PART 2 – Bringing The Magic of A Wellness Retreat Home
Following on from our blog on global wellness retreat trends we’re now focusing on how to bring the magic you’ve experienced home!
After the amazing all-consuming experience of a wellness holiday the positive effects can wear off after a short time back in your ‘old’ life, even if you’ve found your break away completely transformative.
However, recreating some of the magic you experienced during your wellbeing retreat really is possible in your own home.
There are several ways to achieve this; the first one is – to move! This sounds quite dramatic but if you’re looking for a place that completely supports your wellbeing there are more and more real estate options that cater to this need.
Liquid Interiors Project Design
Responding to consumer demand, wellness real estate is a multi-billion growing industry (19bn+ in China) that caters to individuals, families and communities. Creating homes that focus on green living and health and support physical and mental wellbeing through design that nurtures healthy behaviors. You can now even purchase a vacation property at some high end spa hotels to spend holidays or even live there full time.
If this is not an option open to you, much can still be achieved by making inspiring, meaningful and lasting interior design changes to your own home such as redesigning your bathroom to incorporate spa facilities.
Liquid Interiors Project Design
Wellbeing design is becoming far more usual, now including wellness elements such hydrothermal features, small private saunas and other spa and wellness ideas tailored to specific residences. Think beyond a small space as so much more can be incorporated these days.
There are also simpler changes you can make to remind yourself to take that time to practice what you’ve learnt and to give you space to drop back into the feelings you had while you were away.
Here are some suggestions on how you could bring the magic of your spa experience into your own home!
1. Create A Wellness Spa At Home
Alter your perception of your home and see it as a place to relax.
Liquid Interiors Project Design
When we design luxury homes we look for every opportunity to incorporate wellness designs that nurture our clients, especially unusual or inspiring bathrooms that are out of the ordinary and bring a spa feel. We have recently incorporated wellness facilities such an Onsen tub, to make wellbeing an every day experience rather than a luxury.
Liquid Interiors Project Design
Another property in Hong Kong has a spa floor with sauna, massage table area and outdoor Jacuzzi so that our client has unlimited access to a wellbeing space that suits their needs.
Liquid Interiors Project Design
Full home water filtration systems and vitamin C showers leave your skin and hair feeling smooth and silky.
You can transform your home into a wellness retreat for a day or even a whole weekend by styling it to create a spa-like ambience, for example roll up your towels and display them, as they would be in a spa.
Liquid Interiors Project Design
In your bathroom, minimize all bottles and other items and try to store them in a cupboard or drawer, only bringing out the ones you need when you need to use them. A few beautiful, refillable bottles will bring you a lot of pleasure displayed minimally on the surfaces.
Liquid Interiors Project Design
Use an existing space such as a bedroom or office as an area that can be transformed into a space for mediation, yoga or for a local massage or alternative therapist to set up for an hour or two. Many therapists will make home visits and you can book this into your home wellness retreat day.
2. Remember Your Transformational Travel
Bring cultural meaning to your home design with patterned accents or vernacular materials from the area that you live. You can also add minimal display shelves to your home spa and style it with cultural artwork from a place you’d like to connect to.
Liquid Interiors – Eco Wellness Project
Encourage personal and spiritual growth with décor items that will bring mindfulness, reflection and lasting changes to your daily life.
3. Mental Health Wellbeing as a Daily Practice
Create a secluded space in your home that can be transformed to be your mental relaxation sanctuary.
Liquid Interiors – Eco Wellness Project
Make sure it’s clutter free and quiet, a free space to practice your personal mindfulness rituals.
Use an app like Calm to go through a meditation or mindfulness session, continuing your commitment to supporting your mental health. If you feel you’re disconnecting with your practice, an online course from Gaia or listening to podcasts on the ideas you’ve opened up to can also help.
PART 1 – Global Wellness Retreat Trends
It can be difficult to make space to create a balance between a high-pressure lifestyle and time to rest and recharge in our fast paced modern world.
With limited time to connect with our bodies, minds, nature and spirituality, choosing travel destinations that support our wellbeing makes a lot more sense in 2019 than it ever did before.
Holidays are not about excesses anymore. They’re about rejuvenating and replenishing and returning home with a better mindset, looking and feeling healthier. As self-care has become the focus of taking time away, many are now seeking out breaks that holistically cater to mind, body and soul.
In response to this need, wellness resorts and retreats are expanding and becoming more and more popular. Asia and inparticular, China, is the number one global growth market for wellness.
Retreats that offer yoga, de-toxes and spa facilities now combine more fitness activities with relaxation and are adding alternative therapies, giving guests the opportunity to experience things they wouldn’t dream of in their home environment.
These unusual experiences away from the usual tourist trails are helping visitors to gain fresh perspectives, meet new people and connect with themselves and others at a deeper level.
As our work with Eco-Wellness design expands in residential and commercial environments we decided to find out what the main trends are for wellness in 2019 and share with you here!
What’s New in Global Wellness Retreat Trends?1. Transformational Travel
Transformational travel builds on the trend for a holistic approach to a break from every day life. More and more travelers don’t just want to just relax with a book by the pool, they want to make a connection and have a life experience.
Aro Hā in New Zealand is a next-level wellness experience
Transformational travel is ‘any travel experience that empowers people to make meaningful, lasting changes in their life.’ – Transformational Travel Council.
Change is sought through challenging physical or cultural experiences, unique or isolated locations and immersive wellness retreat programmes. Combining new experiences with reflection encourages personal and spiritual growth and a new lust for life.
2. Mental Health Holidays
Collectively we’re growing in awareness that wellness needs to enter every facet of our lives.
More travelers are taking the opportunity to place an emphasis on improving their mental health on holiday by taking part in intensive breaks to experience ways to practice mindfulness.
Along with mindfulness, meditation is the fastest growing wellness trend. Both can rebalance and impact on the positivity measured in the brain. These can be experienced in many different ways and mental health wellness retreats can incorporate breath workshops, silent retreats, yoga nidra, theta healing and meditation with rituals.
