Owain Caruana-Davies, a spatial designer living in a seventies converted office building in London, shares his view on wellbeing aspects of home and the future he believes in, where everyone will be encouraged to have an opinion about design.
I know that one of the first things you notice when entering new spaces, is the air quality. Why is it important and does it really improve wellbeing?
Furnishings, upholstery, synthetic building materials and cleaning products can have toxic effect on our wellbeing. In spaces that are not naturally ventilated, you’ve probably noticed that you can smell the dust and even feel a bit drowsy, but we don’t always relate this to air quality.
Most of us can’t change what was built, but by bringing in plants you can improve the air quality in a simple way. Adding plants to a room has been shown to clean the air through photosynthesis. I use a lot of plants to make the air feel clean; as this is the first thing I notice entering a space.
How can we think more creatively about space?
We could stretch the imagination of how we appreciate space, how much we need and what it can do for us. I’m inspired by people such as the Swiss-French architect, designer, urbanist and writer Charles Le Corbusier who pioneered in the studies of modern design and was dedicated to providing better living conditions for the residents of crowded cities. His own holiday home on France’s Côte d’Azur was an experiment of using minimum human energy in buildings, by only having things you use and positioning them in such a way so that you don’t have to walk to another room to look for them. Ultimately use as little energy as possible. For him this was the perfect house since it had “complete efficiency” and he’s known for the quote “A house is a machine for living in.” Whether you share Le Corbusier view of the home or not, it stretches the imagination of how we can use space.
I live in a small one-bed room flat with my boyfriend. It has large windows, clean lines, even a small rooftop and it’s not too expensive. It’s a luxury to have your own space. We both often work from home so it’s important that the space is flexible and open planned. Often we work on our drawings directly on the floor. Between the two of us we have so many sketches and models, but despite the flat being tiny, we have a nook that works really well for storing our pieces.
For us it’s important that we live in a comfortable space. Home to me is a place we can relax in and where the things that surround us are enjoyable and which we can identify as our own space. I enjoy curating compositions on the walls and usually just hang my favourite pieces with simple clips.
It’s our home in a big city.
If you don’t have a flat with large windows, what can be done with dark spaces that don’t get much light?
Light is of course really important but there are ways of enhancing and changing how a space feels without relying on good inflow of daylight. In a dark space it helps to use mirrors, glossy and shiny objects that allow the light to bounce. Adding different types of lamps that break up the space and keep the eyes moving is a good way to make it feel brighter. As an example, if you’ve got a transition space that is narrow or short, it is actually better to paint it in a bold or really dark colour to make that space feel smaller. When you enter the space after, it will feel more spacious.
In the kitchen I’ve positioned the chairs so they’re capturing that morning light. One of my favourite moments is to sit and enjoy my tea or coffee for ten minutes and notice how the light changes throughout the year.
What does the future of architecture wellbeing and design look like?
I hope and believe that architecture will become treated in a social way where everyone will be encouraged to have an opinion about design. I think the design consultation phase should take place before the first line on paper is drawn. People shouldn’t just accept what was given, but have opinions about the things that improve quality of life and more enjoyable to live.
It will be less about how it looks and the aesthetics of the design and more about the interaction with people and spatial quality.
See more of Owain’s work OCD Architecture