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Design for Wellness: The Ultimate Guide

According to the 2018 Build Well, Live Well Report, ‘Wellness’ is a US$3.7 trillion industry that’s growing faster than the global economy.

Wellness is more than just a catchphrase, it’s become steeped in our language because we’re in search of what it brings: a sense of inner peace.

No longer the sole domain of spa resorts, the application of wellness and its resulting Value On Investment (VOI) is now considered equally as important as the age-old ROI. We want more than dollar value, we want to feel good about our lives.

I believe wellness should be at the core of every new build. By incorporating all the elements of best practice spa design I’ll help you bring Design For Wellness into your space whether it be a resort, home, office or retail store.

Design For Wellness is the way of the future and together we can make it happen.

Part 1: Design For Wellness

What Is Design For Wellness?

Design for Wellness incorporates all the elements of interior design – space, lines, form, light, colour, texture and pattern. Incorporating those fundamentals with tried and tested wellness principles, wellness design services can transform any environment into a haven that naturally feels good.

Think of a luxury spa resort. As soon as you enter the space you have a sense of peace and calm. It’s hard to put your finger on it but that’s the beauty – and mystery – of Design For Wellness. Every detail has been taken care of in such a perfect way, that the guest, tenant, or home owner effortlessly enters a state that feels good.

Why Is Design for Wellness Important?

The world has become extremely demanding and we need a place we can retreat to that allows us to replenish our energy. That will look and feel different for each of us.

For some it may mean a dimly lit space with dark tones – to help quiet the mind and reduce overstimulation; for others it’s the requirement of natural light or bright colours – to provide a sense of aliveness.

Whatever the means, the end result is about being able to be present to your surroundings in a way that incites contentment.

Wellness Design Services Enhance Our Lives

How we choose to exercise and what we like to eat will vary, but a common thread of wellness for all of us is simply something that makes us feel better. Design For Wellness incorporates every aspect of your life into the process: from the colour of your walls to the texture of your sofa to the materials that make up your kitchen benchtop and cutting boards.

“Everything in your environment invokes a sensory reaction that contributes to your experience of the space.”

When the felt experience is positive, you and any tenants, guests or residents will naturally feel more at home. That’s the essence of wellness design.

The Effect of ‘Unwell’ Environments

When we feel uncomfortable in our surroundings, we don’t want to be there. When the use of space hasn’t been given adequate consideration or the colour palette has been chosen based on cost alone, the resulting effect imposes on our wellbeing.

This sense of dis-ease is felt at an unconscious level so isn’t necessarily something people can name, but they’ll definitely feel it and you’ll know because they’ll avoid spending time there. Not something you want when building or renovating for commercial purposes.

When affectivity (the effect on our emotions) hasn’t been factored into the design, it results in a sense of unease that  adds to our already high stress levels and detracts from the outcome we desire: namely, to feel good.

When done right, we feel naturally drawn to a space and don’t question it.

What Makes A Design ‘Well’?

Wellness is that ultimate feeling of safety and comfort and the great thing is, it can be created using a number of key design tools such as texture, shape, colour, lighting and tone combined with the structure of the room and of course, privacy.

Each of these key elements are interconnected and speak to each other in a way that creates the language of the environment… which, although it sounds somewhat esoteric, is at the heart of what makes us feel the way we do.

The psychology of design is used globally. It’s what encourages shoppers to meander through a supermarket in a certain way, leading them from one aisle to the other with an openness to buying more. It happens on a subtle, almost subliminal level and when utilised correctly can affect buyer behaviour and provide a warmth that accompanies a sense of ‘I belong’.

It’s what makes you want to sit down and grab a coffee in a hotel lobby as opposed to drinking it in your room. It reduces the sense of overwhelm when you enter a shopping mall you’ve never been to before as you ultimately feel guided and held.

“Design for Wellness combines wellness principles with science-based behavioural responses – all peppered with eye catching aesthetics that light us up on the inside.”

