Shaws does… Karma Kitchen

Turning your kitchen into a soothing stress-free sanctuary

Image Credit: Light Locations
Image Credit: Light Locations
Image Credit: Light Locations
Image Credit: Light Locations

Recent research suggests that stress may cause 60% of all illnesses and diseases. So lower levels of stress mean better overall wellbeing. But are we victims of our own environment?

In the eyes of many, the kitchen is simply a functional space where we go to undertake necessary tasks. A place where we store, prepare, cook, eat and wash the dishes. But what if your kitchen was a more vibrant space? The real heart and soul of your home? A place that you use to create, to socialise and to relax. What effect would this have on your wellbeing?

In Chinese culture, homeowners use the art of Feng Shui (also known as Chinese geomancy) to create a balanced, tranquil space. While we in the West may dismiss the ‘energy forces’ and ‘karmic balance’ as pseudo-science, Feng Shui does encourage a holistic view of your living space.

In Feng Shui, the kitchen is the most important part of your home, the part of the home that nourishes and sustains life. It is also a symbol of wealth and prosperity. So naturally, you want to create good Feng Shui in your kitchen. And whether or not you believe in Feng Shui, Karma or anything spiritual at all isn’t important - this is a call to think more broadly about wellbeing in the design of your kitchen. 

Not everyone has the luxury of an expansive open-plan ‘kitchen-diner’ that opens out onto lush green gardens - as many interior magazines would have us believe. However, there are universal principles you can apply to even the smallest studio flat kitchen, that will vastly improve time spent in the space.

What really matters is choosing the right kitchen. And by ‘right’ we mean ‘right for you’. Design principles can be important; smaller space suit simpler kitchens, larger spaces can take a more elaboration and grandeur. But do you love it? Does it do what you want it to do, in the way you like to do it? 

Stress is often born out of frustration. Clutter from lack of storage, a badly-organised layout and poor usability are all common issues. A stress-free kitchen is a kitchen that is efficient for how YOU want to use it. It should be organised to suit how you want to live in it, and should be designed to suit your personal taste. After all, things that make us most comfortable have a calming effect, increasing our general wellbeing.

The right decor is vital when it comes to creating a sanctuary of serenity. The Minimalist look is often believed to have strong positive Qi (pronounced ‘chee’), the movable lifeforce, which plays an essential role in Feng Shui. Choosing the right colours can make you feel calmer and help you relax. Colour therapists (or Chromatherapists) believe that different colours in the spectrum correspond with the body's inner vibrations. If your vibrations are off-balance, therapists believe that colour can harmonise and rebalance them if exposed to the right colours. In 1958, US scientist Robert Gerard conducted a study that suggested that reds stimulate anxiety, while blues promote calm, and that colour could affect appetite, blood pressure and aggression.

Good light is also very important for destressing. Flooding your kitchen with natural daylight is less harsh than relying on artificial lighting and increases your feelings of wellbeing. Research suggests that being exposed to daylight in the morning increases our levels of alertness, allowing increased performance at the beginning of the day. It can also combat afflictions like Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a depression-related illness linked to the availability and change of outdoor light in the winter. Reports suggest that up to 10% of the world's population may suffer from SAD. So, as seasonal mood disturbance becomes more common, the amount of daylight in our homes can be of considerable significance.

There’s a current trend for kitchens that maximise light by utilising expansive bi-fold doors or fully glazed extensions - suggesting that we are becoming more aware of light-based benefits. 

This trend also makes the most of the calming effects of being exposed to nature. A little dose helps us all recharge and research finds that interacting with nature can help alleviate depression. Natural environments capture our involuntary attention - and that helps us feel replenished. What’s more, living in greener urban environments helps boost mental health for the long-term. 

Other life-hacks like listening to music whilst cooking can really improve your kitchen ‘experience’. Music has a direct effect on our hormones. If you listen to music you enjoy, it decreases levels of the hormone cortisol in your body, counteracting the effects of chronic stress. If you find that things often go ‘Pete Tong’ in the kitchen, perhaps listening to Pete Tong would help.

Creating a dining space for eating together with family and friends can provide a number of benefits to your physical and mental health. Connecting with friends over dinner (and we don’t mean on Facebook) boosts your brain health and can lower your risk of dementia. What better reason do you need to invite a friend round for coffee, enjoy chatting around the ‘Jaw Box’ (aka our famous Belfast sink) during a dinner party, or clear your busy schedule to reconnect with the family?

All this theory (and in some cases evidence) seems to indicate that the best kitchen is a kitchen that works in rhythm with both your life, your mind and your body.

Read our ‘Get the look’ journal post on Karma Kitchens for interior ideas and inspiration.