Lab Rats – Studying the Science Behind Your Home

Many of us opt to ‘aim high’ when renovating or designing our space. Tall windows, walls and ceilings – they create impact and strengthen acoustics. But, did you know there’s more to those 3metre studs than meets the eye. In the name of science, your architecture choices are doing much more than meeting design expectations – they’re promoting performance and improving your conceptual thinking.

What does neuroscience have to do with building my home, you say? Think design choices that effect the way we live, work and function . . .

Sky high: The story of Jonas Salks, an American medical researcher, still remains the most cited example of the unique tie between architecture and the brain. In the 1950s, Salks – struggling to discover a cure for polo – moved to a monastery in Umbria, Italy. He claims the high ceilings and Romanesque arches enabled him to clear his obstructed mind, inspiring his solution – a vaccine was founded.

Research suggests that higher ceilings promote greater performance and strengthen conceptual thinking. On the flipside, lower ceiling spaces have been toted to improve our mathematical thinking. Think higher – think expansive, opt lower – think focused and contained.

Plant space: Research tells us that our visual connection to the outdoors also impacts our cognitive behaviours. Just being able to see a plant, a slice of the sky or a water view from the kitchen bench or dining table, influences our stress levels and mindset.  

Colour waves: Warm colours promote longevity and warmth – we want to spend time in rooms that exude softer lighting and hues. Calm and serenity on your list? Aim for blues and whites, say colour palette experts.

Lighting fix: Every aspect of home design – right down to the lighting position – can evoke mood and feelings. Wanting less formality in your home? Lighting below eye level livens the mood – think low wall lighting down hallways and corridors, and lighting above eye level creates spaciousness and deepens the mood.

Science or no science, when it comes to your home – it’s what’s on the inside that is going to count towards how you live, play and feel.

We’ve Got the Look – The what’s what in New Zealand architecture

Trendsetter or trend follower, these days it’s hard to keep up – let alone catchup – with what’s happening on the trends front – be it fashion, lifestyle or home. So, can pinning down a true-blue Kiwi architecture style actually be done? Afterall, we entertained the Bay Villa in the early 1900s, we built the bungalow in the 20s, channelled the art deco in the 30s, state housing came to the fore in the 40s and following the 1950s, we saw a most-modernist swing towards contemporary architecture that embraced the indoor/outdoor flow – influenced by traditional Maori buildings and our Kiwi lifestyle.

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According to judges at last year’s World Architectural festival, today’s Kiwi architecture landscape is more in tune with the environment than ever before. The judges awarded the Best Villa title to a Golden Bay designed ‘Bach with Two Roofs’ Villa – designed by two Nelson architects – saying it represented – “Architecture, not as a frozen expression in time, but as an evolving expression of life. A project with environmental considerations at heart and the stewardship of one of depleting resources, the forest.”

With nature and sustainability leading the way, and an all-embracing attitude towards coupling with our environment, what are a few of the key elements we should look to when designing the Kiwi home for the 21st Century and beyond?

  • Texture and depth to reflect landscapes: Dark Graphite benches – which channel rocky outcrops, tall white gloss cabinetry – to reflect views and hills.
  • Natural timber exterior wall cladding; interior walls lined with plywood – for interesting grains and intricacy.
  • Concrete with a board-formed finish.
  • Floating internal and external staircases.
  • Homes which naturally slide into a surround of native shrubs and trees.
  • Slot windows and skylights.
  • ‘outdoor rooms’ – with extended roofs and wide openings.
  • Paint speak – black remains top of the ranks, indoors and outdoors.
  • Mid-century influences of ‘built in’ furniture – bench seats and bunk beds included.
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When it comes to architecture and designing your home, it shouldn’t be about keeping up with the Jones’, rather staying true to your wants, needs and surrounds. We may have plenty of sheep Down Under, but we’ve never been ones to follow.