Healthy Interiors: A Conversation with Jessica Helps of Wolfe ID

Wolfe ID founder and leader Jessica Helps has been designing for over 14 years and has a unique take on health that incorporates interior design as a way to improve your daily living/wellness. She is inspired by neurobiological, sociocultural, and humanistic perspectives, and designs spaces based on three principles; art, science, and design. She takes into account nature, sound, light, air, water, and, of course, colour. Integrating science into room design can have an impact on your daily mood, productivity, and overall experiences within the space. We had a conversation with Jessica about designing with health and wellness in mind.

Helen Jacob: How long have you been doing interior design?

Jessica Helps: I think this is my 14th year!

HJ: Where did you go to school?

JH: OCAD U. I took environmental design, so it’s more like architecture, or, to dumb it down, how to come up with great concepts for design. The little technicalities and some of the lighter interior design stuff, they expect you to already know. It’s probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, getting through that program alive, but it was great!

HJ: When did you first start integrating health and wellness into your designs?

JH: I guess I started researching it about a year and a half ago. I had a couple of clients whose decisions I didn’t agree with. I didn’t know how to tell them, other than giving them my opinion. I knew they were going to be making a mistake and the space wasn’t going to feel that great. They were doing an office layout and they wanted a lot of desks in the space but I knew the way the office would function wasn’t superior. I tried to direct them but I had really no way of telling them why I was right other than saying it was just my opinion. It wasn’t really sinking in with the client so I was kind of upset and afterwards, I thought well how can I prove this? There must be some science behind what I’m saying because I somewhat know it to be true. So I started researching it and I realized there was this whole field of environmental psychology (how people feel within a space and why, and the science behind why people interpret space and light and colour and volumes and also proximity and layout of furniture). So when I realized that, I got into biophilic design and then I realized there was a complete line of science behind interiors that we tend to avoid or not really understand. We don’t really direct our designs based on the science around them. So it’s pretty interesting.

HJ: Is it a new concept?

JH: It’s relatively new…well yes and no. Sometimes I think the colour theory — like how colours affect people — that’s not new. But research based design is pretty new. Let me give you an example. If you were designing a corridor for maybe an old folks home for the elderly, as an interior designer how would you design that space? I was thinking I’d pick light calm colours, tone on tone, just something really relaxing and simple and clean. Well, I learned that’s actually a really stressful environment for somebody who’s 75, because a 75-year-old has 1/8th of the contrast vision that a 25-year-old has. So if everything is the same colour, it might be all nice and light but they can’t distinguish the floor from the walls or see handrails or see doors. So it’s actually very stressful for them. They need the contrast to be able to properly navigate themselves through a space, you realize that (the science) should direct the design, not the fact that I want to do tone on tone grey.

HJ: What is biophilic design?

JH: Biophilic design is centered on the relationship humans have with nature. They say there is an innate relationship between nature and humans. We feel good around natural settings. What we’ve done is built these urban cities that are really hard. They’re concrete, glass, and metal. They’re very man-made, very hard. And they’ve actually created a separation from nature which actually leaves people feeling cold or distant or disconnected. So biophilic design focuses on bringing natural elements back into the environment.  Light greenery such as green walls or hanging plants, cactuses, and things of that nature are good. Natural finishes like woods or tiles or things that you can touch that have a natural texture are also good. Also focus on light as well, like getting natural light into a space. Those three things I find in biophilic design, really give back that connection with nature that makes us feel better.

HJ: What do you think about the minimalist interior trend?

JH: I think right now there is a Scandinavian trend so its really popular to be clean. You know there’s that documentary on Netflix called Minimalist. I fully like what they’re doing. It’s a very healthy design, it’s natural materials and simple design. It’s reducing visual complexity and simplifying everything and I think that really does make humans feel better and happier in spaces. So whether or not people are focused on what is the healthiest design, I think the trend is good.

HJ: What do you take into consideration when incorporating wellness and health?

