Home gyms, natural light and air flow

What do Aussies love more than avo on toast? If you say Vegemite, you’re close, but the real answer is home renovations. Just last year, the Australian Bureau of Statistics announced that the amount of money spent on private renos hit a new high of $9.9 billion, and in 2019, the DIY trend is showing no signs of slowing down. Instead of selling up and moving on to another property, more and more Aussies are choosing to invest in their current abode, and although a renovation could help increase the value of your home, it could also improve your wellbeing.

“Creating a healthy home is the next frontier in wellness,” notes Lee-Anne Stevens, founder of building consultancy Healthy Abode. “There’s an increasing number of people taking their health into their own hands by choosing natural and organic products as they start to question the environment they live in.”

Considering you spend 65 per cent of your life in your home, creating one that supports your health makes sense. No matter how you’re funding your reno, here’s how to use your hard-earned cash to turn your home into a healthy oasis…

Swap carpet for hard flooring

“Carpet is the archaeological dig site of the home,” explains building biologist Nicole Bijlsma. “It contains DNA from every person, pet or plant that has ever touched it and is full of dust mites. If your carpet has ever been water damaged, it could also have fungal particles.”

Every time you walk on carpet, the pollutants it contains may become airborne, which could trigger health issues like asthma and allergies. Bijlsma recommends replacing your carpet with hard flooring. If you can’t replace all the carpet, make entryways and damp rooms (like the laundry and kitchen) your top priority.

Expand your kitchen for healthy cooking

Even the smallest of kitchens can inspire your inner chef if it has the right layout, so for a kitchen you actually want to cook in, increase your counter space and be smart about your materials. “I’m seeing a lot more people install stainless-steel benches as they allow the whole family to chip in with food prep and nobody has to worry about stains,” notes Stevens. When it comes to storage, ensure appliances like juicers and blenders are easily accessible rather than hidden away. If they’re too far out of sight, they’ll be too far out of mind — and that goes for food, too. “Exposed or walk-in pantries allow you to see all of your delicious food and know what you have available, and this helps you better engage with your ingredients.” Bring the outside in

“Connecting with nature and breathing in fresh air is great for your health, so install stacker or sliding doors that can open up your main living area and extend it outside,” says Stevens.

If you live in an apartment, create a green wall that lines up with a window to maximise the natural views. “Any way you can mimic nature in your home is great,” says Bijlsma.

Build a home gym

“People are so time-poor these days, it’s important to have a space for fitness at home,” Stevens notes. To prevent exercise from falling off your radar, ensure your home gym is in an area of the house that you pass often (instead of the easy-to-neglect basement) and make it an enticing space by installing floor-to-ceiling mirrors or wooden railings. If you can only dedicate a small area to your fitness space, that’s OK, too. “Your entertainment room can easily become a fitness space by enclosing the equipment behind cabinetry,” she says.

Optimise air flow

Unless you have adequate ventilation, chemicals from cooking, cleaning and furnishings can build up to toxic levels. To help improve your home’s air flow, Stevens advises installing windows on more than one wall to promote cross ventilation.

Extractor fans in the kitchen, bathroom and laundry are a must to remove excess moisture, and if you already have them, ensure they exhaust outside to prevent the growth of invisible mould.

If you live close to a road, don’t forget about landscaping. A recent UK study revealed dense hedging can shield your home from roadside fumes — not to mention reducing noise pollution, too.

Maximise natural light

Studies show exposure to natural light can help regulate your body clock, which in turn lifts your mood, balances your hormones and supports your sleep/wake cycle. Make use of skylights, extra windows and glass panels on doors to let in more sunlight. When it comes to electric lighting, opt for dimmable bulbs that are free of blue light, advises Bijlsma. Blue light can suppress your melatonin levels, which delays sleep onset and can also have negative long-term health ramifications.

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