This wasn’t always a dining room. In fact, like a pimply-faced teenager this room is not quite sure of what it is yet. The dinner table gives some structure and purpose, but there are also bedside tables in the corners, a bean bag at one end, and what was designed to be an office cabinet along the wall. My fish in his tank greets me each morning for food. I assume he is a he, and not a she. More confusion in an adolescent room.
The light in here is lovely in the mornings. While the air is still cool, the sun pours in to light up the dining table for breakfast time. Strangely we never take advantage of this as we are generally in too much of a rush to sit down and eat in the morning.
There is also a door in one of the walls, next to the bean bag. This leads straight onto a flight of stairs and is remarkable for not having a landing. Instead one has to step up into the open door at a different level to the room. Perhaps not the best design, and apparently illegal for health and safety reasons. Oh well. The teenager stumbles through life until it figures out what it wants to be.
When we first moved in, this was my music room. My favorite room at the time, I filled it with jazz, rock, blues. There were movies and computer games. Speakers and amplifiers. A turntable and cds littered the floor. These days my beautiful children turn it into something different every day. Sometimes it is a race track for scooters, sometimes a camp site, a beach, a mountain top for epic adventures. Sometimes we even eat at the table. I’m just glad my amps and speakers are not in here.
Odd title, let me explain.
In reading about the impact of design and space on our wellbeing, I have come more and more to believe in well designed homes as a source of wellbeing. Conversely poorly designed homes are bad for our long term health. Certain spaces will create stress or isolation, and others will create relaxation and communion. Healthy spaces should account for all stimuli entering the brain through all the senses.
So far so good. I imagine, dear reader, that you are with me on this…or at least you are willing to entertain the notion that a room full of comfy couches, mellow music, warm lighting and sweet lavender smells is better for our health than a damp, dark basement with odours of rat poo.
But this is where my mind makes a weird connection, so as Samuel L Jackson famously said about the dinosaurs: “hold on to your butts”.
I recently came across this quartz article which looks at the impact of headphones on media and pop music: link I found myself nodding to the words throughout the article. Media has become a certain way (mainly bass heavy music or intimate chats in the form of podcasts) because of its main mode of consumption – headphones which have tiny speakers and offer a private signal direct to your brain. The design of the headphones affects the media in exactly the same way the design of your house affects your wellbeing.
Think of wellbeing as a piece of amorphous art you need to try and shape with whatever you have at your disposal. Just like the music that is shaped by the arenas, churches or headphones in which it is played. Life is a song. Life is art. I’m sure those are old, cheesy sayings but they suddenly make a lot of sense to me.
Christmas is upon us like a tidal wave now. I have started to crank some soulful Christmas carols and hang some sweet smelling decorations for my family’s wellbeing and communion if nothing else.
Happy Friday chimps.
Although we often think of the word “stereo” relating to music, what it actually means is “relating to a three dimensional effect”. We smell in stereo.
From my great new book:
“Though humans’ nostrils are only about two centimeters apart, this is sufficient for people to detect slight differences in the concentration of a scent cloud, and thus provides information about the scent’s location and source.”
Humans can be trained to track scents like dogs, and when they do, they zig zag across the trail, just like dogs, chasing the higher chemical concentrations to the smell’s source.
It makes me think that Perfume and deodorant are to scent what headphones are to music – giving our brains close proximity to the pleasant sensations….and all of it in stereo.
It blows my mind how much we take our senses for granted. Smell, sound, touch – all of them have a huge impact on our enjoyment, health and peace of mind.
So says my new book, and who am I to argue with that? 😉
Happy Friday chimps.
Good design can help you escape your own personal jungle. These are some of the cool people I follow on Instagram for design stuff:
Studio Dylan Thomaz: @studio.dylan.thomaz – interior design in Cape Town SA with a focus on happiness through design.
Tone Alexander Design Studio: @tonealexander – Interiors and gardens designed locally here in Cape Town.
Fern & Roby: @fernandroby – Industrial design and Audio (speakers and turntables mainly) and beautiful furniture made in Richmond, Virginia, USA.
