Do office spaces have an impact on people’s health? What is the quality of air and ventilation in your therapy room? Where can you begin making small but meaningful changes to better furnish your office environment?
In this podcast episode, Alison Pidgeon speaks with Eleni Domanos about how to furnish an office with wellness in mind.
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Meet Eleni Domanos
Eleni Domanos is the owner and principal designer at Design Tree Interiors, an ethically oriented design company. She’s also a Realtor and owner of Realiteam Real Estate Group. After 20 years in the business, she’s experienced firsthand how interior design has the ability to nourish the soul and make a house a healthful and healing haven.
She strives to create spaces that reflect the character and lifestyle of the individuals that inhabit them and add value to their home or place of work. Her personalized approach to each interior design project and positive energy, develop unique and cohesive spaces.
In This Podcast
- Who should consider wellness offices?
- Furnish your office with healthier products
- Start small
- Must-haves for your office
Who should consider wellness offices?
I would say people with asthma, auto-immune issues … our indoor air environment is potentially a lot more harmful than our outdoor air. (Eleni Domanos)
If the airflow in an office space is restricted, or an office is not well-ventilated, then the air quality suffers and could lead to increased chances of ill-health for the staff that works there.
Office managers and business owners should consider the health of their employees and create spaces that prioritize wellness and health.
A proper filtration and cleaning system is required, as well as open windows, if possible, to maintain a higher quality of air.
Furnish your office with healthier products
Some older furniture can give off chemicals as it degrades, turning into dust, which can be breathed in and be unhealthy for the body in the long run, especially over a longer exposure.
Nowadays there is furniture available that is made from sustainable, healthier materials that are better for the people and the planet.
However, you must conduct your research before purchasing to avoid being caught in false advertising and greenwashing.
The information is out there. It’s just a matter of taking the time, creating your bullet points, and saying, “what’s important?” I would start with flooring and then furniture and then your air filtration system. (Eleni Domanos)
- Check ventilation in your office and test the air quality
- Open the windows and add air filters in each room
- Purchase a good quality vacuum cleaner to deep clean carpets from allergens and dust
- Check your existing furniture and consider swapping out older, potentially hazardous pieces for new, sustainable pieces
- Get rid of clutter, furniture, and objects that no longer serve you or your office space
The only thing I would avoid is antimicrobials so be careful of that sales pitch. We can put an antimicrobial agent in your furnace, and it will kill stuff, [but] don’t go there [because] it’s just more taxing on your body … I would recommend people go get fresh air and vitamin D. (Eleni Domanos)
Antimicrobials are necessary for some spaces, such as in hospitals and doctor’s facilities, but you do not need them in your therapy office or your home.
Must-haves for your office
The type of lights and the color of the lighting that you use will impact both the mood of the occupants and the color of the surrounding furniture.
Choose calming interiors:
Furnish your space with soft furniture, calm colors, neutral spaces.
Paint your walls with colors that go well with the lights you use.
Cork and hardwoods are good options because they are easy to take care of, they bring pleasantness to the room, and add an organic element to your office. Consider a rug over your floor to add softness.
Both real and fake plants are beneficial to your office space. Opt for real plants. They help with air filtration and bring a softness to the office.
Useful links mentioned in this episode:
- Use promo code ‘JOE’ to get three free months to try out TherapyNotes, no strings attached
- For inspired office-space design and great interior ideas try Therasuite!
- Visit the Design Tree Interiors Website and connect with them on Pinterest
- Connect with Eleni on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn
Check out these additional resources:
- Kris Smith on Designing Offices for a Group Therapy Practice | GP 104
- Group Practice Launch
- Group Practice Boss: www.practiceofthepractice.com/grouppracticeboss $149 a month
- Email Alison: firstname.lastname@example.org
- PoP Group Practice Owners Facebook Group
- Free resources to help you start, grow, and scale
- Work with us
- Consult With Alison
- Alison Pidgeon on Therapy for Your Money Podcast
- Practice of the Practice Network
Meet Alison Pidgeon, Group Practice Owner
Alison Pidgeon, LPC is the owner of Move Forward Counseling, a group practice in Lancaster, PA and she runs a virtual assistant company, Move Forward Virtual Assistants.
Alison has been working with Practice of the Practice since 2016. She has helped over 70 therapist entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses, through mastermind groups and individual consulting.
Transformation From A Private Practice To Group Practice
In addition, she is a private practice consultant for Practice of the Practice. Allison’s private practice ‘grew up.’ What started out as a solo private practice in early 2015 quickly grew into a group practice and has been expanding ever since.
