How do you incorporate health and wellness into your store interior, and why would you want to? Buildings are fundamentally for people and they should enhance our quality of life. Retail is a sphere that just about everybody has some interaction with. Even in an ever-expanding online world, the vast majority of purchases still occur within stores. Your store impacts the owners, the staff and the customers.
Let’s consider the following environmental impacts
• Lighting • Indoor air quality
• Acoustics • Biophilia
• Look and feel
These impact your staff regarding absenteeism, retention, medical complaints, medical costs and physical complaints. They impact your customers regarding sales, visits, dwell time, loyalty and distance travelled. They impact your store as a brand, via social media. Let’s talk about how design can save you money, benefit the environment and make your customers happy.
Don’t make color decisions at sunset – what???!!! Light has a color bias – morning and evening have an orange bias; midday light has a blue bias. Our brains are surprisingly good at discerning color. LED light is white, more neutral (depending on the color temperature you choose) and can also be programmed for different wavelengths and intensities. Mimicking the sun’s glow can raise energy early in the day and encourage relaxation (and sleep) at night. Installing light sensors such as occupancy and vacancy sensors plus natural light-triggered time clocks and dimming controls, saves money. When designing your lighting layout, do consider flexibility in case you move some of the merchandise displays around. There are exterior lights that control the light direction with “hats” that reduce the amount of light transmitted upward after dark. If you are interested, check out the International Dark-Sky Association. There is ongoing investigation into the “Blue-Light Hazard and LEDs” since most white LEDs are blue with a phosphor coating. Stay tuned on this – it is early days.
There is a story circulating about proud parents repainting, re-carpeting and refurnishing their new baby’s room and closing the windows, thereby subjecting their baby to a perfect gas chamber. This apocalyptic story illustrates how we unwittingly and dangerously expose ourselves to indoor air that is often more dangerous than outside air. Interior finishes such as low VOC (volatile oil compounds) paint, carpet and wallcovering plus frequently opened doors and windows, if possible in a store, will eliminate this danger and consequently lower the instance of asthma and anxiety for the people who work and visit these stores. English ivy, Peace lilies, Boston ferns and Golden Pothos have all been identified as plants that lessen formaldehyde, ozone and benzene in the air.
Acoustic comfort refers to an indoor environment that is conducive to providing speech clarity, privacy, low distractions and annoyance plus quality sound. Acoustical ceiling panels, acoustic decorative wall panels, the use of wood on walls, “free-floating” acoustical clouds all help with absorbing sound. If you play music, it should be natural, fitting and unobtrusive but not repetitive. Don’t forget that uncontrolled noise can increase stress levels, heart rate, blood pressure & muscle tension, resulting in impatient, nervous staff. Big box stores need a sense of liveliness in the space; jewelry stores need a sense of comfort and entertainment plus some privacy. Design your sound attenuation accordingly.
Biophilic design is designing for people as natural organisms to create spaces that are inspirational, restorative and healthy, as well as integrated with the function of the place, your store. Prior to the Industrial Revolution, people lived with nature. In the 19th century, urbanization started. To reduce urban stress and to improve health, huge parks were built in cities. Buildings were built with decoration – flowers, birds and other natural subjects. As the International Style took hold in the 20th century, buildings and interiors disconnected people from nature. Now in the 21st century, we are technology obsessed which has led most of us to be constantly distracted, hopping from one text, email, post to the next. Sadly, this has become a huge stressor not just mentally but physically. Biophilic design is championed for addressing workplace stress.
We relate to nature – 20 minutes of “forest bathing” enhances peoples’ concentration. But we also love art that, like a mirror, reflects nature. Murals can depict a sense of place. Transparencies can delight if merchandise is coupled with art, in graphics or visuals. We love the feel of natural wood but relate well to alternate visuals that resemble wood. Daylight and views outside help to connect us to nature. Plants, flowers and orchids all delight and relax us. Water features calm us. Don’t forget the landscaping in front of / around your store – flowers, grasses and native plants add to the desirability of a store as a destination. In case you think this is all “hooey”, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) and the GSA (General Services Administration) have developed a scorecard that employees can use to assess how their office affects workers’ collective well-being called Fitwel (fitwel.org). This was unveiled in the fall of 2016. The CDC pre-tested Fitwel in 89 public office buildings over the past 5 years.
The newest impact on the look and feel of a store is the “maker” philosophy. You want your space to reflect the culture of your store inside and out. Push the envelope with materiality and choose progressive finishes to create an energetic vibe or warm, residential feel with commercial-grade quality. Embrace a Do It Yourself spirit by adding unique statement pieces into your store that put your passions on display. A brand is much more than a logo or a certain color on the wall. The artisanal vision combined with sophisticated technique transforms a utilitarian object into an expression of beauty and humanity, as with your custom jewelry, so too with your store interior. Overall, artisans and craftsmen add value and richness to interior spaces far greater than machine-made products. Combine the two in your store to reap the benefits.