JH: Well it depends on the function of the space. What I always do is go into a space and what I ask the client is how do you want to feel in the space? So if it’s an office or it’s a home, or a specific room, start with the feeling: How do you want to feel in here? Do they want to feel really relaxed or do they want a cozy room or do they want their living room to be a place where they can entertain their family and curl up and read a book? We would start with that feeling and then build out from there. The furniture and colours and textures that would give them that feeling. You might see a pretty picture on Pinterest and you just want that and then when you get it, it doesn’t make you feel quite the way you wanted. So I always start with the feeling first and the function.

HJ: Sound, light, air water, and colour. Could you speak to each of those?

JH: Well for sound, there’s lots of issues with acoustics. It causes hypertension in people and it’s one of those things that creeps up on you. You don’t realize it’s causing you unwanted stress. So if you have thins walls- maybe you live in a warehouse conversion so neighbours or people above you can be really disturbing. Also if you’re designing a restaurant and you have a lot of hard finishes, you get a lot of clash of noise that bounces around and it’s hard to hear the person you’re having dinner with. So you can do ceiling panels, or white noise machines. You can also add fabric underneath tables and chairs- you just want softer finishes to absorb the noise rather than have it bounce. Also be aware of mechanical systems or appliances or photocopiers that are generally really noisy because they can also lead you to feel really stressed out if they’re going off all the time. Put them in a closed space or arrange the furniture to be further away.

HJ: What about light?

JH: You just want to maximize the amount of natural light you’re getting. There’s some crazy statistic that a lot of offices don’t have natural light- like no windows. I guess you’re tucked away in a basement or something. It actually causes productivity to plummet when you don’t have natural light or plants or have an environment that’s inspiring you to even be there. Its important to control light. In the evenings, dim your lights one hour before going to bed. Everybody has circadium rhythm. That’s the body’s way of regulating sleep and alertness. Everyone has one and it’s usually timed with the sunset and sunrise. And so the most natural way to wake up is with the sunrise and go to bed with the sunset. Obviously we don’t do that living in the city because everything is rather artificial and our schedules do not follow that. So dimming your lights in the evening gets your body to release melatonin and melatonin helps you regulate sleep. Try to block out all the light when you’re sleeping. You want a perfectly dark cave to sleep in.

HJ: Air and water?

JH: Those are the two functional items in a space. We have standards and we have building code and that’s great, but it is a minimal. Air quality is actually better outdoors than it is indoors in the city. Our indoor air quality is terrible. So you can up the filter on your H-vac system. If you live in a condo, you have what’s called a fan coil, (a vertical mechanical unit and with a filter on it). If you live at home you have a furnace that will also have an air filter in it where the intake of the air is going through. So you can up the quality of that- (from 10-15 is optimal). MERV is the rating. Or HEPA filter is the best, you’ll find them in Tesla cars and some vacuums have them. Those will really help your air quality. For water quality, if you have the ability to add a filter right into your system, that’s great. Or you can add a reverse osmosis. You can also just get an on counter water filter that makes the water alkaline and also reduces the toxins in it as well.

HJ: How would you work with colour?

JH: Colour is interesting because I don’t think there’s an unhealthy colour. There’s unhealthy uses of colour or just ways to maximize your health using colour. So say I was designing a spa bathroom and I want it to be relaxing, the three things I would not do is paint it red, put super bright lights in it, or play the music super loud. Those are all things that are very invigorating and make you excitable. So you want lower lighting, have softer and more comfortable furniture, more warmer and natural colours so the body is relaxing on a biological level. Green, greys and white are more relaxing and restorative.

HJ: Do you have any tips to integrate this into a cubicle setting?