Holistic wellbeing is not expressed anywhere better than in the ancient Indian healing practice of Ayurveda.
Ayurvedic wellness retreats focus on the body type (dosha) and encompass different bespoke elements such as herbs, diet & nutrition, yoga, massage, therapeutic treatments and meditation. This fully immersive approach works on the principal that mind and body are inextricably connected and that nothing has more power to heal and transform the body than the mind.
This way of life is becoming hugely popular because it’s completely tailored to the individual and with a 5,000 year history is an antidote to new fads.
4. Connecting With Nature
Nature as one of the key components to wellbeing is central to wellness trends right now. Humans spent many millennia living in and with nature & our connection with the elements are so interlinked it is sometimes difficult for us to acknowledge when that link has been lost.
Wellness retreats provide nature based wellbeing activities such as forest bathing or shinrin-yoku, biophilic gyms, outdoor churches, walking meditation to birdsong and re-wilding – the process of allowing ourselves to connect with our natural rhythms of eating, moving and resting outdoors.
5. Water Therapy
Spa facilities now don’t just exist with bathing pools, saunas and steam rooms, they have expanded into more complex combinations such as halotherapy and herb rooms. Alternative water treatments such as negative oxygen ion capsules are becoming popular along with water flotation or Watsu and carbonate spring pools to help stimulate blood circulation and detoxify. Bathing outdoors in a tranquil water garden connects water with nature.
Water takes the form of ice to create another craze that has risen from a Hammam and Nordic background into an extreme health system as extolled by Wim Hoff (The Iceman). Ice yoga is another cold therapy that is believed to reduce stress and boost the immune system.
Wellness retreats are now offering more and more experiences based on the powerful healing energy of crystals. This alternative healing therapy is becoming mainstream and being used in holistic crystal therapies, in rituals and in skin care.
7. Technology & EMF Free Travel
Unplugging from the digital world can be a daunting prospect when we’re so linked in to technology.
Have you heard that EMFs (Electromagnetic Fields) can cause disturbed sleep? Technology in modern life has brought with it many advantages, but could some of your essential gadgets be affecting your health through exposure to EMF?
How Much EMF Are You Exposed To?
Electro Magnetic Fields are created by the flow of electric currents and occur naturally in our environment, emitting from the earth’s magnetic field, the sun, stars and created in atmospheric events such as thunderstorms.
However, due to the huge technological developments in the last 100 years our exposure to EMF from unnatural man-made sources has increased enormously. As well as power cables and phone networks, nearly every electrical appliance and device we interact with creates its own electro magnetic field, the strength and intensity of which varies between devices.
Low-level radiation is emitted from many different sources but examples include cell phones, wireless and Wifi routers, computers, microwaves, Bluetooth devices, TV’s and even dimmer switches.
Why Might You Want To Limit EMFs?
Exposure to very high levels of EMF for short periods is undoubtedly harmful to health, think X-rays or sunburn! However, the low frequency levels of EMFs emitted from the many household appliances we live with in our day-to-day lives are not considered to be high.
However, the accumulation of so many sources of EMFs within the home has led to health concerns.
The concerns centre on the idea that over-exposure to EMFs can interfere with the electromagnetic systems in our bodies and that this can cause health problems.
It’s generally not disputed that EMFs created by electrical devices affect our biology but whether or not they are a health hazard is debated and the scientific community does not agree as to how much we should worry about this connection. There is some scientific evidence to link EMF exposure to childhood leukemia however there is more anecdotal evidence (and some studies) to support the idea that some people can be highly sensitive to low frequency EMFs.
Those that are sensitive to EMF exposure report problems with sleep disturbance, insomnia, headaches, anxiety, depression, brain fog, dizziness and vertigo, tiredness and fatigue, lack of concentration, nausea, frequent illnesses, skin burning and tingling and hormonal and adrenal imbalances.
Further research is definitely needed; however in the meantime there are many who believe that precautions should be taken to limit our exposure as much as possible.
Limiting EMF in Our Interior Design Projects
Some of our clients come to us because they’re highly sensitivity to EMFs, want to get more restful sleep and allay health concerns, in these cases we’ve worked to create EMF free zones within their homes.
Eliminating or hugely reducing exposure to EMF gives them peace of mind, particularly for those with babies and young children.
In one of our latest projects we have essentially created an EMF shielded box within the home, which included installing a stainless steel semi-transparent gauze mesh on the floor underneath the floorboards to guard from high frequency radiation (HF) and low frequency electric fields (LF).
We also painted the walls and ceiling with black EMF paint before decorating. The paint provides protection from high frequency EMF from cell phone towers, TV and radio broadcasting antennas, radar and wireless networks.
Both the metal gauze and the shielding paint are grounded to the main circuit board to help shield from low frequency electric fields that are under or behind the shielding fabrics.
For safety a 2cm gap of paint was left around the electric sockets and lighting fixtures.
In the sleeping areas we avoided running power cables in the walls or floors near beds, in fact we ran the wiring for lighting around the bed so that it didn’t cross the head of the bed or any of the sleeping area. There are kill switches in the bedroom so that our clients can turn off all sources of electricity in the bedroom except for the air conditioning and air purifier during sleeping hours.
Where possible all items were wired in, for instance CCTV, speakers and their baby monitor. In addition, the home was tested for geopathic stress and we avoided placing the beds in areas that were not suitable for sleeping.
Special EMF reducing curtains and fabrics can also be used to shield from EMFs.
How Can You Limit EMFs In Your Own Home?
The effect EMF exposure will have on you really depends on your sensitivity, for some making changes will have no effect, for others they will see a huge difference.
Here are some tips so you can start limiting your EMF exposure at home, these should be particular to your bedroom at night when your body really needs a restorative sleeping environment as it does its essential repair work.
Don’t bring your phone into your bedroom at night.
Don’t plug anything in near your bed, for example mobile phones or alarm clocks. Remember the further away from the source of EMFs, the less effect it has on you.
Unplug all other devices in your bedroom for a deep restorative sleep.