Part 2: Learning From What Spas Do So Well

Taking The Lead From Spa And Wellness Design

Something the spa industry has done extremely well is create environments where people feel instantly relaxed. Today, more than ever, we’re in dire need of wellness interior spaces that provide a respite from our busy lives and help us minimise the daily stress response.

The benefit of working with the spa industry for over 15 years is that it’s given me a deep insight into what establishes a sense of calm and why. By incorporating best practice design with the serenity of spa principles, I’m able to create wellness-centred design concepts in any renovation or new build.

Health And Wellness Architecture

The ideal wellness interior spaces make you feel at ease in your own skin. It’s like walking into a church or temple – the energy has a natural calmness and you can’t help but be in rapport with it. Your breath slows down, your mind stops chattering and you’re left with an awareness of the space around you.

What spa environments do so well is establish areas that evoke a sense of calm. That can be an area that’s very light, or one that has lots of glass which seems more expansive; conversely they’re brilliant at using low lighting in a way that makes you feel instantly relaxed.

Creating Great Wellness Interior Spaces

Health and wellness architecture uses the same design elements as any commercial property, just with a focus on wellbeing.

The same considerations of space, texture, lighting and colour as used but their infused into the habitat in a way that invokes a sense of quietness – it almost makes you want to whisper. Added extras like softly piped music, subtle fragrance and mood lighting add to the ambience.

One way to explain it is to say that when you’re there you experience a sense of letting go. You don’t need to try, it just happens. The surrounding colours, tones and textures all instil a serenity that your senses just absorb. Wellness interior spaces invoke a sort of design osmosis – the exterior has an affect on your interior.

When I think about spas I think about the natural elements of air and water and how I can use them to implement a sense of cleansing. I want to encourage the perception of inner peace.

Spas That Suit Every Need

Wellness spas were introduced in the 1900s and have boomed ever since. Traditionally they’ve been built in natural locations that inspire rejuvenation and healing. Today, we’re taking those principles and creating wellness interior spaces beyond the spa.

Medi Spas are hybrid environments that provide medical cosmetic procedures in a relaxing space.

A Beauty Spa, or Day Spa, is where you can take care of all your hair, nails, massage and facial needs in a luxury environment.

Destination Spas offer high end luxury in far away places. They are the ideal wellness escape with a get-away-from-it-all approach.

Integrating ‘Best Practice’ Spa Design

Health and wellness centred design includes places for silence and meditation, but it also needs to incorporate settings that encourage engagement.

Genuine wellness interior spaces are dynamic environments that feed our multitude of desires and needs, regardless of whether that’s the workplace, at a spa, a retail outlet or your home.

Rather than every wellness interior having a focus on shutting us down and making us need to feel silent, our environments can be designed to replenish, restore and inspire us.

Wellness for design is more about meeting the customer’s needs than it as about a one-size-fits-all. Wellness design elements are global but how they’re used is often unique.

Applications of Design for Wellness

Design For Wellness In Resorts

When it comes to building resorts, what’s paramount is considering how design impacts our sense of wellbeing. That involves planning the use of space beyond the CAD layout.

For example: where will the public spaces be, what are the private areas, and where will the activities occur as well as how will they impact the rest of the environment.

You have to consider areas for rest and relaxation, and the places where you’ll serve food. How you break it up involves an understanding of how each area inter-communicates. It makes sense to arrange breakouts away from the food area which can be noisy.

Conversely, you need to allow access to the facilities that work together. That might mean thinking about how you can still serve hot coffee and fresh snacks for people and not need them to be in the hub of a lively, family dining room.

When building villas it’s about spacing them out and using materials that bind all the elements and anchor the experience for your guests.

How Design Impacts Wellness

Put simply, wellness spaces are about context. Family mealtimes can be noisy but that’s part of the joy. When we feel stifled from making any noise it creates stress – which detracts from the feelgood factor.

