Evolved Living’s prototype condo for wellness enthusiasts showcases the power of interior design in enhancing the body, mind and spirit.
As anyone familiar with Passivhaus would know, North America is generally behind Europe in terms of our sustainability ethos in building and design. Interior designer Andrea Kantelberg spent a large part of her childhood in the Netherlands, where sustainability was the norm. “It’s always been a part of my lifestyle,” she says. After fifteen years of designing residential interiors for some of Canada’s top developers — she has worked on interior architecture for some 25 condo buildings in Toronto and beyond — Kantelberg began to feel like something was missing from her practice. “I wanted to work on a project built around health and consideration for the occupants and their well-being.” After pitching her idea to the board for a condo she was currently working on and finding that they weren’t keen on her vision, Kantelberg declined the project — and every project from then on. “I just didn’t want to do something that I knew could be done better,” she explains. Armed with this resolution, she founded her own firm, Evolved Living.
Conceived as a pilot project for this new venture, The Wellington condo showcases the best of biophilic interior design. The term designates an approach to design that seeks to connect people with nature in built environments, and is gaining popularity in the mainstream. Kantelberg’s firm is one of the first to forward the idea of a condo based around the idea of wellness, symbiotic connection to nature, and sustainability.
For this purpose, Kantelberg integrated myriad features throughout each of the condo’s rooms. Creating “sleep sanctuaries” in the bedrooms involved avoiding electromagnetic fields in the sleeping areas — so no WiFi before bed. To reduce the amount of EMFs and RFs, Kantelberg integrated thermal windows to keep the waves out, as well as painted the walls with a conductive carbon paint before putting on the final coat of colour. She also set up the lighting in the unit to follow the human body’s circadian rhythm: at night, the lights dim to a cozy yellow, while during the day, lights are set to imitate daylight. The main bedroom faces East, so occupants can rise with the sun. And a sauna in the bathroom provides space for restful contemplation and sweating out “toxins.”
In terms of sourcing furniture for the condo, Kantelberg followed the principle of dematerialization: “One of our values is having things that feel less contrived and less produced in a factory,” she says. Kantelberg gives the example of the green sofa from the 80s that forms the living room’s centrepiece. “We didn’t have to do anything to it because the existing fabric and frame were in great shape. That way, you’re not using new materials in an unnecessary way.” And even though the unit is only a prototype, it would be a shame to have it go unoccupied — Kantelberg found tenants for it right away who were willing to adapt to the space’s changing status as both showroom and living space.
Kantelberg even has a few recommendations for those who might want to start integrating principles of biophilic design into their own homes — without breaking the bank. “I would start with your lightbulbs,” says the designer. “Avoiding blue light is helpful as is just unplugging a bedside lamp before you go to sleep.”
The prototype condo isn’t the end of the road for Evolved Living — the firm is already working on other residential projects, including a group of ten townhomes, as well as a large-scale office space that Kantelberg calls “the Wellington’s big sister,” which will show “how people can work in biophilic environments,” she says. It’s an exciting new perspective — and we have a feeling we’ll be seeing much more of it in the future. thisisevolved.com