JH: Umm yeah, maybe get rid of your cubicle? It’s an interesting question. The Google office kind of set the precedent for how to blow the typical corporate office out. They got rid of board rooms and cubicles and did the complete opposite. They did ballpits for adults and beanbag chairs and a lounge. It was almost like a playground for adults. This caught on because it was fun and employees were happier. They’re excited to come to work and productivity goes up. And that’s true- for Google. Google is generally a bunch of creative people doing stuff on computers so that works really well. But what they’re starting to notice now is within every office, there are certain people that work really well in private spaces, semi private spaces, or communal spaces. Some people who are forced to work in a communal space who would rather work in a private space, suffer and their productivity goes down. So you really have to look at your office and decide which departments need what kind of space. If you do have a cubicle, and you do like the private space I would at least pick a fun cubicle. They have some really great systems right now. A lot of them have acoustic paneling within them so you get really good acoustics. Some of them have little benches that pull out so you can still invite people to come hang out at your desk and you still get that human connection for people who don’t like being isolated. Some offices will have little plants or cactuses so you have that biophilic element. Also, employees who get taken care of tend to be the most productive.

HJ: Is there a way to organize your space that’s good for you?

JH: Yes, reducing visual complexity is huge. If you have open shelves jammed with junk, and you’re looking at it all the time, it’s visually overpowering. Hiding your visual clutter creates a freeness. If it’s already clean, then you can do what you need to do in that space without worrying about cleaning up the mess. You don’t want anything see through, like acrylic boxes.

HJ: What are the main elements to consider when revamping your space in terms of health and wellness?

JH: I think its all about creating a space that feels good. I think you really have to touch on the biophilic design. Like what’s natural about the space? What makes you want to work there? Light quality is huge. If you have no natural light, it’s essentially a storage room. I think people need to stop worrying about specific fixtures or details and think how does this space make me feel? Then you look at ways to maximize the space.

Beauty Review: The Dew Puff

Everyone wants clear, healthy, radiant skin, especially in summer. Removing dull and flaky skin before and after sun exposure is the key to achieving a flawless summer tan. In an effort to achieve perfect glowing summer skin, a few Novella team members were introduced to the Dew Puff Konjac Sponge. Dew Puff sponges are a modern version of one of the oldest and most traditional beauty tools in the world used for hundreds of years in Asia. What makes these sponges unique are the ingredients, or, in this case, the lack thereof. Dew Puff sponges are 100% plant based cleansing tools with only one ingredient — konjac root. When dry, these sponges are hard and rough to touch, but once they are wet, these natural sponges become exceptionally soft, gentle, and exfoliating. The goal of the Dew Puff is to create a perfect pH balance on the skin and to help brighten and even skin tone. Simply get it wet and you can use the sponge to gently exfoliate your face and body using circular motions with or without a cleanser. Dew Puff natural sponges are available in three varieties: Original, Asian Clay, and Bamboo Charcoal.


Listen, I can’t complain. I have been pretty lucky with my skin (with the exception of  few awkward years in elementary school) as someone who isn’t prone to breakouts except for the few stray pimples I have experienced throughout my life. When Claire, our resident beauty expert and skincare reviewing queen, mentioned making a joint article and having three members of our team each review a Dew Puff, I thought, why not?

Although I am not one with a wide range of knowledge on tips and tricks for skincare — or really someone who does much to their skin at all except wash it each night with Neutrogena Naturals and moisturize —, I am a sucker for trying out new skincare additives. Once a week, my boo and I will wear a generic, 15 minute face mask for an extra bit of shine or deep clean. It’s sort of a nice ritual.

I felt confident about my skincare routine and loved to give advice to acne prone friends suggesting that they drink more water. I drink around 3L a day and I haven’t had a pimple in months. I soon realized that I was sort of an asshole for this. That not all people are accustomed to the same sort of luxury that I have. Twitter verified this.

I was given the Dew Puff Original Konjac Sponge for testing. We decided on a two week trial then we’d each report back with our findings. Upon first opening the package and holding the sponge in my hand, it felt very hard and gritty. I ran it under water and it came to life, turning into my very own fluffy little cloud. I soon felt how soft the little sponge was and used it (without any other cleansing agents) to wash off any excess oils or dirt on my face.

