The wellness kitchen was a trending topic in kitchen design before COVID-19. Now the concept of the wellness kitchen has really taken off as people are spending more time at home and are concerned more with health and safety. As a result of the pandemic, homeowners have been forced to question what their homes should do for them.
Design choices can affect homeowners’ well-being. So, it’s no surprise that you and your fellow kitchen designers are incorporating wellness into their work.
What Is a “Wellness” Kitchen?
Kitchen design professionals report that the pandemic and a desire for one’s home to be a safe and healthy space has increased interest in ways to make a remodeled kitchen become a “wellness” kitchen. Accordingly, the kitchen should be flexible, efficient and adaptable for multitasking. Plus, it needs to function well and keep everyone safe.
It’s no longer good enough for kitchens to look nice, homeowners want them to help them feel good too.
Homeowners are asking their designers what can be done to bring physical and mental health and well-being into their remodeled kitchens. Specifically, the wellness kitchen is sought after by fitness-minded Millennials, health-conscious Boomers and the sustainability-oriented Generation Z.
Where Did Wellness Design Come From?
Before COVID, the “green” movement of the early 2000s focused on avoiding toxic chemicals in the home and creating a healthy environment for people. Cabinet manufacturers got onboard by reducing or eliminating VOCs in their products, from plywood to finishing materials. (See #7 in the following list.)
What Does a Wellness Kitchen Include?
Kitchen designers are now incorporating wellness features into their designs.
They report that their wellness kitchens include some or all of the following 13 items.
#1. Kitchen Garden
Growing one’s own food encourages healthy eating, adds oxygen to the air, reduces dependence on grocery stores and brings a sense of accomplishment to the gardener. Additionally, growing herbs on the windowsill does away with buying expensive small amounts in plastic boxes. Which are not recyclable, BTW.
Thanks to an increased focus on wellness, more options for indoor gardens are available. It has become easy to grow an indoor garden with LED lights and timers. The internet is filled with resources. The first result from Google is Gardeners.com that has an amazing selection.
The benefits to composting are many. From reducing landfill waste to keeping the soil in a home garden healthy, it is an ideal part of a wellness kitchen.
Today’s composting isn’t the same as your grandma’s smelly bucket under the sink. Innovative compost bins hide food waste without adding smell or fruit flies to your kitchen. Whirlpool’s Zera Food Recycler transforms food scraps into compost within 24 hours.
Manufacturers of cabinet storage accessories have included composting and recycling bins to their line of waste products.
If you have clients who aren’t sure about composting, they can start small with a stainless steel compost container from Target.
#3. The Social Kitchen
Having the space to socialize is an important part of a wellness kitchen design. Visiting with family and friends in one’s kitchen makes it possible to have fun and create memories that contribute to overall health and well-being.
A large island is the perfect centerpiece of the social kitchen, with room for food prep, room for standing and moving around and room to sit and converse.
Biophilia is defined as the human instinct to connect with nature and other living beings. The term comes from the Greek words for “life” and “love or affection.” Thus, its literal translation is “love of life.”
In our kitchen design world, biophilia is the term for incorporating nature and natural influences and materials into design.
It’s part of wellness design. Being in nature supports physical health and psychological well-being and helps to reduce stress and improve mood and creativity.
People need a connection to nature, so bring the outdoors inside. Specifically, plant walls and other green growing plants, skylights and large windows connect kitchens with nature and natural light.
However, bringing nature in doesn’t have to be just about house plants. Materials found in nature, such as wood and stone, are environmentally friendly.
#5. Health Benefits of Universal Design | Ergonomics
According to the World Health Organization, more than one billion people or about 15% of the global population, live with some type of disability. Wellness is enhanced when the homeowners’ ages, heights and abilities are taken into consideration during the planning process. A few suggestions:
- Non-skid floors
- Dishwasher height raised so the top and bottom racks are at a comfortable height
- Different seating heights at the island to accommodate all family members
- Deep drawers organized so that contents can be accessed easily and moved efficiently
De-cluttering has a therapeutic effect. Simplicity and clutter-free surfaces soothe the eyes and brain, and a sense of order and being able to find things reduces stress.
A wellness kitchen design should include lots of in-cabinet storage to get clutter off countertops and into cabinets. An appliance garage, in-drawer storage, storage solutions for corner cabinets – all important to the simple wellness kitchen.
#7. Non-Toxic Materials
Experts recommend using cabinetry, paint and other materials with few or no volatile organic compounds (VOCs) or other noxious chemicals in a wellness kitchen.
The wellness kitchen should include air purification products that minimize toxins, keep pollutants to a minimum and provide a clean indoor air quality.
Designers can help by following the Public Health standards and maintaining VOC limits for interior paints, coatings, adhesives, sealants, insulation and flooring.
Add a radon detector to warn about unsafe levels of that major lung cancer risk, a carbon monoxide detector for each floor and working smoke alarms.
Enlarging existing windows and adding new windows and skylights brings in natural light, which has proven health benefits, which are:
- Increased productivity
- Improved moods
- Energy conservation
- Indoor gardens thrive
- Boosted physical, emotional and psychological wellbeing
To add to the natural light in a wellness kitchen, use LEDs. LED lighting is long lasting and energy friendly. Beyond that, LED lights can minimize seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which is definitely not healthy.
Today’s cooking appliances now offer healthier food prep options:
- steam ovens
- sous vide
- air fryers.
Dishwashers have high temperature sanitizing cycles. In addition, no-touch faucets help prevent the spread of germs from dirty hands.
#11. Bacteria Resistant Surfaces
The wellness kitchen requires easily disinfected surfaces. Products with antibacterial glazes can help reduce the amount of harmful bacteria in a kitchen. There are even paints that kill bacteria.
As designers, you don’t need to be reminded of the influence color has on a person’s mood. Now, they way colors are used in design has become a part of the wellness kitchen.
Certain colors and patterns effect the human brain, so using nature-inspired colors promotes calm and wellness.
#13. Reduce Waste
In a wellness kitchen, food storage, preparation, cooking, consumption and disposal are all about fresh food and organic ingredients. Food from the grocery store comes wrapped in paper and plastic that adds to landfills.
Kitchens designed for wellness would include storage for foods that minimize waste.
Homeowners interested in wellness design typically eat chemical- and preservative-free, locally sourced, fresh fruit and vegetable-rich diet that requires different food storage than what is found in a traditional kitchen. Fresh foods reduce packaging and waste.
In a wellness kitchen, fresh produce from local farms and home-grown produce has no packaging that goes into landfills.
Most traditional refrigerators, cabinets and pantries are designed to store pre-packaged foods. But fresh ingredients need to be stored to maintain freshness and nutritional value.
Concerns about COVID and because they are spending more time in their homes, people looking for a new kitchen want one that isn’t simply functional, but one that makes it easier for them to follow a lifestyle that incorporates healthy eating and a commitment to eco-friendliness and healthy living. Wellness design is here to stay.
Sources for Further Reading
- Jamie Gold, in her book Wellness By Design
- Residential Products Online – Sanitizing and Antimicrobial Products
- Forbes.com. Residential Design Forecast
- Residential Products Online. What You Should Know About Wellness Design.
- Lancaster Online.com. Building a Wellness Kitchen
Bob Aungst Cabinet Sales is a full-service rep agency with one goal: to match kitchen designers and remodelers with the cabinet manufacturers best suited to their business’ style and clientele. Owner Bob Aungst III represents Brighton Cabinetry, US Cabinet Depot, Jay Rambo Cabinetry and Great Northern Cabinetry.