground floor or in a skilled ceiling/tunnelled on an upper floor, a roof light completely changes the mood of a room, making it a happy, healthy place to be all year round. Sun pipes will also perform the same function through a reflective pipe tunnelled through the roof space, these work especially well if you have an inner room that has no access to natural light.
- Are the rooms in your home too deep in plan? Where this is the case there will not be enough light getting to the back of a room, this may be rectified by adding a roof light or sun pipe as far into a room as possible or using artificial light to create zoning in the room so that you have the more intimate ‘snug’ spaces towards the back of the room and the busier daytime activities happening in the lighter part of the room.
It’s not all about floor space, we can have sprawling floor space and still feel cramped, in fact extensions upon extensions seemingly only take us further from the feeling of space and openness in our homes – we will naturally gravitate towards the light, leaving those darker spaces often as dumping grounds within the home. What would we suggest? – To literally raise the roof! Where possible increase ceiling height, particularly in the more sociable spaces. If you are building an extension, skill the ceiling to follow the pitch of a roof line, an alternative way to do this is to drop the floor level where appropriate.
3. Create a ‘family hub’
Ikea famously capitalised on the song ‘you’ll always find me in the kitchen at parties’ – and it’s true isn’t it? The ritual of nourishing our bodies and the social aspect of preparing and sharing a meal, nurtures those intimate relationships with our family and friends. Open planning, as far as possible, a living/dining/kitchen space to share that important time together is hugely beneficial to our mental well-being. The winning combination of an open ‘family hub’ and a ‘snug’ hideaway gives both social interaction and privacy – both critical aspects when creating a happy, healthy home.
4. Green space:
Let the outside in! Access to the outdoors is critical for our physical and mental well-being, it boosts creativity, alleviates stress and allows us to rest our busy brains. It doesn’t have to be a huge space – as with all of this, it’s quality of space over quantity, but it must be green. To maximise our well-being the more green, lush vegetation we are surrounded by, the happier we will be. Bring plants indoors and open up any connection to your outdoor space as much as possible. Big windows, fully opening bi-fold doors, however you do it make sure you are connecting with nature in some way.
5. And finally, Clear the Clutter!
Marie Kondo is right on this one guys, take a look at what function you feel an extension will perform. If you already have a dining room that is housing an old desktop computer station and a keyboard from 1995 is it really space you need? Or could you save your money, clear those truly disused items and reconfigure the floor area that you already have. This way your hard-earned pennies can go toward maximising the quality of your space through the checklist above, ensuring your home is the sanctuary that it should be for you and your family, for many years to come.
For more reading on the subject of Happy Homes I can highly recommend Ben Channon’s ‘Happy By Design’ – RIBA Publishing – A must read for any designer and a benchmark for how we should be expecting our built environment to perform for us. A link to purchase the book can be found here: https://www.ribabookshops.com/item/happy-by-design-a-guide-to-architecture-and-mental-wellbeing
Written by Verity Lovelock. Verity is an Architect at BBD Architects, based in Romsey, Hampshire. She is passionate about residential design and promotes happiness and health through all areas of residential design in her practice.