How our home design affects happiness and mental well-being



Making our homes our safe havens has become a mantra over the past year.

But, long before the time of the pandemic and years before we raised our drawbridges, an architect from Munster set out to create homes focused on the well-being of all who live within their walls.

Does where you hang your hat really have an impact on your state of mind?

David Moriarty. Photo: Ciara Murphy

David Moriarty believes it. He founded David Moriarty and Associates (DMA) Architects, in Tralee in 2008, and six years later he was joined by Creative Director Angelo Leen.

They specialize in designs that promote wellness and positive mental health.

“There is an innate need to absorb the outside world for the sake of well-being when talking about home design in today’s world, and this is especially important when considering the time that we let’s move inside lately, ”says Angelo.

Angelo Leen.  Photo: Ciara Murphy
Angelo Leen. Photo: Ciara Murphy

What exactly is designing for well-being?

Although form and function have always been key parameters in design, they never took into account how we feel, ”explains David.

“We must always remember that we are impressionable beings – the world around us can have a positive and negative impact on our behavior, especially when we are talking about young developing minds,” he says. “So while everyone may be different, there is a very important caveat: we all have an innate attraction to natural processes.

“It is this genetic connection that runs alongside our often unrealized state of mind – an example could be a nervous disposition in a dentist waiting room is often calmed by the exposed aquarium.”

Wild Atlantic House by DMA, on the Dingle Peninsula.
Wild Atlantic House by DMA, on the Dingle Peninsula.

So how exactly do you design a home or workspace around what is essentially a feeling?

Incorporating direct or indirect elements from the natural world into your immediate environment has been shown to reduce stress, blood pressure and heart rate, while conversely increasing productivity, creativity and calm ”, explains David.

“Designing to capture natural light on its own has been shown to regulate our circadian rhythms, allowing for a more efficient sleep / wake cycle.

“Think of it as putting yourself in the best position to deal with whatever life throws at you.

DMA Beach Walk House in Ballybunion, County Kerry.
DMA Beach Walk House in Ballybunion, County Kerry.

“Some days it will be more important than others and some days you won’t even notice it, but I think many architects agree that’s when a building has realized its potential.”

“Most homes were built to meet only certain criteria – we have seen a steady increase in the number of clients complaining of increased apprehension, anxiety and depression; Simply put, our homes weren’t designed to meet every one of our inherent needs.

Natural light, sky views, nature views and a clutter-free space are essential in design for well-being, according to David.

“The idea is that with the house, if it’s bright – hopefully with avenues to the outside world, and this outside world is filled with greens and blues – our bodies will release serotonin (the product happy chemical) and we’ll feel refreshed and positive and calm, going back to a messy space can undo all that good, much like the dentist blocking the view of the aquarium by showing you the drill, ”he says.

Angelo is also a yogi and advocate for positive mental health, which influences his designs so that spaces “become more than just a shell to live or work in, but an extension of people to grow”.

DMA completed The Crescent House in 2018.
DMA completed The Crescent House in 2018.

We need to prioritize mindfulness early in the creative process in finding happy spaces, ”he says.

From the early stages of DMA’s design, David’s ideals centered on creating spaces that offered “a sense of belonging, that felt good,” he says.

“It was when you heard these words from a customer that we achieved our goal,” he adds.

I am looking at Instagram-perfect exteriors and interiors of residences large and small designed by the DMA team over the past two years, many of them in Kerry and West Cork.

Angelo adds: “When I joined in 2014, David discovered my interest in positive mental health and the role it played in forming spaces that really resonated with people – how it could be incorporated into all kinds. spaces, whether it’s a child’s bedroom or an open-plan family space.

“The benefits to the end user in our eyes were endless, how that could justify particular design choices and really become something that was felt long after a project was over. “

In 2016 DMA grew with two additional employees and now has eight team members and over the past year their mission has accelerated.

Today more than ever, we rely on our home to fill a number of roles in our lives.

“For generations it was a place to eat, sleep and enjoy family life – but recently it has become a place to socialize and be entertained while more recently it has become a place to hang out. exercise and even work out, ”adds Angelo.

“Studies have shown that people spend up to 90% of their time indoors, resulting in a loss of connection with the natural world that is becoming more and more evident.

“Analyzing the behavior of body and mind allows us to promote well-being and facilitate happiness; Essentially, we can focus on creating more connected and useful spaces.

Interior of the Sea View, North Kerry.
Interior of the Sea View, North Kerry.

I look forward to hearing what they see as a real example of connectivity.

“I think it’s about creating a family center,” says Angelo.

Sea view, North Kerry.
Sea view, North Kerry.

“We like the idea of ​​establishing a hub in the house, a space where everyone is subliminally drawn. and from where each piece can flow.

“The kitchen is usually the space that works best because it’s the place we like to fill with natural light, it’s usually connected to an outdoor space or a peaceful backdrop while wonderful aromas can awaken. the senses when cooking.

“This is often the place where the real magic of family life operates.

Does conceiving with children – or indeed the inner child – in mind also improve well-being?

Certainly, said Angelo. “Children are genetically programmed to explore the world around them, which is how they create an understanding of certain truths and concepts in the environment,” he says.

Teach na Bláthanna by DMA in the West Cork countryside near the Kerry border, was recently completed.
Teach na Bláthanna by DMA in the West Cork countryside near the Kerry border, was recently completed.

“We always try to create direct and indirect contact with the external facets of the natural world as much as possible to allow children to explore, imagine and discover.”

Yoga and mindfulness are close to Angelo’s heart.

“It seemed natural to tie practices like yoga and meditation to our wellness philosophies, forging bonds that can be as simple as bare feet on natural ground, a framed backdrop of nature, or even a open and bright space to reconnect with yourself, ”he says. .

“These are the little moments that we cherish. As a bonus, we are in the process of developing a wellness retreat in Ballinskelligs, across from Skellig Michael, aptly named the Skelligs Retreat.

“This retreat is currently in the planning stage and is expected to be completed in 2023. It will be a 1.5 million euro development, housing meditation, yoga, crafts, trails, mud therapy , cooking classes and team building. ”

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