Quiet Homes – Your Health Depends on It!

Quiet Homes – Your Health Depends on It!

Builders and home buyers alike have been putting a higher priority on healthier homes, in no small part due to increased time at home because of COVID-19 and its long-term ramifications. In fact, one of our recent blog posts (Healthier Home = Healthier Household) discusses this very topic. But all too often, “healthy” focuses on indoor air and water quality, overlooking the impact of noise on our health.

Though they don’t receive lots of press attention, numerous studies have linked unwanted noise to poor health. In, Decibel Hell: The Effects of Living in a Noisy World, published in Environmental Health Perspectives by the National Institutes of Health, Ron Chepesiuk identifies, among noise’s adverse effects, elevated blood pressure and increased heart rate, which increase your risks of heart disease, stroke, and heart attack.

Chepesiuk also cites the July–August 2002 issue of the Archives of Environmental Health, wherein a team of government and university researchers concluded that exposure to sound “acts as a stressor.” Stress also makes your heart race, and the Mayo Clinic links stress with headaches, fatigue, and stomach upset. Stress is also known to negatively affect your immune system and can aggravate diabetes and breathing problems such as asthma and COPD. The American Psychological Association suggests stress can also adversely affect cholesterol levels.

Obviously, noise can impact our sleep, and lack of sleep has its own detrimental effects. From sluggishness and fatigue to irritability and heightened aggression, sleep deprivation is bad for our physical and mental well-being.

Many of our environments we can’t control. Restaurants can be noisy. Same with our workplaces. And with our modern-day concessions to always-on cell phones, computers, and other electronic devices, we’ve actually invited more noise into our environments. So, we retreat to our homes to be our havens from all the noise. Like the flip side of a coin, quiet places help our bodies relax, decrease stress and anxiety, promote concentration, learning and productivity, and improve sleep. Medicaldaily.com reports quiet environments can even help to improve memory.

Man sleeping with laptop on floor

Working from home, noise affects our performance. Ditto for our kids who are learning remotely from home. For our general well-being, for our relationships, for our overall outlook on life, we must focus on noise issues in our homes – noise from the outside and noise generated within our homes. In our next three posts we address steps to creating a more serene environment for your home, starting with how the home is built; then addressing design-related opportunities; and finally, smart product choices for creating a quieter home.

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Design Concept: Rear Foyers

Design Concept: Rear Foyers

Problem: Most families enter their home through the garage, but once you get inside, where does your stuff go? Where do you hang your jackets, stash your shoes, backpacks, handbags, etc.? And, when you leave in the morning how can you make it more convenient to get out the door on time with everything you need?

Solution: The Rear Foyer Design, with a Drop Zone, offers organization and convenience for families of all sizes. When you include hooks for hanging, cubbies or baskets for small items, a spot for shoes, and a handy bench, you have taken your rear foyer design to the next level. Everyone can get out the door on time with everything!

If you've taken our Finally About Me® Quiz to identify your home buyer personality, you can appreciate the different styles of Rear Foyer design depicted here. The four personas are: Claire, Margo, Elise, and Maggie.

A 'Claire' persona prefers a formal, sophisticated style, which is reflected in the design using elegant cabinetry and doors to close off the clutter; while a 'Margo' prefers the contemporary look with sleek design, vibrant colors, and contrasting textures. An 'Elise' or a 'Maggie' tends toward a more practical design where items are easily accessible yet organized.

Rear Entry Foyer - Claire

Claire Rear Foyer Design

Rear Foyer - Margo

Margo Rear Foyer Design

Rear Foyer - Elise, Maggie

Maggie and Elise Rear Foyer Design

Take our Finally About Me® Quiz on our website to discover your design style!

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Design Concept: Drop Zone

Design Concept: Drop Zone

Problem: Statements like, "When I get home, everything seems to end up on the kitchen table," or "Everything the kids walk in with gets left on the island," these and similar comments inspired one of our most popular Woman-Centric design innovations, the Drop Zone concept.

Solution: According to a Recon Analytics study, people with an attached garage mostly go in and out of their home using the door between the home and the garage (rather than the front entry door). It is a vital transition space, offering storage and other amenities, making the Drop Zone a perfect spot to "drop" keys, mail, etc., that would otherwise end up on the kitchen counter (see the Peony - plan #42038 - at right). It can also be a handy spot for recharging electronic devices so they are ready to go when you head out the door!

Search our plans for Drop Zone designs. Or, talk with a plan specialist to make Plan Alterations to a different plan.

Peony - #42038

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Flex Spaces Save the Day!

