The Science of a Happy Home

As the place where we spend more than half of our lives, our homes have a major impact on our happiness. An extensive study by Resi, an architectural firm in the UK, revealed the factors that contribute to a happy home.


At the top of the list was homeownership. Compared to renters, owners enjoyed a greater sense of security and pride because they were able to renovate to suit their own tastes and they could build equity. The people with the lowest level of home satisfaction where those living in rental accommodation with a tenancy agreement of less than two years. 


To produce their ground-breaking report, Resi conducted dozens of client interviews, reviewed published data, and commissioned an independent survey that gathered more than 4,000 responses. They released The Science of a Happy Home in January 2020, which was just two months before the COVID pandemic began. Since then, their blueprint to create a happy home environment has become more important than ever before.  


Consider these interesting findings: 


  • Open layouts for kitchen, dining, and living spaces enhance interaction.
  • The views from our windows matter more than sunlight levels.
  • It is valuable to be able to connect to the outside world with gardens or balconies.
  • Those who are happiest with their homes consider their spaces to be relaxing.
  • One in four adult children aged 20-34 live in the family home.
  • The percentage of the population living alone is increasing.


At the beginning of this report, the authors acknowledge that “designing and building happy homes is bigger than each individual household.” They suggest that architects, builders, and manufacturers need to work together to produce healthy, adaptable, solidly built homes that will last for many decades so that people can age in place. 

The Science of a Happy Home named six qualities of a happy home: secure, adaptable, connected, nourishing, relaxed and mirror. The last one refers to our homes reflecting who we are, especially in terms of personality and values. People who mirrored their style and personality in their homes were vastly happier than those who didn’t (81% compared to 7%). 


One interview participant noted, “I think sometimes people try and create something that looks like the same thing in a magazine…. We’re happy to have created our space the way we like it. It doesn’t look like something out of an Ikea catalogue.”


The authors identify numerous factors that contribute to domestic bliss:


  1. Safety
     Before purchasing a home, have a building inspection and consult strata minutes (if applicable). Safety is the foundation of a happy home: it should be structurally sound, meet fire safety and electrical standards, and have a functioning water heater and furnace, secure windows and doors, etc.
     
     
  2. Prioritize function over façade
     Consider the layout of rooms and the habits and needs of family members (e.g., one needs quiet space, another plays the drums). A home’s layout will affect day-to-day living more than decorative elements.
     
     
  3. Break up large spaces
     If an open space feels cavernous, break it up with shelving, rugs, or screens.
     
     
  4. Use mirrors
     Hang a mirror adjacent to a window to bounce light around a room. Mirrors are especially useful in tight hallways and small rooms.
     
     
  5. Make space for sentimental items
     The authors write, “Decorating ‘on trend’ is overrated so focus on items that have meaning to you.”
     
     
  6. Keep space malleable with modular furniture
     Modular furniture for seating, workspace, and storage is a good idea if you expect to add to your household.
     
     
  7. Install statement windows
     If a room is dark, consider renovating to increase the window size or number. Also, windows in unusual shapes, grid patterns and colour panels can add personality and distinctiveness.
     
     
  8. Invest in innovative and sustainable materials
     Bio-concretes are non-toxic, absorb pollution and trap more heat than traditional insulation. A green roof can be part of an effective drainage system. Smart climate control systems save money. Explore innovative options.
     
     
  9. Bring in natural light
     Sun tunnels can illuminate dark corners of your home. They are easier to install than windows or skylights, and the tunnels transfer very little heat and cold with the changing seasons.
     
     
  10. Connect to the outdoors
     Being close to nature fosters relaxation. Balconies and patios are especially important for people who work from home.
     
     
  11. Expose structural and plumbing
     If your home has awkward spaces or low ceilings, consider exposing beams and pipes to add height to the ceiling.
     
     
  12. Allow for internal voids
     Light wells or mini courtyards bring the outdoors in, increase light, improve ventilation, and provide a private outdoor space. 


Based on their project findings, the architect authors recommend a shift in perception: a home is more than property; we should think of it as our personal environment.


Sources:

Resi. Accessed 2022. “The Science of a Happy Home.” https://buildpathio.s3-eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/assets/happy_homes/resi%7Cscience_of_a_happy_home_report_2020.pdf

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