Last week, Editor in Chief Jane Dagmi moderated Bringing Health into the Home Through Design, a virtual panel organized by Aspire Design & Home, where experts in interior design, product design, and the kitchen and bath space — interior designer Laura Muller of Four Point Design Build, Sean Fisher of Signature Hardware, Summer Kath of Cambria Surfaces, Stephanie McInnis of Ferguson Bath, Kitchen & Lighting Gallery and Derek Miller of GE Appliances — discussed what the health home environment looks and feels like.

With a focus on the kitchen and bath, but with clear implications for whole home, the panel established that healthy design is about cleanliness, order, durability, sustainability and healing. While clean and pristine white surfaces and stainless steel have always been part of this clean modern picture, too, Fisher, senior director of brand experience at Signature Hardware, points out plants and natural woods.

“Natural woods lift our spirits mentally which is just as important as everything else,” he says.

Design by Four Point Design Build. Photo: Ryan Garvin

Design by Four Point Design Build. Photo: Ryan Garvin

Muller says that with her clients, a discussion about hygienic living and how to incorporate it into the design is the new standard. “People are rethinking existing spaces,” she says, stressing the importance of creating zones that keep families safe especially when addressing multi-generational living. From unpacking groceries to dish washing and steaming hand towels, low-maintenance sanitation is in demand.

Kath, executive vice president at Cambria, stressed the importance of disinfecting and explained how Cambria’s non-porous quartz surfaces, unlike natural stone, are easily disinfected with simple solutions that can even contain beach. GE’s Miller said the use of sanitary cycles in dishwashers as well as washers and dryers is booming. Noting that the function feature has always been there, he says that people are starting to utilize that benefit now.

Alluding to the “great toilet paper apocalypse” experienced during the onset of COVID-19 in the U.S., Fisher spoke to the resurgent popularity of the bidet over the last two years. While the internationalization of design has helped push it, he says COVID-19 pushed if farther, faster. Ferguson’s McInnis concurred on the bidet’s newfound place in today’s home and also spoke to the growing interest in voice-activation and motion sensor technology for faucets, lighting and toilets.

Storage solutions, sustainability, water purification, cooking technology and layered lighting for functionality and well being were also points for discussion, as were new ways of doing business.

Ferguson has recently expanded the way it is doing business with designers. In addition to scheduling an in-person appointment, designers can also make virtual ones and can tour the showroom virtually. Kath says Cambria is also doing virtual consultations at its galleries and thinks that the desire for communication without physical limitations will continue. Connected technology gives companies like GE the ability to diagnose a Monogram appliance, affording a much shorter and simpler repair service.

As the demand for clean and sustainable spaces rises, traditional kitchen appliances and fixtures are moving beyond the kitchen. Space is being reimagined and critical to the success of healthy design is a space that makes one feel happy. While immersion in nature is documented as one way to improve well being, Fisher notes the importance of personalization and bringing one’s energy into a space. He says, “The safest place we can be is home, and so what can we do to add little bits of joy everyday.”