The next morning when I woke up, I noticed that my skin was really soft and my pores were noticeably smaller. It’s amazing what this little sponge can do. I continued to use it for the rest of the week with my cleanser — and sometimes without — and while I didn’t notice a huge change to the look of my skin, it helped keep it smooth and clear. The teardrop design of the sponge is really comfortable to hold (sort of like a beauty blender), and it became a part of my routine when washing my makeup off at the end of the day. Instead of rubbing in my cleanser myself, I would use the sponge and enjoy a nice little facial from its soft surface.

Overall, I didn’t turn into Angelina Jolie, but I did notice how smooth and clear my skin became and remained, and for that I’m grateful.


My skin has come a long way, to say the least and, lately, I have reached a point where I am finally confident and comfortable with my skincare routine. The key is learning about what type of skin you have and knowing how it behaves. I could definitely learn from Kimberly’s 3L of water a day rule, but in the meantime, I try to gulp down the expected 8 glasses a day and hope for the best. I suffer from dull, dry, and uneven skin. So, when I chose to do the Dew Puff review, it made the most sense for me to try the Asian Clay Dew Puff, which is designed for dry or aging skin.

My first time using the Dew Puff sponge was in the evening as a part of my nighttime cleansing routine. I decided I would use the sponge hand-in-hand with my cleanser just to keep some consistency with my usual routine. Immediately after using the sponge I noticed my skin felt smooth and clean. The next morning, my skin looked fresh and smooth. Throughout the two weeks, similar to Kimberly, I continued to use the sponge with and without cleanser. It is gentle enough that I never felt like I was over exfoliating my skin. Even though I have dry skin, I am still prone to breakouts. While using the Dew Puff I noticed my skin remained fairly under control, which was nice, and I feel like it may have helped specifically with the blackheads on my nose.

All in all, I don’t feel more or less confident about my skin, but I did notice a consistently smoother texture while using it. It’s definitely worth trying if you’re trying to stay away from chemicals and use natural skincare.


If there’s a skin problem lottery, then I have won it. I’ve suffered from pretty terrible eczema since I was very little. It was supposed to go away when I turned 12 or 13, according to the conventional wisdom of my family members who also had childhood eczema, but much like Senator Elizabeth Warren, it persisted. Typically, it results in some scattered, manageable rashes around my skin, but every now and again I get these terrible, itchy, dry, red, gross flare ups.

And as if that weren’t enough, I also have acne. And not like a teeny pimple every once in a while, but all around my face and neck and body. And yes, I drink water and wash my face, but thanks for assuming I’m a heathen.

Anyway, because of my combination skin I’ve learned to be pretty skeptical of most products that offer “natural” solutions to your skin woes or tell you that you don’t need strong chemicals to keep your acne at bay. If it sounds like something that Gwyneth Paltrow would tell you to spend $70 on, it’s probably not worth your time. Still, when I was offered to use the “blemished” skin Dew Puff with Bamboo and Charcoal, I figured getting something for free and testing it out couldn’t hurt.

That being said, I was a bit surprised with the results of the Dew Puff. No, it didn’t get rid of my acne (if only!), but I did notice a reduction in breakouts, and it left my face feeling a little smoother. Plus, it actually felt really nice using it. Normally washing my face means getting kind of vigorous and it leaves my face feeling dry, but I liked the way my skin felt after using the Dew Puff.

So will this cure your skincare woes? No, not really. But does it feel nice and make your skin a little softer and ease the dryness that comes with most acne treatments? You bet your goop it does.

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Fragrances you’ll love all year around

Choosing the perfect year around fragrance can sometimes be the most difficult beauty decision one has to make. Feminine fragrances tend to be too sweet for everyone’s tastes, men’s fragrances tend to be far too spicy or woody, and unisex fragrances tend to underwhelm. However, there are a few fragrances that stand out as not only interesting, but they also perfectly move from summer to winter without creating a jarring wall of scent.