Thanks For Listening!
Hi, welcome to the Grow a Group Practice podcast. I’m Alison Pidgeon. We are doing a podcast series right now, all about interior design for therapy office spaces. I have launched a new business called Thera Suite. If you want to check it out, it’s www.thera-suites.com. We provide a quick and easy way for therapists to furnish and decorate their office spaces. So you can either by a board full of links that you can purchase and have things shipped directly to you and it’s sort of more of a DIY option. We also have designers on the site that you could reach out to if you want a more custom design. So I’d love it if you would check out Thera Suite and tell me what you think.
So today have a great interview with an interior designer. Her name is Eleni Domanos, and she has been working in the field for 20 years. She has done commercial spaces, she’s done residential spaces and in the past few years, she has pivoted her business focus on using more sustainable materials and things that have maybe less chemicals in them and just cleaner décor items, cleaner furniture, things like that. She has a certificate in healthy materials in healthy, affordable housing from the Paron School of Design, which is really cool. So this was something I didn’t know much about and so it was really fun to talk to Eleni about it. I hope you enjoy this interview.
[ALISON] Hi, Eleni. Welcome to the podcast.
[ELENI DOMANOS] Hi Alison. Thanks for having me.
[ALISON] I’m really excited to talk with you today. Can you give us a quick introduction of yourself and your business so we can get started?
[ELENI] Sure. My name is Eleni Domanos. I own Design Tree Interiors, just a small interior design firm in the Milwaukee area. I actually grew up in Illinois, so I still do some work in the Northern Chicago suburbs. I do mostly residential and like smaller commercial design. As we discussed earlier I started to, I’ve been doing this for 20 years, so I started to pivot my business a few years ago and focus on a group of, I guess clients that are more interested in health and wellness or healthy materials and wellness design in their homes and businesses.
[ALISON] That’s really cool. I haven’t actually come across a designer yet who specializes in that? So I’m excited to ask you some questions. So can you give us just sort of an overview of what that means so if somebody’s interested in making an effort to have let’s say furnishings or other interior design be healthier for their home or their business, what does that mean, exactly?
[ELENI] Well, first I think it’s important to find the right contractor or designer, somebody who is actually interested in providing you education with these materials and options. There are a lot of options, not as many as conventional materials and furniture, obviously, but you need to find the right designer. You also need to sort of be open-minded about what will be coming at you and what options there are. They may not be generic options. They may not be options you can find easily online but there are enough options out there where a designer like myself would provide, first we had to listen to your needs and your health needs. What are your concerns? What are your goals in your space? Are there any family members with needs or health issues or in general, are you just looking for a healthier lifestyle?
So it isn’t all about just the aesthetic of the space, but we’re really there to help you function as an individual, as a family and with pets or without, you know how we can improve your indoor air quality? How can we incorporate low VOC materials, non-toxic furniture, non-toxic flooring, what it all encompasses. So, I mean, there’s a lot to it, but it really is a great opportunity to improve, I think your health, and not just persistent health problems, but also any potential health problems.
[ALISON] So what do you see people, what effect does really paying attention to those things have on a space and have on the people in the space? You mentioned something about air quality and different chemicals in the home and that thing. Do you have specific examples of people who maybe were having some sort of health issue and decided to change the materials in their home and it helped them or what does that look like?
[ELENI] I would say people with asthma, autoimmune issues. Some of underlying issues that you most, I would say conventional doctors won’t find or ask you about. Our indoor air environment is potentially a lot more, oh, what’s a good word for it, a lot more harmful than our outdoor air. So what happens is we’re in the seal box and we get everything gets trapped inside our home or office. If we don’t have a good filtration system, if we don’t have a proper furnace or proper filters, if we have a lot of soft goods like carpeting, especially like high pile carpet where it traps a lot of allergens and whatnot. So air filtration is important. If you need individual room filtration that’s also a bonus. I think that’s very important.
Furniture, the issue with existing furniture or old furniture is that there are potential chemicals in there that off gas. They can off gas up to, some chemicals can off gas anywhere between three and 12 months before they actually finish that cycle. Another issue is as the materials in these products break down, they start releasing these chemicals as well. So when you look at that dust on your arm, your dresser, your wherever, there’s more than, dust is really a composite of many things, not just dead skin cells, but chemicals as well, et cetera.
