How Do You Design a Space That Makes You Feel Good?
HealHaus founder Elisa Shankle has a few ideas.
Published Jul 10, 2020 12:00 AM
Elisa Shankle’s approach to design has long been about creating spaces that feel good—even before she opened the Brooklyn wellness center HealHaus with her cofounder, Darian Hall, in 2018. After studying interior design and architecture at the Pratt Institute, she worked in corporate firms before transitioning into commercial design. This shift led her to approach projects with a distinct question—one that she still considers now: How do you program an environment to create a holistically minded, integrated space?
Shankle devised a number of offices, including Hinge’s New York headquarters, and found the importance of incorporating wellness into workplaces. “It’s really about creating a community environment where people can have private space but also exist publicly in a way that doesn’t feel like there’s a hierarchy,” she says. When it came to designing HealHaus, which hosts yoga and meditation classes, acupuncture treatments, therapy sessions, and community events, she leaned in and focused on how she could create a environment that felt welcoming and rejuvenating.
In the past few months, HealHaus’s offerings have shifted to online, with digital subscriptions giving access to live yoga and meditation classes for anyone looking for peace and tranquility. And with a physical gathering space temporarily out of the question, that means making the most of the environment you have. Here, Shankle shares how she designed HealHaus with wellness in mind—and how others can create the same supportive space in their own homes.
Embrace Warm Colors
“A lot of wellness spaces are all white,” says Shankle. “I never understood that.” Her design for HealHaus was an intentional push against the stereotyped image of the super-minimalist, neutral spaces that had become the status quo for yoga studios, spas, and more. She landed on a signature terracotta hue, drawing inspiration from the woods of North Carolina, where she grew up, to create an environment that felt inviting and nurturing.
Allow for Versatile Lighting
While a warm-toned palette does a lot to make a space feel cozier and more comfortable, Shankle also notes the importance of considering your light sources. “Being able to dim all the lights in our group programming room really sets the mood and creates a space of warmth and community,” she says.
They can have the same effect in your home, too. If you can’t install dimmers, use lamps to better adjust your lighting rather than relying on overheads that might not be exactly soothing. Shankle also likes leaning into the ways light shifts year-round, to create a space that doesn’t feel stagnant in time: “In the winter months or if it’s dark out, we can dim the lights to create a sense of warmth, and in the summer, when the sunlight comes in through all the windows, it’s a totally different vibe,” she notes.
Add in Earthy Elements
Custom wood lockers, marble sourced from a Brazilian riverbed (and plucked out of a scrapyard), a smattering of plants indoors and out, and rustic tin layer in natural textures in the space—a priority for Shankle, especially when designing a place where well-being is key. “It was really about using different materials, so when you walk in, it feels like its vibrating with the energy of the earth,” she says. “It creates a sense of familiarity for me—being in nature and in the colors of nature.”
Carve Out a Sacred Space
With remote work becoming the continued reality for many, Shankle understands that difficulty of finding balance when your workspace is also your leisure space—and her trick is to find a spot where you can focus solely on your emotional needs. In her own home, she took some time to declutter and switch her wardrobe over to her spring and summer clothes. But most important, she created her own sacred space—an altar with pillows, tarot cards, and candles. “It’s a space where I can unwind,” she says. “And also do HealHaus classes virtually.”
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