Flex Spaces Save the Day!

COVID-19 in the Spring of 2020 ushered in a new appreciation for flexible living spaces in our homes as we adapted to having our entire families at home all day, every day. Suddenly our children were completing school online, and many of us began working from home. There was increased emphasis on home-based activities, such as crafts and hobbies. And amidst the blessings of more togetherness, a newfound recognition of the importance of “me” space.

Flex rooms became school rooms. While homeschoolers may have already figured this out, many households were thrust into the position of deciding the best places for learning and completing assignments. Often, this wasn’t the kids’ bedrooms, particularly when lessons were assigned, but the “teaching” aspect was unfortunately diminished even though textbooks and online instruction was available. When your kids did not understand something, getting answers on a timely basis was challenging – so they needed your attention. Adequate seating and workspace became primary concerns, along with internet and printer access (ruling out that flex room over the garage that just can’t get a good wireless internet signal), and even windows – we all learn better in sunny environments and daylight improves concentration while reducing eyestrain.

The Burlington (plan #43023) is a value-engineered, affordable two-story home that could accommodate such changes. Common default areas for schoolwork include the dining room table and kitchen island. There is also a flex room (Den) off the front entry, which might be able to double up as a learning center. Upstairs, there is a computer loft plus lots of available space over the garage that could be purposed for schoolwork.

At 6’-8’ x 3’-4” the Burlington’s wrapping island snack bar presents abundant workspace. The Den (flex room) up front provides the privacy and natural light conducive to productivity. Upstairs, the 6’-5” wide Computer Loft makes for another convenient study area. 

If working from home became your new normal, you quickly realized the importance of location, organization, privacy, and sunlight. You may have been fortunate enough to already have a den, or even a spare bedroom/guest room that you could office out of. Some companies provided employees with money to purchase necessities such as an ergonomic chair and/or workspace furniture to make the transition to working from home more efficient – their importance cannot be overstated. Privacy needs varied as much as the type of work being done, but being able to close a door (remember, solid-core doors block sound transfer better) as well as proximity to commonly used traffic areas and adjoining media rooms gained heightened importance. Windows provide a connection to the outdoors that our biorhythms depend on. Officing out of a basement or interior space without sunlight can adversely affect mood, irritation, and concentration as well as bring on eyestrain and even headaches.

As days stretched into weeks at home, parents scrambled for new ideas that would occupy and entertain their kids – going decidedly old-school. Increased screen time was pretty much a given, but from play dough, to coloring and innumerable other hobbies and crafts, spaces in the home for such pursuits became treasured.

Photo of Boys with Toy RocketsRocket men! Our tech-savvy kids of all ages began to experience the joys of new, offline activities. But whether it was jigsaw puzzles or model glue and paint drying, or even some board games, where could such indoor undertakings be left, undisturbed, to complete later? The multi-purpose laundry/activity center in the Aden (plan #42037) provides just such an opportunity and is particularly versatile with its island on casters for easy re-positioning!

Aden - #42037 Activity Center

Finally, personal space carved out new meaning as we were introduced to these different realities of family life. While people were designed to live in community, Sherrie Bourg Carter, Psy.D., writes of the benefits of seeking solitude in Psychology Today, “Solitude allows you to reboot your brain and unwind. It’s an opportunity to revitalize your mind and body at the same time.” She goes on to say, “You also may come to appreciate your relationships more after you've spent some time alone.” 

You might retreat to your bedroom, especially if it is spacious enough to offer a sitting area. Or perhaps you can sneak away to an outside living area.

Where would you go for some alone time? The Carswell (plan #29317) presents a sunny bayed sitting area in the owner’s suite as well as a private rear deck off that bedroom. Or is the sun room more to your liking? Then there is the option of this home’s spacious patio under a cathedral ceiling!

Even with the added demands of responding to the pandemic, everyone needs to have a place they can go to be alone, even if that is just for a few minutes.

Carswell - #29317

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Take the Stress Out of Working from Home

Take the Stress Out of Working from Home

Fifty percent of all businesses in the United States are home-based businesses, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration. Forty-three percent of American employees work remotely (telecommute) at least some of the time. Whether operating a full-time startup, working from home three days a week, or simply bringing work home there wasn’t time to finish at the office, creating the perfect area for working from home can help alleviate some of the stress of that job.