Wellness isn’t just the absence of stress it’s the presence of relaxed comfort – whatever that means to the individual.

In essence you want to enhance people’s personal stories: a resort is a multifaceted setting that is best remembered for providing a holiday or short break to remember.

At each corner you want to be delighted with a new experience and that deserves a lot of thought.

Design For Wellness In Residential Developments

Even in residential developments we can see how design impacts wellness. We need a certain amount of privacy. Feeling like you’re sitting on top of your neighbours and can hear their conversations isn’t conducive to wellness design.

Developers need to consider costs and that’s important, but moving forward, my recommendation is to take a view on colour, lighting and screening that aren’t just cost-based.

Appreciating how shape, colour, tone and the structure of the layout will affect the senses can make a difference not only to the experience of potential tenants but it’s a way to assist the greater picture of overall wellness.

Another benefit to designing wellness spaces is relevant for attracting investors. They’re interested in properties they can hold onto so if the eco footprint is brought into the initial design and building materials that will last are chosen over cheaply manufactured options, the bigger picture results in happier customers, improved perceptions of business and a healthier planet.

Design For Wellness In The Home

Even walls and pipes can become beautiful features so it’s about using what you have and giving it the right spin. There’s no limit to creating wellness spaces; take renting for example. You might be limited by the fixtures but you can add bespoke elements like candles, lamps and beautiful textures.

You want to be able to scan the room and be left with a positive impression. Fragrance and plants are also important and can transform a bland space into a habitat people love to be in.

Design For Wellness In Retail Environments

Retail spaces are exciting because it’s an opportunity to entertain and delight your customers – which will inevitably make them more open to buying.

A key component is taking into account how your customer wants to feel when they’re in this setting? The answers to those questions become the drivers of the design. We want to create something that will stop them in their tracks using visual merchandise alongside strategically placed products.

Because the truth is, people buy feelings even if they can’t name them.

Build Well To Live Well – Future Trends

Retirement Villages

Wellness design principles in retirement villages is coming to the fore as the ageing population increases. Gone are the days of beige community halls and clinical dining rooms. The scope for building wellness design in retirement villages is huge and I’m excited to be part of the growing trend.

Childcare Centres

Wellness spaces are already beginning to encroach on our childcare design and even in schools. We’re coming round to the thinking that when we feel well, we do well, and there are few areas of life where that’s as influential as in the childcare arena.


There’s been a dramatic rise in properties being rented solely through Airbnb. Listings rose 87% in a 12 month period between 2017 and 2018 and in Australia alone, people visited from over 150 countries*.

Guests are home sharing right across the globe so the use of wellness design is the perfect way to offer international visitors not only a taste of your country’s hospitality but the opportunity for them to take joy in their encounter with you.


To summarise: wellness for design can be adapted and applied to any situation. It’s about using classic design principles and focusing on creating an outcome of calm contentment.

    • Take a leaf from the world of Spa Resorts: use space, lighting, colour, texture, and privacy to diffuse stimulation and promote relaxation.
    • Stick to the principles of User Experience Design (UX). Think about how your tenant, resident or guest will want to feel when they enter the setting and consider how each element can add to that. Owning or building a property isn’t just about profit although that’s important too.
    • Far from being esoteric, wellness for design uses best practice tools from a combination of modalities including design psychology, interior design, interior styling and personalised aesthetics.

Bringing a sense of peace and harmony to your environment has a long lasting effect on our collective psyche as much as the footprint we leave on the planet. I believe that keeping both in mind is key to our evolution.

My greatest pleasure is sharing everything I’ve learned about Wellness Design because it impacts all our lives in so many ways. If you’d like to discuss taking your ideas and learn how to apply them in a practical way that maintains solid ethical and healing principles, let’s talk.

I offer consultation, implementation and full project management. No job is too big or too small, it’s the wellness aspect that matters.

*source: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-02-23/entire-homes-commercial-listings-have-surged-on-airbnb/9473368