Well Woman Weekly: Kennedy Reese on Optimizing Your Home to Support Health & Wellness

Every Friday, we send out a weekly roundup of what’s new on Blood & Milk along with articles you may have missed from the archives. We also include an interview with an inspiring woman, and this week we’re excited to feature Kennedy Reese. To get the newsletter, sign up here.

Kennedy Reese is a holistic interior designer based in Sherman Oaks, Los Angeles, CA. Recently, she launched Instinct Home Design to optimize residential spaces to support health and wellness.

Typically in this newsletter, we feature womxn who work in the health and wellness space—and I love that you’re challenging what that means! I wouldn’t always think of an interior designer as working in this space, but of course, our health and wellness are so interwoven into where we live and our spaces. Can you tell our readers a bit more about what you do and how you optimize the spaces you design to support health and wellness?

Sure! Interior wellness is overlooked all too often. I often find myself reminding folx that home is more than a place. It’s more than an address. It’s more than furniture or home accessories. Home is a feeling, and that feeling is central to our truest ability to feel safe and at peace.

I started Instinct Home Design with the understanding that our environment is constantly providing stimuli to communicate to our subconscious, which drives our mood and our actions. At the beginning of every project, I take the time to get to know my clients and understand both their style and lifestyle. Everyone uses their home differently, and I work to incorporate those differences in my concept designs seamlessly. For instance, if someone I work with has allergy issues, I might add a specific plant on their nightstand for its air purification benefits; meanwhile if another person I work with runs everyday, I might add a stone shower floor for its acupressure benefits.

Because of my commitment to make home feel instinct with peace, I go the extra mile to make my clients’ homes feel personal to them. Often, designers choose home decor for appearance and trends—I choose home decor that grounds my clients and connects them to what they love most.

Now, I know that interior wellness is not a one size fits all approach to emotional or health problems, but I do understand that our surroundings can have a profound effect on us. This world can tear us down, and if our home isn’t designed to rejuvenate and refresh us, it can compound a lot of negative feelings and emotions we may already be experiencing.

You use techniques like color psychology to optimize spaces for mood. Can you give an example of how this works in action?

Yes, I actually use a variety of techniques to optimize spaces for mood. Most of all, I keep function central in design projects, where every element supports how my clients use their home and benefits their health, mood, and overall well-being. This can include color psychology, but it also includes bringing nature indoors, maximizing natural lighting, and improving how their home supports their activities. 

Now, I’d love to talk about color! Because while color is ultimately subjective, it is virtually impossible to ignore the effects that it can have on the human psyche. Take for example the popularity of neutral colors. Beiges, grays, and whites are on trend and they can help you build a luxury feel in your space that’s easy to match with other home decor and furniture, but too many neutral colors can evoke or compound feelings of loneliness, sadness, and fatigue. Meanwhile, vibrant colors can have the most positive impact on your mood, social life, and productivity. Specifically adding a pop of warm color with yellow, red, or orange undertones can add energy and radiance to your space.

There’s so much more to color psychology, but I’m afraid we don’t have the space—ha! My number one advice is to find what works for you. There are so many hues and shades—don’t be afraid to start small and experiment!

I know it’s so hard to say because we’re all so different, but what is your top interior wellness design tip for anyone looking to create a more thoughtful home?

My top interior wellness tip is to create a resting space in your home—meaning a room or a part of a room that is dedicated to relaxation and reflection. This is more important than you would think.

Our brains are constantly taking in information from our environments to dictate what actions we should take next. For example, if your TV is the center of your living room, it should be no wonder that you walk into it and pick up the remote, whether you have time to watch tv or not. Subconsciously, your brain sees the set up and imagines how comfortable it would be to cozy up and watch tv and stimulates the idea.

Now, a resting space is not a living room. This space should be equipped for some of your favorite calming activities—yoga, reading, praying, journaling, etc.—and filled with pleasant textures and meaningful art or photographs that help you feel grounded. Creating a dedicated space for rest can serve as a visual reminder to partake in relaxing and quiet activities. Don’t forget your auditory and olfactory senses! Try to keep your space apart from noisy activities and add a few scented candles to set the mood for your well-deserved “you” time. 

Did you notice your own space and/or style evolve with the pandemic?

Absolutely! Humans were not designed to be inside every day and away from their families, friends, and communities that support them—myself included. Part of the reason why I was able to offer this service to my clients was because of the haven I created in my own home, based on my research and knowledge about interior wellness.

I’ve always loved color and natural lighting. But I didn’t really start understanding the benefits of making function central to design until I started decluttering and re-organizing my own home during the pandemic (two very important parts of interior wellness). Soon, I came to a realization that meaningless home decor is clutter—which was adding to my stress and anxiety. Clutter swamps our minds with excessive stimuli, overwhelming us and making it extremely difficult to relax.

I solved this by coming up with a principle: home decor should be selected for function. The function of home decor can include expressing your heritage/culture, supporting your activities, evoking a positive memory or emotion, and connecting you to what you care most about. But home decor that is picked solely for aesthetics and trends can accumulate and ultimately overwhelm you. Home decor that actually has a special connection to you can help center you, boost your mood and relieve your stress.

Is there anything one should be particularly mindful of when designing a space with the intention of supporting mental health?

I’m happy you asked. While interior wellness can help alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety, it is not meant to be a cure for mental health issues or emotional disorders. It is only meant to help. If you or someone you love is in severe emotional distress, please consider seeking professional help, embracing a supportive community, and connecting with the Creator. Whatever you feel comfortable with. 

That being said, don’t underestimate the benefits of interior wellness. We are powerfully influenced by our surroundings and using what we know about holistic interior design can make our home environment supportive of our mind, body, and soul. You might be surprised by the effects of transforming your home from a place you live to a place you love.

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