So looking at a piece of furniture, you’re like, okay, I’ve had this for 20 something years. It was probably in a time where they were still putting flame retardants in their foam and now 15, 20 years later, it’s starting to break down and we’re breathing it in. A lot of these chemicals are what we call forever chemicals, and they’re called forever chemicals because there’s really no way to get rid of them. So once they’re in our bodies, it’s really hard to detoxify. It’s amazing how much of it is found in mother’s milk as well. We’re just casting it on. So it really is a vicious cycle, but I think within this cycle you can try to make better choices to alleviate some of that stress on our bodies, especially our young children. I think that’s where I have, my biggest concerns are with our young ones being exposed to these chemicals.
[ALISON] That’s really interesting. So if someone’s listening to this and really thinking, yes, that’s something that I want to do. I want to start buying healthier materials to put in my home or my office. What do you typically recommend?
[ELENI] I would recommend doing your research. There are a lot of certifications that are out there. There are a lot of greenwash. So beware when you go to the store, when things are said to be okay, this is made of bamboo, and there’s a green leaf in the corner or anything that might cause you to think that you’re buying a better product, lots of greenwash. So it’s really important to do your research. Research is not just about searching and believing. You have to research, you have to continue to search for products, understand some of the certifications. There’s some really good websites out there. You can look up green guard, you can look up OEKOTX, which is O-E-K-O-T-X.
That is actually a pretty simple certification. I like to see it out there. Testing for like a hundred or more different chemicals and eliminating them in pillows, rugs, could be any linens textiles, stuff like that, like small steps. So that really helps. Going to the Sustainable Furnishings Council, they will have a list of manufacturers for you there as well. So the information’s out there, it’s just a matter of taking the time, creating your bullet points and saying what’s important. So I would start with the flooring and then furniture and then your air filtration system. So those are my top three. And paint, you can get low VOC or practically no VOC paint that’s safer to use, I should say. So that’s more readily available because it’s advertised more, but those are my top, paint furniture, flooring, and then air filtration.
[ALISON] That’s great. I think too, as you said, if that’s something that’s maybe overwhelming for somebody to do their own research, obviously reaching out to an interior designer who’s familiar with what is really healthy to put in your home versus what is being greenwashed, which I’m just assuming I’m defining this for the audience, but I’m assuming that means creative marketing to make it look like an eco-friendly product, but it’s really not.
[ELENI] Absolutely. That’s exactly what it is. And just finding a designer who, I mean, we’re still working on this. As designers, I think we’re always doing our homework. There’s always products coming out. I think sustainability is, when you think of, okay, what’s healthy for me right now in my immediate space versus sustainability is what’s best for everybody in the long run? That plays in a very important part as well. I know we hear sustainability a lot, but that’s a long to home goal.
So that cycle is a worldly, a global cycle. Like what’s good for, I mean, now will be good for my grandchildren later? I need to make changes that will affect future generations and not make it worse for them really, which I feel like we’re doing that. We’re still creating chaos in the environment and in our bodily systems, but we’re getting there and I’m proud that there are so many companies that are focusing on sustainability and non-toxic goods.
[ALISON] Yes, it’s really cool to see that. So if somebody wanted to, like you said start small with making some of these changes, what are some cool products that you’ve seen that would be starting out small, like changing out your pillows or …
[ELENI] I would start with, well, starting small. That’s a good question. I feel like there’s nothing small. I mean, I think the easiest thing you can do is just make sure you have proper ventilation. And if you’re living in an older building, I guess with maybe older systems, if you can get smaller per room units to help infiltrate, obviously getting fresh air, getting a good vacuum cleaner. If you’re thinking of replacing your floors, don’t go back to carpet, ideally. Then looking at your old furniture, like how old is this? Or if you’re looking to buy new furniture, at least try to find things that are labeled like, okay, no flame retardants used.
I mean, we have foam everywhere, so it’s hard. But you can replace foam. There are replaceable foams. Again, these are small changes, but not necessarily the most economic changes you can make because honestly these products do usually cost a little bit more than, but I think the price that you pay for these products is totally worth what they don’t give you as far as a toxic backlash. So I think that’s important. So small things, yes, it’s tough. Getting small things would be just getting rid of stuff that no longer serves you.
[ALISON] It’s interesting that you brought up about the air purifiers. Obviously with COVID that’s a big thing now as it should be. We actually just had our furnace service, I guess, a couple months ago and they said that they could add some air scrubber filtration system onto our unit. I was like, Ooh, that’s cool because I know like they say that the air quality in your house is just so much worse than the air quality outside, which we always imagine is bad because you think of like smog and all of that kind and stuff, but that’s not the case.