No smart lights in the bedroom. Rather, use warm dim lights or different colors of LED strips to achieve circadian lighting schemes (link to blog)
Turn your Wifi off at night or at other times when it isn’t necessary or use a timer. Or use a timer that can turn it off during the most restorative times of the night. For example, between 1.30 and 5.30am.
Unplug Google home and Alexa at night or use a timer.
Don’t leave all your electricals on standby.
Use hard wire internet connections instead of Wifi, including Ethernet cables for laptops.
Wire in as many of your devices as possible and avoid using Bluetooth or Wifi for everything if you can.
Keep appliances off or on airplane mode as much as possible.
Keep electronic devices away from your body.
The added benefit of turning off all your devices is saving energy too!
My EMF & Digital Detox Experiment
Recently I conducted my own EMF home experiment to see if I could feel the difference! I began to sleep without WiFi, with all the power off except for the AC’s and refrigerator.
The first night felt slightly more calming, quiet and still. I woke up without my alarm and I feel slightly more rested. After a few nights I definitely saw the benefits, having calmer & deeper sleep & feeling more rested on waking. To test this out I’ve also found that I sleep much lighter near the router. I’ve also tried turning off the MCD and the sound of silence is wonderful as you don’t realize there’s a background hum and little lights going off everywhere all the time! Removing the sources of EMFs really did make our home feel calmer and more of a haven.
Do you have difficulty sleeping? Are you often tired and grumpy? Have unexplained health problems? Then it’s possible that your circadian rhythm could be disrupted. Find out the causes and what you can do about it here!
What is The Circadian Rhythm?
Humans and animals are extraordinarily sensitive to light; our natural body rhythms are evolutionarily hard-wired to be governed by the changing light of the sun, from dawn to daylight through to bright midday sun, dusk and darkness.
The link is so strong that when we are exposed to light the brain sends signals to synchronize physiological processes in our bodies. Depending on the amount of light we have been exposed to this can delay, advance or completely shift our body clock. This internal 24-hour cycle is called The Circadian Rhythm.
How Does The Circadian Rhythm Affect Us?
Although our natural circadian daily cycle is set to respond to sunlight, the receptors in our eyes can’t tell the difference between sunlight and artificial light. This means that the lighting we use in the evenings (particularly blue light from screens) extends our daylight cycle way beyond what our bodies are designed for.
The natural rhythm is so inbuilt that the effects of this disruption have been found to cause sleep disorders, eating disorders and ADHD and can lead to increased risk of stroke, obesity, diabetes, depression and heart attacks.
Two of the main hormones that are affected by light are Melatonin and Serotonin.
Melatonin is released into our systems as we sleep in darkness and is a powerful antioxidant, vital for our immune system. It promotes sleep and regulates blood pressure and insulin production. Production of melatonin is suppressed by the delay in darkness caused by blue light from electric lights and screens. Deficiency in melatonin can cause sleep disorders and serious life threatening and physiological diseases.
Serotonin helps regulate mood, appetite, sleep and overall happiness and wellbeing and has been connected to memory and learning. We produce Serotonin when we’re exposed to sunlight and lack of daylight in winter can cause SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). Lighting during the waking, daytime phase of the cycle needs to ideally be bright, natural daylight.
Essentially humans need both darkness and bright light to maintain their internal rhythm and to regulate bodily functions such as alertness, digestion and sleep.
What Are The Benefits Of Circadian Lighting
The more we learn about the benefits of circadian systems, the more it seems crazy that we’re not more aware of the health problems associated with light exposure!
To counter circadian rhythm disruption we create bespoke circadian lighting systems in many of our interiors projects that support the natural light cycle. These systems mirror the color temperature changes of sunlight throughout the day and evening within our homes.
When considering the health and wellbeing of our clients we work to The WELL Building Standard recommendations.
The standard shows compelling evidence that light and lighting, when experienced at the right levels at the right times of day and night can help improve alertness, energy levels, concentration, memory and mood and also provide support to overall physiological and psychological health.
Different lighting scenes in different rooms can be designed to go from energising cool bright blue light in the morning through to warm dim light in the evening for relaxation before sleep.
We particularly tend to recommend warm, dim circadian lighting in bedrooms where sleep quality is a huge priority and cold, bright energizing light in the bathroom while you’re prepared for the day ahead.
In general, “warm” light sources bring out the warm colors such as orange, red, and yellow, while “cool” lighting intensifies cool colors such as blue. This concept is referred to as color temperature, which is measured in units called “Kelvin” or “K.” For example, warm incandescent light bulbs typically equal about 2,700K, soft white light falls in the 3,000K range, cool white is about 4,100K, and daylight is about 6,500K.
Circadian lighting can be complimented by blackout roller blinds that connect to lighting schemes, controlling the light from the outside, providing shading from sunlight and blocking out light pollution. Light pollution and lack of natural daylight are both problems in cities along with the colour or tone of lights in our homes and the large amount of artificial light we are exposed to from screen time.
Light sensors are also now becoming more accessible with motion activation for amber night-lights; they’re also useful for energy saving as they switch off lights automatically when they’re not needed.
What’s the Easiest Way To Get Circadian Lighting Installed In Your Home?Smart Light Bulbs
Technology is moving almost at the speed of light (!!) and now the most cost efficient way to integrate healthy lighting into your home is to use smart bulbs.
The Philips Hue lighting range can provide healthy lighting that follows your natural sleep and wake-up cycle.
Their brightness, color and temperature are controlled via WIFI and they are supereasy to install. The Philips Hue are compatible with Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, and the Google Assistant so that they can be controlled via voice activation or via their own wire-free wall switch that doubles as a hand-held remote.
Each room in the home can be pre-programmed and then linked in with a central hub to instruct the lighting system through voice activated smart home technology or through your mobile.
The basic kit includes three bulbs and a bridge that links the bulbs to your Smartphone or other controller. They are able to emit light in different temperatures, ranging from warm low light around 2,000 K up to 6,500 K of daylight. Some bulbs have a full rainbow color range to create more dramatic scenes all controlled via the simple to use Smartphone app.
