Houzz Pro Spotlight: How to Design a Healthy, Happy Home

Who: Sarah Barnard

Where: Santa Monica, California

In her own words: “The more informed we are and the better choices we make, the cleaner and healthier our homes can be.”

When furnishing your space, it’s important to consider how your choices will affect your family. “We need to create high-functioning, natural and nontoxic environments that endure over time,” interior designer Sarah Barnard says. The principal at Sarah Barnard Design in Santa Monica, she believes in “optimizing the health and happiness of the people within a home.”

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Passion for the arts. Barnard studied interior architecture and fine art before starting her own company. “I’ve always been interested in history, architecture and the environment,” she says. “They all inform my practice.” She also enjoys the fashion aspect: “We’re always influenced by trends like new colors, patterns and fibers. Design is a balance of old and new.”

A green philosophy. Barnard, who is a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) accredited professional, believes sustainable design is no longer a specialty area. “I wouldn’t be taking good care of my clients if I designed spaces any other way,” she says. In addition to her usual clients, Barnard does pro bono design work for nonprofits so they too can enjoy healthy, natural spaces.

Read Barnard’s tips below to create a home that benefits the mind, body and soul.

1. Utilize Universal Design

Barnard recommends designing a home that will endure through all of your family’s life stages. “Strategize early in the design phase,” she says. “When you get older or someone faces a disability, the last thing you want to do is tear apart your home.”

One way to incorporate universal design is to use a wall-hung cabinet in your bathroom, such as the one Barnard installed in this Pacific Palisades home. It provides not only a clean aesthetic, but also ample toe space for maneuvering in a wheelchair. She also added plentiful overhead, undercabinet and wall-sconce lighting. “People can adjust the lighting to suit their needs,” she says.

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2. Choose Eco-Friendly Materials

Natural and organic textiles can improve indoor air quality. “Most home products have been tested, but not in conjunction with other items,” Barnard says. “Combining products that each release a small amount of toxic vapor creates a polluted environment.” Alternatively, she recommends using pieces that are at least 20 years old, as they’ve long since finished off-gassing.

Barnard sourced eco-friendly materials, such as natural latex cushions and an organic wool rug, to create this healthy oasis for Santa Monica clients. “The coffee table was solid lumber finished with natural linseed oil; no toxic adhesives were used,” she says.

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3. Reinvent What You Have

You don’t necessarily have to expand your home to achieve your desired layout. “You can modernize and increase comfort without adding on by rearranging what you have,” Barnard says.

West Hollywood clients wanted more space but didn’t want to modify the structure of their 1918 Craftsman bungalow. “We moved interior walls to increase functionality,” Barnard says. She stole a bit of space from one bathroom to make another one larger, and used space from the coat closet to make room for a shower in the shrunken bathroom.

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More: For more information on Sarah Barnard and examples of her work, visit Sarah Barnard Design’s Houzz profile.

This story was written by the Houzz Sponsored Content team.