[ELENI] No, it’s not. As long as you don’t, and the only thing I would avoid is antimicrobial. So be very careful with that sales pitch. We can put an antimicrobial agent in your furnace and then it’ll kill stuff. Don’t go there. That’s just more toxin in your body.
[ALISON] More chemicals.
[ELENI] People just go get some fresh air and some vitamin D and look at their medicine cabinet, don’t yes, I would stay away is another good point. I would really stay away from antimicrobial products.
[ELENI] They can serve you in any environment, but some medical facilities. Even then they’re still using chemicals to clean up but other than, like in a therapy office would never use it. In a home would never use it.
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[ALISON PIDGEON] So what are some really cool products that have come out in the last few years that you think would work well for a therapy office that are sustainable?
[ELENI] I think, okay so well with a therapy office, I think that’s important to, well, oh, you want to talk about aesthetics or just products?
[ELENI] Okay. So aesthetically, I think it’s important to remember, well lighting’s come a long way. So lighting is probably on my top five things to, so lighting’s going to affect everything that you choose for that space, not only your mood, but it’s going to affect the color of your wall. So if you go and pick a paint color and you don’t have your lighting in place that paint color’s going to change. So it’s really important in a smaller therapy office to create, I would say more calming interiors, more of a comfortable space, a living room space. So you want to really be aware of your lighting? There’s a lot of new lighting products out there. A lot of LED does have blue light. So there’s not a whole lot of, LED has really saturated the market. I’m not a fan of blue light. So you just have to be very aware when you’re creating an office space that you’re choosing the right color temperature for that space. So you really want to focus on more like of a home space, a home ambiance.
[ALISON] So like a light that has more of a yellow tone to it or?
[ELENI] You don’t want to go too high, like above 3,500 Calvins because then it gets bluer. So you just have to be very aware. So make sure that your lighting is on dimmer. You might want to create the mood depending on what time of day it is. If you have natural light coming in, that’s always best. You want to make sure that whatever pallet you’re choosing for your space, that you can see these colors day and night so they don’t look completely different at nighttime or when you turn up the lights or down the lights.
Then once you, lighting design I think is really important. So once you conquer that and you know what you want, then you can start picking out your palettes and your paint colors. Then everything else will fall into place. As far as furniture goes, commercial furniture is going to last probably longer than residential, but when selecting furniture for commercial space, just remember, I think is to, even if you’re picking residential furniture, make sure it’s a high quality line. Make sure they’re using more old fashioned techniques to keep this frame together. It’s not a, like a twig frame, more of a lumber, like a sturdy trunk frame.
So think of hand me down, like, is this something I can hand down to my children? You can always reupholster, so sustainability, you can always reupholster. Now you can always change the foam as long as the frame’s good and the fabric. Then flooring, easy care flooring. There’s so many options now. So really you can make, I think the space look great. I love hardwood. I’m still a big fan of hardwoods and there’s just so many different options and they’re really, they are easy to take care of.
I don’t think, no floor or no material members in purview or anything. You can always scratch something or stain something, but putting hardwoods is nice. Maybe even laying down like a durable rug just to make it more homey, accessories, trying to bring in organic forms into your space. A lot of really beautiful wall features, for example, you can do a live wall, but I know that’s more upkeep. So people do a once live wall. So it was living at one point, but now it’s dried up, but it still looks so pretty.
[ALISON] So what’s a live wall?
[ELENI] Just live plants.
[ALISON] Oh, okay.
[ELENI] So it’s framed up. Or live products, sometimes you can hang them or just a feature on your wall. There are quite a few companies that do that, but they do require upkeep. So just a moss, a dried moss wall is fine, but it adds like color and texture. I really think it’s important to bring foil into a space, especially commercial spaces. We lack a lot of net Boyage or hanging a Fern or maybe like a fig tree or plant, just something to bring in more greens and texture makes it interesting.
[ALISON] We always try to have plants in our spaces, even though most of the time they’re not real because I can’t keep them alive.
[ELENI] I know. Well, that’s another issue, but if you get some like easygoing plants, they’re good for air filtration. Succulents are, I love succulents or mother-in-law tongue. That’s easy to take care of. So little things like that.
[ALISON] Yes. Going back to flooring for a second, what do you think about cork flooring? Is that something that’s considered sustainable?
[ELENI] Yes, it is actually. It’s been used for a while now. So I do know designers that are using cork flooring. Another popular one is, I want to say Mamarium. Its a great option as well. Designers are using it and it’s very pretty as opposed to using like linoleum but Mamarium, cork flooring is okay as well. As long as you’re aware of the, I wouldn’t use cork in a high traffic environment. In a lower traffic environment, I think it’s okay.