There is added functionality in that the lighting can be controlled via the app to turn on and off when you’re away from home in preparation for your return.
Scene Switch Bulbs
Scene switch bulbs are very similar to the Hue lighting system but are an even cheaper alternative. They’re a smart bulb that is pre-programmed to go through three phases, 100 – 40 – 10 %.
The Christmas holiday season is one of those few breaks in the year when we get to spend some extra time in our most personal, nourishing and comfortable spaces – our beds!
We spend up to a third of our lives in bed, but have you thought about how healthy your bedding is for you?
Good sleep quality is a major contributor to good health so this Christmas we suggest gifting yourself some perfect eco and healthy bedding to make your bed the ultimate, restorative retreat from the outside world.
Here’s our guide to the things you need to consider!
1. Natural Materials
We would always recommend 100% natural material for your bedding and that you avoid synthetic or synthetic-mixes. Not only do natural materials connect you to nature but they also help you sleep by naturally regulating your body temperature.
Natural materials tend to be more expensive that synthetic options. Pure organic cotton is the most common textile and comes in different weaves; percale and sateen being two of the different types (more on this later!).
Linen is a more casual alternative with a natural, wrinkled effect that can look and feel very earthy and inviting. It is lightweight and comfortable and particularly helps to regulate your body temperature as you sleep with its breathability and high moisture absorbency. Linen is perfect for every season – fresh in the summer and cool in the winter.
Bamboo is another good sustainable option as long as it hasn’t gone through extensive production processes.
Silk is, as you would expect, the most expensive and luxurious option.
2. Healthy & Eco ProductionLook for fabrics labeled as organic, luckily this is becoming more and more common, particularly for cotton. Cotton is one of the most heavily sprayed crops in the world so to be organic means to avoid materials that have been sprayed with toxic pesticides, fertilizers and herbicides during cultivation.
These toxic chemicals leave a residue within the textiles and can be absorbed by your skin or breathed in as you sleep. They also pose a health risk to those farming and cultivating the crops and impact on our planet as they leach into all parts of our ecosystem.
Organic cotton is also a great material for those with allergies; it’s hypoallergenic, reducing microbes and spores that can cause skin irritation and allergic reactions.
3. Healthy & Eco Processing
Textile production can also use chemicals, bleaches, dyes and softeners so it’s also important to source bedding that has had limited dyeing and processing, avoiding heavy metals, formaldehyde, flame-retardants and phthalates.
Many of these substances and synthetic dyes also pose a serious risk to the environment. Avoid any ‘easy care’ or ‘no ironing’ fabrics as these labels indicate that extra chemicals and agents have been used to create these finishes.
4. Sustainability & Standards
To help to guide you look out for the following standards when buying your new bedding:
Certified B Corp – This is a certification process that has strict rules on accountability, transparency, performance, availability and cost of the textiles.
GOTS Certified – The Global Organic Textile Standard – is an international organization that ensures environmentally and socially responsible manufacture of textiles throughout the entire supply chain.
OEKO-TEX Standard 100 – is a testing certification system that focuses on product safety beyond international standards to ensure the responsible use of harmful chemicals and global sustainability awareness. Sheets are held to a very high safety standard under Oeko-Tex Class II products.
The Textile Exchange – A global nonprofit organization that works to make the textile industry more sustainable. They identify and share best practices regarding farming, materials and processing to reduce the impact on the worlds water, soil, air and human population.
Better Cotton Initiative – Not so high of a standard as GOTS but still represents a step up from conventional cotton, with education and guidelines to help farmers produce cotton more sustainably.
5. Fair Trade
Production of your bedding should not unduly affect workers in other countries The ‘Fair Trade Certified’ seal represents thousands of products, improving millions of lives and protecting land and waterways in 45 countries and counting. They look to create a world in which all producers can enjoy secure and sustainable livelihoods, fulfil their potential and decide on their future.
The UN’s International Labor Organization brings together governments, employers and workers representatives of 187 member states to set labor standards, develop policies and devise programs promoting decent work for all women and men.
6. Thread Count
Thread count is a measure of the number of threads running through your sheets, horizontally and vertically, per square inch and tells you how closely woven the fabric is. Often it is thought that the higher the thread count, the better the sheets, and although thread count is an important factor there are other factors at play.
The quality of the fibers that create the yarns is just as important, the longer the length of the fibers the better and more comfortable the sheets. Good quality yarns will also launder and wear really well, lasting for years.
Generally 200 to 400 thread count in your bedding will provide good comfort and softness balanced with durability and laundering.
The texture of your bedding is very much up to personal comfort. The weave of the fabric provides the texture, look and feel of the bedding. The more dense the weave the more comfortable.
Cotton Percale – this is a breathable weave that is often made from cotton or other blended fabrics. This finish is smooth, matte, crisp and cool to the touch. Lightweight and breathable it’s perfect for the summer months. This weave is often used for hotel bed linen. Over time they soften up with each wash and are very durable.
Cotton Sateen – is luxuriously smooth, super soft and smart with an elegant sheen. It’s an all year round option and is said to limit premature aging of the skin, particularly when used for pillow covers. Sateen usually has a higher thread count to percale (because the threads are thinner) and is slightly less hard wearing in terms of durability.
Jacquard – this is smooth, soft and silky against the skin. It is woven on a special loom to produce a matt/sateen self-pattern in the fabric, typically a stripe, check or floral, as with the sateen bed linen the thread used is finer than percale.
Cotton Oxford Weave – This has more texture than percale or sateen and is good in a looser thread count of 150 threads per square inch. Made from luxurious soft cotton yarns that have been doubled and woven into a special weave.
Cotton Flannel – has a very soft texture almost warm to the touch and is perfect for the colder winter months. It is made from high quality cotton thread and is thicker than the one used for percale. The soft texture comes from brushing the fabric after weaving.
Linen – has a more organic looking weave that (close up) looks like loops. Using long fibers, it has more give-and-take in it than cotton and it gets softer with every wear and wash. The production of linen is very sustainable as every part of the flax plant can be used and it is a rotation crop that can be farmed naturally in small batches. It is also naturally hypoallergenic and antibacterial. Linen can be more expensive but can last a lifetime as its really durable.
