A continuation of the Waterways Magazine article, Summer 2019
I hope you’ve been enjoying my “Ask the Builder” series in Waterways magazine. If you missed it or want a more in-depth discussion, you’ve come to the right place. I get asked a lot of questions about designing and building a home. Many of them relate to creating a healthy home. We want our homes to be the safest and healthiest places they can be…and rightly so. I like to explain to my clients that a healthy home is comprised of four major contributors to good health: filtered and conditioned air, clean water, stress reducers, and safety. Last time, we discussed the first two, air and water. In this article, we discuss the last two of these components.
Time flies by and, as we age, we must consider safety. A trip or fall can cause major damage to ourselves or those we love in their golden years. Years ago, we had a client who wanted some steps leading down to their dining room to create a more dramatic entry. Since they were young and in good health, they never considered it a safety issue. The first week they were in their home, mom came to visit and fell down the steps. She broke a hip and ended up in the hospital. This led us to spend the next 5 years focusing in earnest on how we can make our homes safer, and it has become the foundation of almost all components and systems that make up our homes. While there are many aspects to safety, let’s focus our attention on “aging in place”.
Aging in place is a discipline that analyzes design in terms of providing safe, functional, but still beautiful design elements and enhancements. The primary concerns for aging in place are accessibility and fall protection. Accessibility requires zero to minimal transitions, meaning transitions from garage to home, home to porches and patios, even internal transitions such as wood floors to tile, and bathroom floors to shower floors should all have zero to minimal transitions. Indoor to outdoor transitions should be kept to a minimum code allowed 1.5”. Internal transitions should be seamless. For fall protection there is the obvious railing requirements, but decorative grab bars in bathrooms and wet areas are often overlooked. Another component often overlooked is the slip index and tile size in our shower floors. Anti-slip tiles, and smaller tiles with more grout joints help us to stay upright. Consult the tile manufacturers coefficient of friction for adequate slip ratings. It is something we don’t often consider when we are young, but planning for aging in place is so easily incorporated into the custom home. Plus, it can really enhance resale value since so many buyers are bringing aging relatives home to live with them.
Peace of Mind
Apart from our physical health, but equally important is our mental health. Our homes should be a sanctuary from the outside world. Two of the many considerations we address in our Lifestyle Analysis©, and that are often overlooked or ignored, are adequate storage and dedicated space for relaxing. One of the most common stressors is clutter. Having adequate storage for items as small as hair dryers and curling irons to oversized holiday decorations goes a long way to a clutter-free and stress-free home, and it’s really easy to accomplish. Dedicated space for stress relief can take on a myriad of forms, from a small sauna to a home gym or sewing room, but could also be a space within a space for prayer and meditation, or just an area to curl up with your latest novel. Whatever the activity is for you, creating a dedicated space goes a long way toward peace of mind and good mental health. Making the space attractive so that you’ll want to go there is also a bonus, like some of the spaces shown below.
Of course, sometimes we need to do more than just de-clutter an area to create a peaceful space. It is surprising how much we can lower our stress levels by changing paint, flooring, and furniture in a space. Just remember to use the right products to maintain good air quality in the home during and after the project.
A healthy home is a place where we can restore our health and feel rejuvenated. It is a place that is designed to care for us, keep us and our loved ones safe, and lower our stress. It’s one of the best investments we can make: it’s an investment in ourselves.