Maison Margiela: Replica Soul of the Forrest

Photo: Sephora

$200.00  @ Sephora | Soul of the Forest encapsulates the strength and severity of strong woods and leafy forest greens. Many fragrances claim to encompass the fresh and familiar scent of a walk in the forest, but Maison Margiela‘s Replica fragrance perfectly recreates the smell of a dense forest that glistens with the faint sparkling of a sun shower’s remnants. It is packed with strong notes of balsam fir, cedar, and incense, creating an intoxicating masculine scent that edges ever so slightly into gender neutral territory.

Atelier Cologne: Sud Magnolia

Photo: Sephora

$145.00 @ Sephora | Atelier Cologne‘s Sud Magnolia may not be the first for a masculine fragrance at first glance, however, the light Magnolia scent is wrapped beautifully in tart citrus notes of pomelo and bitter orange, giving the scent a sweet yet hard bite that meshes perfectly with the elegant and warm scent of southern Magnolia. Perfect for cold winter days that need a warm pick me up or warm summer days that require a familiar summer sweetness.


Gender Neutral

CLEAN: Cool Cotton

Photo: Sephora

$95. 00 @ Sephora | One of the most pleasing scents available on the market is the unisex fragrance CLEAN Cool Cotton, which boasts a beautifully pure and impressive aroma of clean countryside cotton. Imagine leaving your house like the freshest breeze of the wind you’ve ever smelt; like a sweeping hillside cinematic moment captured in a small glass flacon. That’s the beauty of this lemon peel, cotton, and mint concoction. It’s also slightly more cost effective than many other options on this list!

Tom Ford: Mandarino Di Amalfi

Photo: Sephora

$172.00 @ Sephora | One of Tom Ford‘s best selling and most appreciated sscents is Mandarino Di Amalfi. It conjures up images of the fresh Mediterranean coast. An image of inviting sea water, white sailed sail boats, tan bodies, and the freshness of a citrus orchard under the sun all come crashing together in this stunning confection. The absolutely fresh unisex is made possible by the presence of grapefruit, lemon, and orange blossom.



L’Artisan Parfumeur: Les Chasse Aux Papillons

Photo: Sephora

$170.00 @ Sephora | Florals are a sure fire way of capturing a soft and feminine scent that isn’t overly sweet or childish. The playfully elegant and entrancing Les Chasse Aux Pipillons by L’Artisan Parfumeur aims at bottling a memory rather than a scent. Instead of bottling the literal, Papillons is a blend of tuberose, linden blossom, and jasmine, which carries a memory rather than just a fixed scent. Unlike other florals, Papillons’s transports the wearer back to their childhood of butterfly chasing in a lush fragrant meadow bathed in sunlight.

Guerlain: Aqua Allegoria Pera Granita

Photo: Sephora

$78.00 @ Sephora | Guerlains Pera Granita is a scent built on the more light and effervescent side of the fragrance spectrum. With sparkling grapefruit, pear, and lemon, this tart scent perfectly compliments high summer and adds an aromatic and invigorating zest to the winter months. However, this can be a tad bit sweet depending on personal preference, but nothing compares to the tarty bitterness of grapefruit in the morning. Think of it as breakfast for your body!

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Diet and Fitness: Look Great At Any Age

TEXT: Alexander Sauve

Every decade has its own set of hidden surprises and you have to be ready for them both physically and mentally. Watching your diet and taking care of your health are great ways to ensure you will have longevity and strength in the decades to come. Check out these five easy tips to help ensure you look great at every age.

Moderation Is Key

After basically trying every fad diet out there (and there are many, trust me), I realized that to a degree it’s not what you eat, but how much and when. It’s all about moderation. You can still enjoy your favorite high-calorie drinks and foods, but they should be limited. Some would argue eating small meals multiple times a day, while others would counter and say you should eat less. The trick is to a find your balance. Everyone is different, and your diet and lifestyle choices should reflect these differences.