8. Styling Your Bed
Your bed is the dreamy focus of your bedroom and should be really inviting, tranquil and a place of renewal, encouraging you every day to get that early night you desperately need!
Dressing a bed beautifully is a skill that can be mastered to create a cozy and comforting effect in the winter and a cool and fresh feel in..
Would you like to live in a home that completely supports your health and wellbeing?
Then this recently completed eco-wellness project by Liquid Interiors is definitely for you! This is Asia’s first private family residence that promotes wellbeing and sustainable lifestyles. It is designed to support the family who will live here in their aim to live in a healthy, eco and happy home.
Following Liquid Interiors’ core philosophy, this property demonstrates that homes can be designed to be beautiful, healthy, and sustainable.
Creation of Our Eco Wellness Home
Within a development in Hong Kong we were asked to design a home in a 1,730 sq ft apartment (2,225 sq ft including the garden).
This home is pioneering because it’s the first property where we’ve been able to implement so many of our healthy and sustainable living features. This means that in every design decision we have focused on creating a home that encourages lifestyle choices that improve health, wellbeing and the environment.
The residents are a typical busy Hong Kong family with two parents, one child and grandparents living in a home together with a helper. They’re a family that cares about their health and appreciates nature and their connection with their environment.
For the overall style we took inspiration from Africa with warm colors and textures that give the feeling of a natural retreat with a global flavor. We have created a real home that is a sanctuary and escape away from everyday busy life and also centers on love and connection for the family that live there.
10 Healthy & Sustainable Living FeaturesCentral to the interior design we created for this home is encouraging a balanced lifestyle and most importantly, making health and wellbeing convenient though every design decision.
We did this by designing around the framework of 10 healthy and sustainable living features that impact and influence human behaviors.
In this home these are: Energy, Breathe, Zero Waste, Healthy Eating, Sleep & Circadian Lighting, Work, Water, Connect, Play, Relax and Recharge
These features originate from international building standards, LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) and the WELL Building Standard. LEED is a well-known green building standard used worldwide. The WELL Building Standard is a new standard created collaboratively by architects and doctors with the aim to improve health and wellbeing within buildings across the world.
Drawing on our knowledge of these standards we have taken the main features that apply to Hong Kong homes and have created our own system that cares about the health and wellness of people and the planet.
How Do These Features Translate Into A Home?
To illustrate how each of these elements feature throughout this flat we’d love to give you an exclusive tour around this truly unique and beautiful new family home!
EAT & DRINK FEATURESHealthy Eating From The Juice Bar & Indoor Garden
To eat a really healthy, balanced diet it’s essential that we have we have fresh, wholesome foods available to encourage better eating habits and food culture. Attention to healthy nutrition can help prevent chronic diseases and juicing is an efficient approach to consuming raw vegetables for detoxification and nourishment.
So in this home we have introduced a juice bar with a cold pressed juicer for juicing micro-greens and alkaline vegetables.
In this area we also have our favorite feature, an indoor garden appliance called the Urban Cultivator, which provides a sustainable source of vegetables, herbs, and microgreens. Growing microgreens and herbs to use for salads and juicing is a wonderful way of bringing nature, a sustainable food growing system and healthy eating into the home.
ZERO WASTE FEATURESWaste Food Decomposer
It may surprise you that 30% of the average household waste is food. To reduce waste this home has a rapid food decomposer that can turn food scraps into nutrient rich soil for plants in just three hours. So a mini food-to-waste eco-system is created because the fertilizer created by the kitchen food decomposer can be used to sustain the garden. This type of feature also really connects people with a more healthy and eco lifestyle.
The pantry is designed to accommodate reusable food storage containers to encourage purchasing food in bulk and/or packaging free. Decorative recycling bins are also provided to store co-mingled recyclables for sorting and recycling.
Sustainable Design & Renewable Materials
The pendant lights and ceiling feature in this study room were hand crafted using renewable materials.
They were created by a social design company that offer women farmers an alternative life while also preserving traditional weaving techniques.
The flatwoven all-weather rug together with all other rugs in this show flat are certified as free of child labour by Goodweave and Care & Fair. They have been dyed with environmentally friendly dyes and methods as well and the outdoor rug was woven with recycled plastic bottle yarn.
WATER FEATURESWhole Home Water Filter
We have installed a whole home water filter, which is located in the ceiling of the kitchen. This water filter removes sediments and basic contaminants in the water used for bathing, washing hands, brushing teeth and washing clothes.
Vitamin C Showers
All the showers in the bathrooms are equipped with a Vitamin C shower filter, which neutralizes Chlorine and Chloramines in the water for overall better health, softer, silkier hair and younger looking skin.
AIR FEATURESAir Quality Monitors
To ensure that the residents understand and can monitor the status of their indoor air quality there are air quality monitors placed inside the home.
Have you ever walked into a new home and felt ill, sick or dizzy? That ‘new’ smell is often a really unhealthy toxic mix of Volatile Organic Compounds that are emitted from all sorts of materials used in construction and renovation and can cause poor health in your family.
Most affected by VOC’s are those with respiratory problems, asthma, allergies and skin conditions such as eczema; particularly sensitive to their affects are small children and the elderly. In China, strong links have been made between home renovation and leukemia and moving into new properties is regularly delayed by over a month to leave time to air-out the toxic chemical mix from the indoor air.
If the level of potential toxins in your home renovations worries you (and the reality is, they should) employing a LEED or WELL AP accredited Interior Designer means that you can be sure that all measures have been taken to make sure you walk into a home with completely fresh air. At Liquid Interiors we follow rigorous procedures so that toxic materials are banned from use in any part of our projects. We find that this really improves the experience of moving into a new home, where the air is fresh and safe for everyone to live and sleep in.
It’s time for us to completely reconsider the materials we use and bring into our homes rather than relying on air purification to remove nasty chemicals from our indoor air. Below we focus in detail on the specific materials you should replace with non-toxic alternatives if you are buying a new home or doing a home improvement project.