The location of your home office affects stress levels. If you work alone, views and a connection to the outdoors may be important for relaxing, concentration, and even inspiration. We see creatives turning attics into wonderful studios, but if clients or colleagues will be dropping by, you may want a home office with its own exterior entrance, or one that’s located just off the entry foyer. Especially if a visitor would find stairs to be an obstacle, a no-step front entry welcoming everyone regardless of their mobility shows great consideration for your visitors. A third option is creating an entry vestibule, reducing the stress of having your visitors traipsing through your home. And if there will be frequent meetings, do you want them to take place in your home work space?

Privacy vs. Accessibility. Are other people home when you’re working? If so, balancing your privacy and accessibility are paramount. Older kids won’t need your attention like toddlers will. If you moved a parent in with you, realistically, what are the demands on your time as a caregiver?

Bath accommodations are also an aspect of location. It may be a mild inconvenience or even a welcome break to walk across the house to the bathroom, but the convenience of an adjoining or nearby bathroom can’t be overstated. And is that bathroom mostly dedicated to your home office? It can be quite stressful to keep your hall bathroom that’s used by your kids always tidy and presentable for business guests.

Design your work space with you at the center. It’s stressful when your back is to others. If your room layout dictates such an arrangement, consider having a mirror in front of you to see what’s going on behind you. Ergonomic seating, especially for longer tasks, can help alleviate body tension; while another, more comfortable seating option will be a welcome break and studies suggest may spur creativity.

Then there’s the question of how much space you really need? Running a successful home-based business may require storage for inventory or specialized equipment, or perhaps a dedicated meeting space, while a modest Pocket Office might be perfect if you occasionally bring work home to complete.

Lighting is surprisingly important, starting with sunlight. People who’ve worked from basement home offices without daylight report their biorhythms get messed up and that they feel less productive. Sunlight’s health benefits are well documented – including improved concentration, and reduced irritability and headaches. Still, too many windows can actually be a distraction, and may dictate where computers must be placed to avoid washing out those screens. Careful consideration of both indirect and direct/task lighting can help prevent eye fatigue; avoid fluorescent lighting in general.

Functional and fashionable task lighting for your home office. (Photos courtesy of Kichler®. Shown: Ellerbeck™ 1 Light Wall Sconce.)

Kichler Wall Sconce
Kichler Wall Sconce over Desk

Clutter sucks energy. The best types of storage will be dictated by your personal preferences. Open shelves, cubbies, and baskets can make finding specific items easier, while cabinets, drawers, and closets can provide discreet storage and organization. Visual organization and communication might also be aided through large wall calendars, bulletin boards, white boards, etc. A walk-in closet is a viable option if you need to keep a lot of supplies or product on hand, giving you a place to store and keep items organized.

Work area. You may be surprised to learn that the majority of people we’ve spoken with, and especially women, do not want a traditional desk as their work area. Modular units, storage amenities on casters for easy movement, and counter-top work surfaces (adjustable height if possible!) all garner more interest. Some people need lots of work surface to spread things out, while others find that the more work surface they have, the more that clutter is a problem. Items that inspire, from photos and artwork to trophies and memorabilia, can spur creative approaches and problem-solving – obvious stress reducers. Even the paint colors used can foster calm or add energy. A task chair on casters may not move freely on carpet, adding frustration, so flooring choice is often a trade-off between the warmth and sound-deadening attributes of carpet versus the vibe and feel of hard surface flooring options.

Leinart floor plan - shipping vestibuleShipping and Receiving. Hooray! Twelve online sales over the weekend – closing out your record-setting week. But you have to put your life somewhat on “hold” waiting for your shipper to pick up those items. Working around that driver’s timetable can be a thing of the past with a secure shipping vestibule, often located within your home office. Imagine opening a door and placing your shipments and shipping documents in a “closet.” Now you have the freedom to leave if you want. When the shipper arrives at your house, he/she unlocks the exterior door of that closet, retrieves those items/drops off the supplies you had ordered, and locks that exterior door. You come back home, unlock the interior door, and fetch the supplies. No longer are you bound by your shipping and receiving schedule.

The Leinart's (plan #29336) shipping vestibule at the front entrance provides a secure location for shipping and receiving packages. In addition, the home-based business configuration presents a separate entrance for clients, dedicated bathroom, and a conference or waiting room.

Coming next week: Storing solutions for all areas of your home!

Download our Home Office Planner to aid in the design of your home office space. 

Livability at a Glance™ is our proprietary color-coded floor plan system that highlights four different lenses especially important to women: Entertaining, De-stressing, Storing, and Flexible Living. Discover your Lifestyle Profile by taking our Livability at a Glance Quiz.

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Cover photo: <a href="https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/business">Business photo created by yanalya - www.freepik.com</a>

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