Happy Tuesday Chimps.
I have been watching this awesome show on Netflix. I would highly recommend it:
One way to view a building is through the lens of a developer. Using this lens, a building is a foundation, a frame, and finishes (interior and exterior — windows, doors, penetrations) plus the surface finishes (floors, walls, ceilings, interior doors, rest rooms, mop closets, central plant) and the HVAC, electrical, plumbing, fire protection, controls, elevator systems.
Buildings can also be linked to health and emotion. A house can be a safe space and a home full of joy, or it can be full of anger, the scene of a divorce. Creative spaces can give you a sense of freedom and purpose. Pressurized space characterized by disjunction and poor design can give you a feeling of unease – it may even make you sick.
Depending on what you want to achieve, it helps to have the right lens. For example right now I need to sort out several functional things in our old house such as the garden lawn and the crumbling driveway. Developers lens helps here. I also have to manage a big family’s needs and expectations with my own. Seeing our home as a space for emotional fulfillment, health, and personal development is perhaps the lens to use here.
I once asked my dad why he liked The Rolling Stones so much. His answer was that they understood the need for highs and lows in a song.
It is hardwired deep in your nervous system. The senses that we humans have developed over millennia of evolution – touch, smell, sight, hearing – are made up of nerve cells linking to our brain. These nerve cells respond better to a sudden change than they do to repeated stimuli.
What does this mean? It depends on the situation.
For Mick Jagger and the boys it means that their songs have light and shade. Quiet verses and soaring choruses. Jagger will whisper and then he will growl and roar.
For emergency response vehicles it means the loud sirens are designed to be varied, sharp and with many different patterns so as to be noticed over the noise of everyday traffic. This contrast works better than one continuous noise which is easily filtered out by the human ear.
For creative people, I think it means that if a piece of art is not getting the desired response, then one of the first things to assess is the use of contrast – light and shade, highs and lows.
Contrast = interesting to humans.
Too much sun can lead to DNA damage – sun burn and eventually cancer.
Too little sun can cause vitamin deficiencies – rickets.
Design yourself a living space with some sunshine. Not too much but definitely not too little. The Sun’s light impacts mood and physical health in a massive way.
I change the set up of my house quite frequently. It’s not something I thought I would become interested in, but interior design can impact your health, your mood, your daily movement.
The latest casualty is our bedroom. There is a small flight of stairs leading into the room. It used to be that as soon as you walked down the three or four stairs, our bedside table got in your way, then our bed got in your way. You had to make a hard left turn to get anywhere else in the room.
Now the bed and table are the other side of the room, freeing up the entry. The “Flow” of the room (ha! I’m writing about “room flow”) is so much better now that you can walk down the stairs and just keep on going. If you like you can keep going all the way through the room, unimpeded to the garden. It’s amazing how much difference this one change has made.
I also rigged up a sweet Hifi system in the bedroom using an old amp with Denon speakers and a chromecast. Check out the photos on the @chimpwithcans Instagram page if you like.
I can just feel the different vibe in the room. There is a “flow” as you arrive, and the music makes you want to stay.
I never thought I would ever care about furniture. For my teens and twenties, furniture was just stuff to sit on or put things on…or lie on. Just stuff to use.
Now though, furniture has power. I have favourite pieces. I appreciate how things are made. I get a sort of mental clarity and peace of mind when furniture fits into a room the way I think it ought to. When it is comfortable.
I think this is born out of family growth and chaos. Like a little microcosm of the world, population explosion in my house has put pressure on resources and spaces. Furniture has become misused – a TV cabinet overrun by unicorn stickers – a lounge suite as a nappy changing station. Furniture gets in the way often – tables and chairs are moved around willy-nilly for little hands and feet to climb onto – nothing more than leverage to reach something high. Just stuff to use.
Interior design and furniture can impact your health and wellbeing. Kids don’t care, and there’s a beauty in their nonchalance, but I am becoming more and more convinced of the power that ‘things fitting into appropriate spaces for particular use-cases’ can have.