Choose your paints very carefully making sure that you use a brand that has zero or very low VOC’s so that you don’t risk the paint slowly emitting toxins into your home. Some paints only emit for a few days or weeks so really good ventilation can be enough but others can go on to create VOC’s for years.
Be careful that you or your contractors don’t add any hardeners or chemicals for wood paint; furniture paint can be much higher in VOC levels so this is an area to be vigilant. Likewise if you are stripping paint from furniture or doors use a healthy option that is labeled as low VOC with no odor. In all cases air out a newly decorated room extensively before you begin using it.
To air out your home open all doors, drawers, cupboards then open the windows to let fresh air in and use a fan to circulate and draw new air into the space. In humid weather you may need to keep the air conditioning on too, this will help the process by reducing humidity, which should ideally be at 30-50%. Use an air quality monitor to make sure the air is clear of toxins before you finish airing out.
The use of adhesives in home products is widespread and many of them contain chemicals that can combine to produce VOC’s. Ensure that you go for a non-toxic adhesive or glue with low VOC’s and use it in a ventilated area. There are now many more low VOC adhesive alternatives that don’t compromise performance.
Look for the small print on adhesives used for hanging wallpaper, sticking plastic laminate to wood, adhering wood veneer, stone and flooring and many other applications. Adhesives may also have been used on items before they enter your home so checking the glues used off site is also important.
Sealants & Grout
Caulking sealants and grouts can cause a toxic seal around windows and tiles that emit VOC’s into the air. Choose a non-toxic, low VOC brand alternative that won’t off-gas into your home and has no odor, especially in poorly ventilated spaces such as small bathrooms.
Waterproofing sealants used prior to tiling can give off really strong VOC’s and toxic sealants in general tend to be used in lots of places we wouldn’t think of for filling in gaps. Before your project begins also ensure you research low VOC eco sealant colors to ensure you get the right color match for your interior. Not all brands have a large choice and you don’t want to risk your contractor swapping in an alternative that might be high in VOC’s.
Wood Stains & Varnishes
Toxic wood stains and varnishes are easy to replace with more natural alternatives such as beeswax or oils such as Osmo Oil. Natural coatings produce a beautiful and durable surface and are a much safer option particularly for toys, kids furniture, countertops, wood veneer and wooden food bowls.
Interiors of wardrobes and cupboards are a particular area that can be polluted by varnishes, adhesives and sealants and as they are not easily ventilated the VOCs can take years to dissipate so make sure a natural alternative is used.
Sustainable Healthy FlooringFlooring covers a very large area of your home so it needs to be as healthy and sustainable as possible to avoid impacting significantly on the indoor air quality.
If you’re using laminate or veneer flooring then check what has gone into making the product, they very often have many different chemicals involved in the process. Ask if the coating on the wood is low VOC? If you’re using engineered wood ask which glue has been used to apply the surface wood to the plywood backing and is the plywood E1 or E0 certified?
Be mindful that vinyl flooring is often made from reprocessed plastic and can contain PVC, phthalates and other toxic chemicals. Hard wood floors and ceramic tiles tend to be the safest options but any wood should also be FSC certified.
No Fitted Carpets
Carpet fitted wall to wall is a large contributor to indoor air pollution as it can off-gas from artificial dyes, stain repellents, adhesives and other toxic chemicals. Longhaired carpets can also be a real trap for dust and are not good for anyone with allergies.
In general it’s better to have hard flooring and warm it up with rugs that can be removed and cleaned easily. Carpet tiles are another option. If you are determined to have a fitted carpet due to the construction of your home or the climate you live in then ensure you source one that is made from natural fibers, check that it is sustainable and that natural materials and adhesives have been used for the backing.
Formaldehyde Free Wood & Plywood Veneer
Free standing and built in furniture, particularly kitchen cabinets, are often made from plywood veneer and other composite woods such as particleboard. There is a high risk of there being lots of added formaldehyde, which can cause skin, eye, and nose and throat irritation and trigger asthma. Ask your contractor or suppliers to use E1 or E0 certified FSC composite wood, which is low or free of formaldehyde.
In addition, check the coatings and adhesives if the items are being put together off site. When purchasing furniture it tends to be that higher quality furniture is less toxic or buy second hand where off-gassing has already largely occurred.
Phthalates In Plastics
Plastics such as shower curtains and plastic furniture and kids toys often contain phthalates, the same can be true for some synthetic leathers and other finishing materials. Phthalates are hormone disruptors and can harm the immune system so search out more natural alternatives.
Managing Pollution During Improvements
During your renovation there are several things you can do to reduce toxic contamination of your home while reducing the mess and dust that any renovation work inevitably creates.
Have a walk-off mat at the entrance to your working area so that any dust or dirt from feet can be rubbed off.
Protect from dust contamination by sealing up doors with temporary barriers, this is particularly important if you’re working on just one room in your home. Use dustsheets and coverings to protect furnishings from dust and ensure you remove the coverings without letting the dust escape.
Protect any ducts from possible contamination by sealing them up, this will prevent dust remaining after you’ve finished and also protect filters from clogging up.
Even if you seal them it is worth vacuuming grills, ducts and diffusers once you’ve finished your work. If you have a ventilation system then changing filters before you reoccupy the rooms is also a good idea.
During renovation work store and protect any materials that might absorb or hold onto debris, dust or toxins.
Use the dust guard on any saws.
Working With Contractors
During our projects at Liquid Interiors we have procedures in place to ensure that all materials used on site are non-toxic and low VOC and we visit our sites regularly to ensure that the correct materials are being used.
If you’re employing a contractor, make sure you specify all the non-toxic materials you wish to have used right at the start and check the pricing. Make sure your contractor has allowed for these materials in their quotation as, in some cases, they may be more expensive. You can insist on them using products you have checked, and you may want to take pictures of the tins that have been bought and check the labels. You can also check the Material Safety Data Sheet to see if the product is toxic and what restrictions (if any) there are to using it.
