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    • Great question, and one I get asked a lot! First, let me start by saying don’t be overwhelmed! Much like the way you might approach changes to diet or exercise - most people don’t suddenly go cold turkey, throw out all their food and start hitting the weights room - it’s more of a progression of slow and steady changes that make the difference. 

      I have a few things I always tell people. 

      1)  Buy non-toxic bedroom furniture and bedding, we spend ⅓ of our lives sleeping so please please do that on a non-toxic mattress and pillows, and if you have kids or babies this is even more critical. Ideally you would do this all at once (yes, that is how important that is) but obviously this can be cost prohibitive so I always tell clients, just remember next time you are buying a mattress, a bed frame or sheets to go organic and non-toxic. 

      Since having my own baby, I have grown fiercely passionate about nursery design and styling. If you are expecting a new baby please think carefully about every item you bring into that nursery, from the paint on the walls, glue under the wallpaper (or even the ink on the wallpaper), carpets / rugs, furniture, crib mattress & change pad, crib bedding (the list could go on)...all of it can be covered in a toxic soup of chemicals that can be so harmful, especially for a little baby with an underdeveloped body. 

      When I first began furnishing my son’s nursery I realised that finding high quality, low-emission furniture that was budget friendly was challenging. In the EU their standards are much stricter on use of formaldehyde and VOC’s in furniture items, but their costs are higher (plus shipping), but after a lot of research, and many calls to manufacturers I found there are some great, smaller local places that have options for smaller budgets (did I also mention IKEA?) so do your research or contact my office for advice!

      2) Detox your kitchen and bathroom. Less of a design or architectural tip but critical to improve IAQ. Remove any cleaners, beauty, laundry and hair care products with ingredients you don’t understand. Essentially, if you can’t eat it, don’t use it. This will go a long way in improving the quality of your indoor air.  

      3) To tie into the above, invest in a quality HEPA air filter. I have a few I like depending on the contaminants you’re trying to remove, based on site testing. If a good quality air filter is out of the question, then indoor plants are a great budget friendly option, or even your windows!

      4) Don’t be overwhelmed! Small changes can have a huge impact. Remove your shoes at the door, open your windows, vacuum with a HEPA filter (regular vacuums just break up the dust into smaller particles and spread them around the room), invest in a water filter for your shower and kitchen (or a countertop version) and avoid buying plastic - these are some very easy ways to keep toxins from entering your home. 

      photo credit Nick Glimenakis (@nickglimenakis)

    • You're originally from Australia, now based in New York City. What are some changes you see in home design between the various places you've lived and clients you've worked with in your career?

    • I have worked in such a variety of architectural firms from a ‘New York’ traditional architectural studio, through to a small boutique residential firm; and now to my own wellness architecture practice, so I feel like I have seen it all (both in terms of projects and clients). 

      I think a lot of American architecture is steeped in tradition. Many of the floors are more traditional and broken into rooms with more formal arrangements, whereas in Australia there is more open connection between spaces. That has a lot to do with the age of the buildings in NYC, as most of the apartments and condo’s I worked in were landmarked (heritage) buildings and this was just how homes were designed back in the day.

      Having said that, I am finding a blend of the two styles becoming the most requested renovation change.  Many clients would probably like to go ‘full open plan’ but building constraint factors like structural walls and risers limit those ideas. I think many American clients are used to a more formal layout and so like that visual connection between spaces but still a clearly defined space for each function (like a breakfast nook or family room)

      In terms of styling and finishes I find there is more texture and luxurious style to American interiors. There seems to be a lot of pattern and color and texture (think plush velvets and burgundy & emerald tones), and detailing (for example shaker style kitchen cabinets and ornate hardware). What I am noticing online (thanks instagram) is a lot of Aussie designers moving away from the ‘aussie scandi’ look and into these rich layered looks which I am loving! 

    • For those who are apartment, condo, or house-hunting, what are some common tips and tricks you'd suggest to optimize their wellness as a starting point?

    • I would look for the easy to feel or spot things, like humidity, mold - in bathroom grout / shower corners (especially in apartments as most bathrooms do not have windows or sufficient ventilation), discolored or funky smelling water (always run the taps), noise transmission - is the place near a busy 24/7 convenience store, a bar, a school?, operable windows (you’d be surprised how many people have windows that either don’t open or are painted shut) - fresh air is the best way to move stale contaminated air, yes even NYC outside air is cleaner than the air inside your apartment! 

      I often suggest to clients looking to purchase to first test the place for air & water quality, mold and any other potentially hazardous toxins. There are plenty of building inspectors or building biologists who can help at this stage. 

    • As more research is done on the impact of indoor environments on human health (can you believe it’s 2019 and this is a relatively ‘new’ area of research? Mind boggling) there are some great resources out there. 

      I often refer to the Sustainable Furnishings Council website which has a great list of resources from suppliers to contractors who can help you with your wellness design needs.I also like Healthy Building Network’s Home Free  and Healthy Materials Lab, both great for product searches. I also love Pure Living Space for all things healthy. 

      In terms of product sources for furniture etc. I love Gimme the Good Stuff, but many of the big-box stores are now carrying lines of certified organic, sustainable or chemical free products which is great to see. The most important part is just doing research (or using a wellness architect to help guide you) and asking questions!  

      And finally, when it comes to general household products I often refer to Irina’s amazing website I Read Labels for You as I feel she put a lot of time and research into products before suggesting them so I trust her word completely.

      photo credit Sean Litchfield (@seanlitchfield)