Décor & Design

How To Make Your Home A Space For Improved Mental Health

May 10, 2023

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and we wanted to know: how can we create spaces to live and work in that are actually conducive to better mental health and well-being? We chatted with Vancouver designer Aleem Kasaam of Kalu Interiors to get his top tips. —Vita Daily

Tell us a bit about yourself and your work to start!

I started in Interior Design almost two decades ago, and it’s taken me around the world, quite literally. From studying in Vancouver to Milan and London to Chicago, while also practicing in the design field both in Chicago and Vancouver. As one of the partners of Kalu Interiors, a firm we’ve had and grown since 2004 alongside my partner Phyllis, our Studio in Vancouver now encompasses a total of 10 designers, and we work both on residential and commercial projects across the Lower Mainland.  Though, our projects have more recently taken us to places such as Seattle and Los Angeles too!  My personal favourite projects to take on are single-family and condo renovations; working with an existing structure and handing me a challenge to completely reimagine and reinvent the space with a new perspective, while also reflecting the clients.  Usually, taking an approach of clean, contemporary and bright neutral tones echoed throughout the space to produce a timeless and soothing atmosphere, contrasted by special pieces, patterns or textures to elevate the space and provide a unique sensibility, is what I’m always about!

Our homes are our havens. How would you say the space around us impacts/is essential for our well-being?

Our homes are absolutely our havens, and places of respite. Especially post-pandemic, we have lived and learned of how truly special and important our homes are to our well-being, daily activities, and how they can better support ourselves and our families both emotionally and physically. Aesthetically helping to calm our spirits, while functionally adapting to help serve a variety of activities on a daily basis, from relaxing to working and now again, entertaining. Whether continuing to work from home, or coming home after a long day at work, we naturally seek our spaces to provide us with a sense of warmth, calm and comfort. Our homes and our spaces have a huge impact on our mental health and can positively, or negatively affect this.  A home that exudes positive energy will usually address a variety of factors, but not limited to, such as organization, cleanliness, abundance of natural light, neutral and calming tones, textures from nature, while featuring objects or items that might resonate personal & positive emotions; such as a piece you might have picked-up on your travels that evokes fond memories for you, holding a special place in your mind and heart.

In terms of decor and design (clutter/organization, colour schemes, plant life, sacred spaces, etc.), what are your top tips toward creating a nourishing space for mental health and well-being throughout the home?

There’s a variety of steps you can take in order to ensure that your space is achieving a positive outcome for your mental health and well-being. Firstly, edit. Start from scratch with a bare minimum of furniture, accessories and items in the space. This will allow you to have a blank canvas, and be able to assess the space without influence and difficulty to pair-down where clutter or organization may be contributing factors.  Then, reintroduce. Start by placing furniture, accessory items back to the space, but thoughtfully.  Considering each and every item and how it serves a purpose. If it doesn’t serve a functional or aesthetically-pleasing purpose in your life, you don’t need it. 

Take a step back and assess the overall colour scheme now. Is there continuity & balance? If not, this might mean simple solutions such as repainting the room to a singular colour in a neutral or calming tone, in my books- you can never go wrong with a bright white acting as the perfect canvas to help you and your space evolve over the years should your desires or aesthetic change. If your preference is a specific colour accent or tone, stick to it, and re-introduce it throughout the space with objects, art and accessories to balance the space, and in result your mind.

Lastly, bring the outside-in. Natural textures, materials and patterns will calm your nervous system. This has been scientifically proven through a variety of studies around the world.  Introducing natural elements such as house plants, decorative stones or a beautiful piece of driftwood, or even photography of natural environments – will all help to contribute to a more nourishing space. Introduce these elements sparingly, purposefully and tactfully throughout the space, in order not to also re-clutter the space again.

Personally, how have you created a haven out of your own home?

By utilizing tips and tricks that I’ve suggested above, I was able to create my home into our personal sanctuary. Both my partner and I lead very active and busy lives both personally and professionally, so having a home that exuded a sense of warmth and calmness was extremely important for our lifestyle.  Replicating finishes and materials throughout the home with items such as white oak surfaces, bright white walls, warm bronze tones, and honed stone surfaces, I achieved a very bright and neutral atmosphere, but not sterile – as introducing contrast to the space was achieved with the depth and warmth of the bronze glass, along with the dark textured stone surfaces throughout.  This was then accented by dedicated display areas where I consolidated items, I wanted to feature from our international travels that exuded fond memories for us on our adventures.  Lastly, by remembering to also ensure we had areas to reflect nature quite literally, I curated a range of tropical and large leafed indoor plants usually perfectly situated within the corners of rooms near a window; adding soft and layered touches to areas that would have otherwise felt quite dark and dead within the spaces.



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