At Liquid we also insist on a site management system that limits the toxins that are created during any build process. Of course, a full green clean and fresh air flush out is also carried out on completion and the combination of these measures ensures that our clients move into their new homes with completely fresh air.
This is not the norm for Hong Kong or anywhere else in the world but we believe that fresh, clean air to breath in your home is one of the true luxuries in life.
For more information check out our blog post ‘How To Design & Live In a Non-Toxic Home’ where we talked about how air quality in our homes can be affected by many different toxins, their sources and what you can do to reduce them.
For more information, feel free to contact Liquid Interiors, your healthy and eco conscious interior design consultants.
“Quality is Always Sustainable”
Welcome to our latest blog where we’re sharing a full project overview of one of our newly completed projects! There are lots of practical insights into our full design and build process, before and after photos and details on all the healthy and eco features we included in this full home makeover. We’ll be taking a look at lots of clever storage solutions and a classic yet modern design style.
This project exemplifies our commitment to healthy and eco interior design and we believe, beautifully reflects the hopes and aspirations of our clients when they first came to us with this project.
So How Did The Property Look Before We Started Working On It?
This 1500 sq ft apartment in Kowloon, Hong Kong was purchased by a Chinese couple looking to settle down in a family sized apartment. We were delighted that they asked us to be involved in this project and we provided a full turnkey service, including design, build, furniture selection purchasing and styling.
The plan above shows the layout of the property before we made some changes.
You can see from the photos that the property was dated and tired when first purchased by our clients and, although there is a good amount of space the décor, lighting and some of the layout needed rethinking.
This property has an entrance area leading onto a living / dining area and balcony, separate kitchen with utility plus three bedrooms and two bathrooms.
The kitchen was modern and simple with good appliances however it had little personality and felt stark and bland.
The bathrooms had seen better days although they had plain white serviceable sanitary ware the general feel was dated and something really special was needed.
Some of the tiles and décor in the bathrooms was also dated and didn’t reflect the taste of our clients.
The bedrooms had been decorated some time before and although they had lots of storage the rooms needed more than just a lick of paint.
The balcony was a good space but again felt bland and a little neglected with generic tiles and no special features.
Classic Inspiration For a New Luxury Residence
It was clear from the outset that our clients were looking for something really very special from our design team. They wanted a true home that reflected their style that would have a longevity of design that could be adapted to their needs as a growing family.
Our clients met at University in the UK and their travels take them to Britain regularly throughout the year and so European design has had and continues to have a large influence on their style. They were looking for a classic look with a British flavor and a home that was suitable for relaxed modern living.
We presented two different concept ideas. One was ‘Warm & Classical’ the other was ‘The New Oxford Dictionary’. The second of these two ideas was the one that most resonated and this concept idea became the cornerstone of our design process.
The look is classic with a modern twist, muted tones with soft colors and elegant moldings and it was really important to us to get the exact mix of modern and classical style right in our designs.
Space Planning & Healthy Home Features
We reworked some of the layout of the space to provide a vestibule, living with dining area and separate kitchen and maids room with bathroom facilities. We also increased the size of the master bathroom and adapted areas that would need to carry the ducting for the air purification system.
The plan below shows the adaptations to the space plus the furniture layout that we proposed.
We also began to look at the healthy and sustainable features that would be included in this property. A very high priority for our clients was to ensure that the air quality was excellent; being low in VOC’s to reduce skin irritations they had been suffering from. They also felt that if they were to expand their family in the future the air quality in their home needed to be excellent.
A full air purification and filtration system was decided upon to provide purified fresh air into their home, this element would influence many of the physical changes to the property as the ducts that carry the air need to be accommodated in recesses, beams or be boxed into sections of the walls and ceilings.
Developing The Design In More Detail
We began to develop the design in more detail giving visual inspiration for the different rooms such as the kitchen and bathroom images below.
These inspiring images show the lean towards simple understated classic luxury with warm metallic accents.
We began to work these up into scale technical drawings, these ones show elevations for the master and guest bathrooms and kitchen along with some inspiration ideas for finishes and styling so that our clients could start to get a feel for the style along with the practical features and layout.
These sketches with mood boards demonstrate the early stages of establishing the layout, design features and feel for the space and are used to develop into technically accurate representations.
The ideas for the master bedroom and study were developed with the bedroom taking on the soft muted tones similar to the living room whilst the study has echoes of the depth of the kitchen color with detailed paneling.
Our living spaces have an enormous effect on our mental and physical wellbeing, yet often they can be as overwhelming as the world outside.
Where in your life have you felt your most relaxed, serene and comfortable? Is that in your own home? If not then it may be time to begin to transform your living space into your very own wellness sanctuary where you can retreat and detach from the stresses of urban living and feel at your most positive and calm.
If you were to transport yourself to your perfect place, it’s likely to be somewhere in the natural world, so taking inspiration from nature to create your retreat can be a wonderful place to start. If transforming your whole home into a soothing environment feels daunting at this stage then start with just one small space then see how you can expand that new way of living into the rest of your home.
Here is our essential guide to creating soothing and uplifting spaces that enhance your wellbeing at home.
Declutter Your Possessions
One of the most negative effects on our wellbeing can be a clutter-filled and messy home. Taking your wellbeing seriously means taking some time to reduce and reorganise possessions and let go of everything you have discard. You will find that you immediately feel a sense of relief; that you can think more clearly and discover that you ‘need’ far less than you thought. Be mindful of the environment when decluttering, making sure you recycle, donate or sell anything that can be usefully reused by others.
Freshen Up With A Deep Clean
A deep clean will clear dust and toxins from your home, improving the air quality and creating positive energy for your new wellness sanctuary. Carpets, curtains and books can be real dust traps and any areas of moisture can start to grow mould. Toxic chemicals are found in many cleaning products so try to use natural cleaning products or make your own using common ingredients with natural essential oils.
We recommend Johnson Group for green cleaning in Hong Kong and this book has ideas on homemade non-toxic cleaning products.