Your Metabolism is NOT Working Against You

There is a big misconception that with age comes a sluggish metabolism. This is only partly true. According to an article published in the National Library of Medicine (NIH), although our metabolisms are far slower then they were when we were kids, much of the weight gain we experience as we age is due to becoming less active. Priorities and habits begin to change. Instead of heading out to a hottest party or a club opening, you opt to Netflix and chill. Careers and family will begin to take center stage, and so will pizza and ice cream.

Exercise Like the Beast You Were Born to Be

Similar to the body needing the appropriate fuel to keep it running; it also needs a moderate amount of exercise to maintain its strength, muscle tone, and flexibility. According to Men’s Fitness, a light to moderate fitness plan (with the appropriate diet) four times a week will keep your body lean and in good working condition. A few minor changes to any diet or exercise plan can make a world of difference. What’s important here is you don’t have to become a hardcore gym goer if you want to remain fit and healthy. It’s all about making the appropriate decisions.

Watch Out For Hidden Calories

If you’re on the right path to eating well and getting enough exercise, but still haven’t seen the results you were hoping for, the answer may lie hidden somewhere within your daily diet — juices, coffees, and sodas often have an alarming amount of hidden calories. These delicious treats are jammed packed with sugars, carbs and saturated fats. A Starbucks White Chocolate Mocha Frappuccino for example (my personal favorite) will set you back a whopping 550 calories. Adding an extra 500 or so calories doesn’t seem to be all that much, but with everything else consumed during the day it can add up quite quickly.

Waist Not, Want Not

There is no magical pill or potion to weight loss at any age. Yes, you can lose a ton of weight by dieting —cutting out this food, or that food — but what you’re looking for is long-term results and sustainability. When you really get down to it, and manage your way through all the fluff, a sensible diet and a moderate amount of exercise is the only way to maintain your health over a long period of time. But don’t forget to enjoy life a long the way. It can be rather dull otherwise.

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How to Wear Fashionable and Protective Eyewear

Ray-Ban Round Double Bridge $235

Most people buy sunglasses because they look good and keep the sun from blinding them while they sit by the pool or sip beers on a patio. But, little did we know, there are a lot more benefits to wearing sunglasses than just the “chic” factor.

Besides the obvious benefit of helping you see on a sunny day, sunglasses help protect you from permanent eye damage. “Sunglasses are important because they filter out UV and visible light,” says Dr. Janet Prystowsky. Both UV rays and visible light in the blue spectrum are what can cause permanent eye damage. “Sunglasses can also help minimize photodamage to the skin around your eyes.” Photodamage, the deterioration of sun-exposed skin, can cause wrinkles, age spots, and skin cancer.

Dr. Prystowsky’s moral of the story: anytime you should be wearing sunscreen, you should also be wearing sunglasses.

What to look for

With so many eyewear options out there, it’s hard to know what exactly to look for when shopping for sunglasses. According to Dr. Prystowsky, there are two major factors to keep in mind the next time you’re looking to purchase some new shades.

  1. Look for sunglasses that say they block 99-100% of UV rays
  2. Those that claim absorption up to 400nm

Make sure your sunglasses come with UV protection, because not all sunglasses do! When trying on different sizes and shapes, keep in mind that wrap around shades or wide temples will offer additional protection around the periphery as well. You can find proper protective sunglasses online or in many sports stores or sunglasses shops. Don’t let the prices fool you! Just because the price tag is high, doesn’t mean your shades will be doing you any favours. You can find a good inexpensive pair of sunglasses for under $15!

Having trouble finding some fashionable and protective sunglasses? Here are a few to help!

Quay Australia Paradiso 52mm Cat Eye Sunglasses $69

Tom Ford Sean Sunglasses $525