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.

DEW PUFF ORIGINAL — KIMBERLEY

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.

DEW PUFF ASIAN CLAY — CLAIRE

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.

DEW PUFF BAMBOO CHARACOAL — Adina

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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Queer Couture! 5 Designers Ready To Give You A Fashionable Pride Parade Extravaganza

The category is high fashion gay pride eleganza extravaganza! Pride month is in full swing, and with it come countless pride parades and marches around the world. Now, most pride attendees tend to dress for the weather rather than the event, so the visual representation of what it means to be queer in the modern world is unfortunately left to those walking in the parade rather than those strolling down the street. And even then, most mainstream brands don’t offer up outfit choices that have the gusto needed to catch the attention of parade onlookers. However, all is not lost! The world of high fashion has always been the playground of the queer and non-conformist artists of the world, especially over the past few seasons; and with so much negativity and backlash being aimed at the LGBTQ+ in recent months. It’s wonderful to see designers around the world taking aim at queer oppressors and calling for resistance through their designs. And what better place to showcase your truest self than at Pride? Even if your outfit doesn’t directly call for the heads of those who aim at taking your freedom, you can always represent your queerness with some of these fabulously extravagant ensembles straight from the runways of the world.

Moschino

Photos: Kirk Mckoy

Viva Las Gay-vas! Jeremy Scott has had a whirlwind career, having taken his namesake brand from alternative indie label to New York fashion powerhouse. Recently, Scott’s design endeavours have taken him from his home base in New York to Milan, where he now mans the helm at Moschino. For his Spring 2018 collection at the iconic Italian anti-fashion house, Scott delved into the glamorous and excessive world that is Las Vegas. Feather boa headdresses, pinstripe flames, and bold rainbows ran rampant throughout the collection. Taking what could have been an overdrawn Wayne Newton-Mr. Las Vegas trainwreck, into a fun and boisterous look into the more queer side of Sin City.

Ashish

Photos: Kim Weston Arnold

If you lean towards the more political when it comes to making a fashion statement. Ashish has you covered. For his Fall 2017 collection, designer Ashish Gupta created a collection based aimed at knocking those who feel it’s okay to judge and discriminate against minorities (especially queer minorities) off of their pedestals. The collection, which features gay-themed cartoons, rainbow flag patterns, and slogan shirts all focused on the resistance the gay community should be aiming at those who want nothing more than to make their lives a living hell. With slogans like “Nasty Woman, Fall In Love And Be More Tender, and Why Be Blue When You Can Be Gay?” Ashish’s Fall 2017 collection is sure to have the perfect war cry for any queer activists tastes.

Mary Katrantzou

Photos: Yannis Vlamos

Mary Katrantzou catapulted her career through the use of bold and graphic prints. So it came as no surprise when the British designer sent a wonderfully prim, yet cartoonishly sweet collection down the runway for her Fall 2017 season. The outfits, which were directly inspired by Disney’s Fantasia, which bombards its viewers a plethora of colour and fairytale imagery that would make even the most masc of men twirl with childhood excitement. What’s interesting about this collection isn’t that it directly references queer culture, instead, it conjures up imagery peaceful whimsy and fabulously glittery scenes that look like they came straight of a magical queer utopia.

Romance Was Born

Photos: Yannis Vlamos

The category is O.P.U.L.E.N.C.E! Imagine a world where disco never happened? Where the flash of the 70s and 80s played no role in influencing what modern queer culture would look like. Some of the greatest LGBTQ+ icons came from the eras of platform shoes and peroxide hair. SO why not wear something that pays homage to heydeys of Freddie Mercury, David Bowie, Madonna, and Annie Lennox? Your choices are simple. Feminine ruffles and bows, or fringe and sequins. (And trust me, nothing is more exciting than twirling in a fringe ensemble. Nothing)

Palomo

Photos: Shutterstock

Alejandro Gomez Palomo Of Palomo Spain started his brand with a clear motive in mind. To provide the modern gentleman with a chance of exploring the vast spectrum that is gender identity through clothing. Since his debut collection, it was clear that Palomo’s views on clothing and male dressing were really unlike anything that had been seen in the past. In his eyes, dresses, ruffles, high heels, feminine patterns, and soft gender bending silhouettes were no longer off limits. This comes at a perfect time when the notions of gender and what it is to be human are being examined by society. In Palomo’s world, a man can wear a wedding dress or a sheer blouse and feel as confident and comfortable as his female counterpart would feel in it. Since the brand and the collection really have no clear assigned gender, wearing one of Palomo’s creations to a pride event would so impactful and important to those who have struggled with the acceptance of their gender identities by others and it could even inspire those who wish to show the world their truest self. This collection, along with Pride month itself, are really is about expressing the beauty of the gender spectrum. They call for the acceptance and embracing of human fluidity and being able to chose who you want to be for the sake of you happiness.

