“Most of us spend 90 percent of our lives indoors, and two-thirds of that is in our homes,” says designer Tamara Magel. “Yet very few of us consider the impact on our well-being.” It’s a staggering and pertinent statistic that has inspired Magel and others to make wellness a cornerstone of their design philosophies: How can we build a house that not only looks good but also creates a sense of peace, beauty, security and comfort?
For Magel, this started with adopting a 10-step healthy living approach. “A truly healthy home goes beyond clean materials; it incorporates our basic human needs for light, clean air and food, a quiet environment and a peaceful atmosphere,” she explains. In her work, this translates to non-toxic and eco-friendly paints, natural stone and elements (water, clay and grasses), natural light sources and feng shui. “I tend to use less furniture and larger pieces to create ease of flow from room to room,” she says. “I start with symmetry and add strategically placed organic curves.”
Symmetry is also key for architect Don Ruggles, an idea he explores in his book Beauty, Neuroscience & Architecture, where he maintains that the most fundamental geometric pattern is the three-point facial pattern—two eyes and a mouth. What may seem like an abstract concept for the home is actually quite relevant: “The three-by-three pattern occurs over and over again in architecture and art,” says Ruggles. “Your brain will intuitively process it in an efficient way, which creates less stress and more rest.” The architect mentions the classic fireplace set up, in which the firebox opening is the center, and the mantel forms the upper left and upper right of the design. Notice the pattern once, and you’ll see it everywhere: a headboard with two nightstands; the kitchen range and hood framed by cabinets; a front door surround; and so on.
In California, architect Jennifer Hoppel is championing beauty and sustainability. With her firm, Burdge Architects, she just completed the first carbon-neutral luxury estate in Malibu, aptly named Zero One. “You don’t have to sacrifice design or luxury to achieve a structure that is good for you and the environment,” she says, noting the residence’s intentional siting, outdoor courtyard, sustainable garden, FSC-certified wood and even its less sexy (but no less important) ventilation system that promotes healthy air. “Being green is not this big, scary endeavor,” says Hoppel. “It’s attainable. It’s the way of the future.”