Breathe Easier For A Positive Mindset
Open your windows up whenever possible to circulate fresh air and to stop your home feeling stuffy. Breathing fresh, clean air makes us feel less tired, promotes better sleep quality and can reduce health problems such as headaches, allergies and breathing difficulties.
Indoor air quality is often much worse inside your home than it is outside because our homes accumulate toxins from many sources such as traffic fumes, mould, furniture, paint, dust and cleaning products. If opening your windows is not possible look to bringing an air filtration system into your home, such as the IQAir.
Lighting Can Effect Your Healthy & Happiness
Natural light can be one of the most sought after, uplifting and positive influences in a home so make sure you maximize any natural light your building receives (you can read more about how to do in a previous blog here). However, the artificial lighting in your home also needs to support your natural body clock.
Circadian lighting can be used to mirror the color changes of sunlight throughout the day with cool blue light in the morning through to warm soft light in the evening, supporting our natural sleep-wake cycle. Use lamps and low lighting at different levels in the evening to create a soft feel to wind down the day. Candles can also create a relaxing and meditative ambience especially in any special relaxing area of your home. Minimise screen time and ensure the light on screens is set to an evening setting, if possible have no screen time up for an hour before bed.
Choose A Focal Point
A focal point for your new sanctuary could be something as natural and simple as a beautiful view, but if you don’t have that in your home then find an alternative. It may be art that inspires you so the focus could be a large landscape painting or a photograph of a natural place you love scaled up and framed. You could also create a gallery wall of different items, prints and family photos that create a positive or joyful energy. A focal point could also be a collection of different sized houseplants or a table or area of shelving with your most treasured possessions displayed.
Color Affects Us All
Color psychology shows us that color has a huge influence on our feelings about a space. Our mood can be greatly influenced by cool blues and greens that feel calm and relaxing, or reds and warm colors that can be stimulating and overpowering. For your wellness sanctuary we suggest neutrals and cooler colors will lend themselves well to a feelings of relaxation, light and space.
However color is a very personal choice so go with what feels right for you, you may feel most relaxed in a light cool environment or by simulating a darker, comforting cave feel.
Choose A Special Place To Relax In Peace
Having a physical, Zen space dedicated to your wellbeing, where you have the option to shut off from all the busy elements of your life is very important. If you don’t have a lot of space this could be a transformable area or just a comfy chair in one corner for quiet, thinking time.
Create a relaxing and connected area by adorning your space with your most treasured possessions, ambient lighting and candles, and make it really comfortable with cushions and throws to curl up in. You can use this area to read, nap, reflect or practice mindfulness feeling safe in your own personal refuge.
Create A Bedroom For Good Sleep
Good quality sleep is essential for feeling your best. Make sure that your bedroom is designed to be a sanctuary for sleep by decorating it in tranquil colors and invest in blackout curtains or blinds to keep out the light for deeper sleep.
Choose soft and warm lighting for bed time and invest in a mattress and bedding made from natural materials that are breathable and hypoallergenic, staying away from synthetic materials. A wake up light is a great way to start the day as it gradually wakes you from sleep by simulating the increasing light at dawn.
Create a Nature Sound Journey
Play soothing sounds in your home sanctuary, creating various playlist or soundtracks to play when you’re relaxing, sounds from nature are particularly effective such as birdsong, waves or other white noise because they don’t prompt particular thoughts. If you have voice-activated technology such as a home hub you can just ask for the suitable comforting soundscape for your mood without engaging with hand held technology.
Our busy minds can be overwhelmed with millions of thoughts and common distractions can create excuses to NOT relax and lead to a lack focus. Switch off all your unnecessary gadgets for a set time each evening, turn off the TV and any electrical devices that are not needed to avoid being drawn into screen time. Using voice activated smart home technology can be a great help in stopping distractions, as it doesn’t require physical interaction with a screen.
Connect With Nature Through Plants
Indoor plants connect with our deepest need to be in and around the natural world and are a wonderful way to counteract the negative effects of city living. They make us more productive, creative and reduce stress levels. They also improve air quality, by creating oxygen, regulating humidity and absorbing harmful chemicals. To find out more about styling your home with indoor plants take a look at this blog.
In our last blog we covered ideas on how to keep your home cool while saving energy and ceiling fans proved to be a really efficient way of reducing your energy costs during the summer months when it’s tempting to use more air conditioning. It’s best to set your fan to counter-clockwise, so that the blades force cooler air downwards and pull the heat up, they can also be used to create a cross breeze with open windows.
Whilst we all need ceiling fans to keep us cool in hot countries we do not need unattractive ones! They can really effect the look of an interior and if the wrong style is chosen, can be an eyesore right in the centre of an otherwise beautiful room. To help you out we have found some inspiring design recommendations for cool and modern ceiling fans that won’t ruin your decor, in fact some of them could be just the centrepiece you’ve been looking for!
To find out more about each of these fabulous cool fans follow the links below…
Artemis – This modern & cool fan comes in 6 different colours, has aerodynamic blades & central light.
Ball – A simple but highly effective design with plywood blades in 3 finishes & a built in light.
Stella – Comes in 4 different plywood finishes with LED lamp & a distinctive natural design.
Discus II – Minimalist & contemporary design that will suit many different room styles.
Torto – Brings a unique twist to your interior & is a distinctive centrepiece.
Kewl – Modern & sleek this fan is an affordable piece with a great design look.
Blow – Distinctive, with a strong design look the Blow is lightweight, very quiet & beautiful to look at.
Altus – With a mount that hugs the ceiling it’s great for spaces lacking height. Sleek design in white or aluminium.
Marea – This 3 speed fan is great for small spaces & combines a classic look with a modern twist.
Strata – This outdoor fan looks great in a space that needs a galvanized industrial look.
Terna – This modernist ceiling fan makes a statement & is perfect for small, compact spaces.
Maverick – An enormous statement in any indoor or outdoor space. Featuring hand-carved balsa wood blades & energy efficient motor.
For more information, feel free to contact Liquid Interiors, your healthy and eco consious interior design consultants.
“Quality is Always Sustainable”