The word “sanctuary” holds the connotations of religion, like in Victor Hugo’s classic The Hunchback of Notre Dame when Quasimodo is searching for freedom from persecution.
Elizabeth Hall, certified interior designer and owner of Sanctuary Interiors, LLC, in Easton, does not design for religious institutions, but her philosophy on design is one of creating peace and comfort in a person’s day-to-day environment.
“A lot of times, people renovate to keep up with the times or impress their neighbors,” she says, “not necessarily design to make themselves happy. People see things in magazines and like how it looks, but they don’t always consider how it will make them feel.”
According to the American Institute of Stress (www.stress.org), 75 to 90 percent of hospital and doctor visits are stress-related, but some of that stress can be relieved by creating healing environments within our own homes.
“I think about basic needs, and yes, form follows function,” Elizabeth says, “but I take it several steps further into the realm of things that affect us unconsciously in our environment to make us feel better and reduce our stressors.”
The interior design of the home affects how we live our lives, she said, how happy we are, how healthy we are, how productive we are. When Elizabeth began her career nearly 30 years ago, she began asking how should could help people, how could she make a positive difference. “I want to help people in their daily lives,” she said. “You need somewhere you can go and calm yourself, a place to go to deal with life when it gets dramatic.”
The process of designing a healthy living space is as unique as each person. Lighting, color, textures and even intermingling natural elements and smells are all individual choices and important to the overall atmosphere of the feeling a person is trying to create at home.
“We experience the world through our five senses, so interior design needs to address all of your senses, not just what’s the latest trend,” Elizabeth says. “It’s about personalizing an environment for your lifestyle.”
But that doesn’t not mean you can’t incorporate trending styles and colors into your building or renovation project, nor does it mean you have to be selfish in your needs and wants. At the beginning of the design process, Elizabeth takes the time to understand a person’s tastes as well as their needs. She presents clients with a questionnaire detailing how and when they use their space, how many people it will need to accommodate, whether they have children or pets or guests, what colors they like and which they find annoying or irritating, and so on. Then she develops a plan to create an interior space that is reflective of the needs of the whole family.
“My compassionate and empathetic nature in wanting to help people to have a better everyday quality of life helps me think about how they’re going to feel in their environment and how it’s going to make them feel better. How is it going to support you, add to your life, make you happy when you walk into the room?
“I want people to say, ‘Ahhh, it’s nice to come home,’” she says.
When people create environments solely to impress other people, they’re not necessarily happy there, she says. “They go to spas to relax instead of being able to go home.”
This idea of holistic design is not new, Elizabeth says. The first evidence of a space designed for the purposes of holistic healing and stress reduction began as early as 500 B.C. with Hippocrates, who maintained the Asclepion on the island of Cos — something of an ancient spa and health retreat. Designed with an athletic field, bath houses, and all the necessities for patrons to experience relaxation through cultural activities including art, music and drama — his was one of the first true holistic healing spaces.
Indeed, current trends use evidence-based design which was first developed in hospitals in the 1970s, says Elizabeth. Researchers found that the actual hospital environment could help people heal faster, boost spirits and require less pain medication. Even something as simple as providing seating areas in patient’s rooms helped them heal faster because of the encouragement to be surrounded by family and friends.
This type of evidence-based design is being used to develop interiors that enable a person rather than disable them, says Elizabeth, allowing more people the opportunity for aging in place and safety concerns are alleviated.
Through Sanctuary Interiors, Elizabeth encapsulates that vision of holistic spaces in the modern day world, incorporating the things people need and love into their daily lives. Your home should be a place you can recharge and refresh, she says. “There’s a lot of reasons we need a healing place when we come home,” she says, “it doesn’t have to be a specific place in your house, it doesn’t have to be a ‘yoga room’ or a ‘meditation room’ — your whole home can have that sanctuary feeling.”
For more information on Sanctuary Interiors, or to request a consultation, go to http://sanctuaryinteriorsllc.com.