Review: Viviscal Gorgeous Growth Densifying Range

I can’t think of anything more frustrating and irritating than a shitty hair day. If your hair looks bad, you immediately feel uncomfortable and out of your element. It is like your safety blanket is damaged and unable to protect you. According to Viviscal, a woman spends nearly $50,000 on hair maintenance during her lifetime, and over 1/3 of women admit they’ve canceled plans because they don’t like how they look, and 1/4 women avoid going on a date when they have a bad hair day. It’s safe to say that having good hair is important to us women.

Viviscal has been researching hair for over 20 years, and have developed the most researched 100% drug-free hair supplement. The new shampoo, conditioner and elixir work with Viviscal’s clinically proven hair growth supplements as a unique dual-action system for thicker, body-boosting volume to attain gorgeous locks. Viviscal’s new Gorgeous Growth Densifying hair care range aims to work from the outside to make your hair look thick and luscious. Each Gorgeous Growth product contains Viviscal’s proprietary complex Ana: Tel™,  which contains clinically tested ingredients from natural sources, including pea sprouts, and nourishes strands with Biotin, Zinc, and Keratin to leave hair looking thicker and fuller. The Shampoo cleanses with a light, creamy lather and rinses out easily. It has a refreshing botanical scent that lasts. The Conditioner has a weightless formula that moisturizes the hair. The Elixir is a lightweight, body-boosting leave-in treatment for thicker looking hair.

My Experience

I’ll be honest, after my first time using Viviscal’s Gorgeous Growth Densifying Range (the shampoo, conditioner, and elixir) I didn’t notice a huge difference in the thickness or denseness of my hair. Since I naturally have thick hair, the first time I used the product trio I only noticed that it gave my hair some added texture. It wasn’t until I gave the shampoo, conditioner, and hair elixir another chance that I began to see more noticeable results. Like I said, regarding thickness, my hair is already fairly thick, so it was hard to notice changes at first. But after the second, third, and fourth time using the products I began to see that not only was my hair given extra texture, but it was also starting to be more voluminous, specifically at the roots. I always struggle with getting enough lift, body, volume, and texture in my hair, especially at the roots where I flip my front layers over to the side. I like to have full-bodied hair, and sometimes products leave my hair looking too soft and flat at the time. These products would benefit those people who are struggling with fine and flat hair. For those of you who already have relatively thick hair and are hesitant to try a densifying range of products, I would still definitely recommend giving the Viviscal’s Gorgeous Growth Densifying Range a try. It doesn’t make hair feel puffy or frizzy, but rather enhances volume and texture. Say bye-bye to bad hair days!

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Review: True Glow by Conair

Shedding your dry winter skin in exchange for soft and supple summer skin can be a challenge. I’ve heard of skin brushing before, but never once have I ever thought to give it a try myself. To be honest, I always viewed it as an additional, and rather unnecessary, part of a beauty routine. My skin has always had a dry and uneven texture to it. And up until recently I also believed that my skin was too dry and sensitive to use a skin brush to exfoliate my face. As it turns out, skin brushing has been proven to have many positive health benefits like increasing circulation, eliminating waste and toxins, reducing fat deposits, and even tightening the skin and toning muscles.

True Glow from Conair is an excellent way to rejuvenate yourself for the summer months and buff away your drab winter skin. True Glow has various attachments to help exfoliate and eliminate dead skin, leaving your skin incredibly soft and refreshed. It also uses Sonic technology, which means there is not just a rotation but also a pulsation to lift dirt from the skin and help to cleanse clogged pores. The device also has a high, medium, and low settings, which makes it perfect for people with different skin types. It is rechargeable, waterproof, and relatively compact, which makes it ideal for storage purposes and traveling.

My Experience

After my very first time using True Glow by Conair, I was blown away. I couldn’t believe I had waited all this time to try skin brushing. The first thing I noticed immediately after using it was the difference in my skin’s texture. I suffer from rough, dry, uneven texture and it has been nearly impossible for me to find something that was consistently benefiting my skin. The first time I used it was in the evening as a part of my bedtime skincare routine. I had removed my makeup before using it, and I decided to use the lowest power setting since it was my first time using the device. Afterward, my face felt successfully cleaned and exfoliated without feeling tight or irritated. It removed all the excess dirt and makeup that was left behind by my makeup remover. Honestly, I also feel like it’s the best way to get the most out of your facial cleanser and skin care routine. The benefits of a facial cleanser are enhanced with the help of skin brushing. After about a week of consistent use, I genuinely believe my skin has never looked or felt better. It looks clearer, healthier, and more toned. I am so happy I jumped on the skin brushing bandwagon, and I can’t see myself ever jumping off! If you haven’t tried it, I highly recommend giving skin brushing a chance.

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