[ALISON] Okay. Nice. I always thought cork flooring was cool, but I haven’t put it in yet. That’s what I was thinking for sound absorption, because that’s obviously something in a therapy office that we’re always thinking about like, how do we make the room as soundproof as possible? So I think cork flooring could be really cool for that purpose, but also I think it looks neat.
[ELENI] Yes. There are a lot of options now, so yes, go for it. If you just do your research first, make sure it’s right for your space.
[ALISON] So if you were designing a space like a therapy office, are there certain things that you would, I know you just named a few different things like plants and things like that, but is there anything that you would recommend to the audience just in terms of like definitely do this, but don’t do that or just general rules of them?
[ELENI] So we talked about lighting color. I think overall these are great contributions to a space’s ambiance. So you don’t want anything overwhelming, over-stimulating. My recommendation is sort of to review the overall look that you’re trying to achieve and try to find more calming colors of blues and greens, even creams, whites, and some warmer grays. After you select your lighting then you can start having fun with the color palette. Order large samples, put them on your wall, see how honestly they’re reflected once the lights are on or a natural light as well.
Like I said, adding greens, another thing I would recommend is artwork. Again, with the artwork, I think it’s important that, the artwork can also prevent, I’m sorry, represent an organic form. So it could be something dimensional on your wall or it could be art that might be more reflective of nature, just something tranquil and relaxing. Again, nothing overstimulating. I don’t think you’d want to feel like you’re walking into some crazy art gallery when you walk into a therapy office.
I would just sense when I walk in. I want it to smell good, so I think putting in the right combination of essential oils in the space. I wanted to just feel good and not hurt my eyes when I walk in and I just want to feel calm and safe in that space while I’m waiting. And looking around, maybe, I don’t know, not stimulating myself, but sort of looking at the art necessities, that’s just a way to keep my mind calm while I’m in that space for however long you’re going to wait in the waiting room.
So I don’t, sometimes the simpler the better. Sometimes having simple walls, clean walls is just a really good backdrop for more modern, if you’re into more modern furniture, modern art is great. Modern accessories is great. I like the clean lines. It could be very simple and well done. I just think that, don’t forget to add some of those organic forms in there, like the plants, or maybe just drift wood, or like I said, something on your wall that might represent something nature-like or whatnot.
[ALISON] I definitely think less is more because I think that when the space does not appear at all cluttered, it just makes people feel so much calmer.
[ELENI] Yes. Agreed.
[ALISON] So I think, yes, definitely less is more because I design my office how I would love to design my house, but I have three little kids so the amount of non-clutter is probably not realistic for me right now. But yes, the office is definitely more spare, I would say, in terms of, or more minimalist, I guess, that’s the trendy thing now.
[ELENI] It’s important, it’s your workspace. You spend a lot of time there. It’s important for everybody, not just your patients, your clients, but your staff. It makes you just feel less, I think flustered and occupied and able to do your job.
[ALISON] Yes, definitely. Well, it’s been really interesting hearing about sustainable interior design and what you’re doing with incorporating healthy materials into interior design. If folks want to get a hold of you, what’s the best way for them to get in touch?
[ELENI] They can go to my website. It’s just www.designtreeinteriors.com. They can always leave me a message. They can always call or email. I have a contact form, ask me questions. I’ll call them back if they have any specific issues they want to address, I do discovery calls so I set in the phone for like 20 minutes and we discuss their needs and what they’re looking for, just to make sure we’re the right fit and I’m the designer that they may be interested in hiring.
I do consultations as well, so I will be doing at some point wellness consultations for basically what you ask me, like, how does somebody start? People don’t know where to begin, and it’s very overwhelming. I totally understand, because it was for me as well, but just starting somewhere? So eventually I’ll be doing consultations to help people sort out the sea of products out there so they can again, make more selective choices.
[ALISON] That’s great. Well, thank you so much, Eleni. It was great talking with you.
[ELENI] Thank you. This is a lot of fun. I’ve never done this and I think this is a lot of fun, so I appreciate your time. Good.
[ALISON] Well, I wanted to say thank you to Therapy Notes for being a sponsor of this podcast. We know your EHR is awesome and we are happy to tell other people about it. So if you want to get Therapy Notes for free for three months, use promo code [JOE], J-O-E, no strings attached, and you can check it out and see if you’re ready to make the switch.
Thank you so much Eleni for being on the podcast. I really enjoyed learning something new.
If you want to check out Thera Suite, my new business, it is www.thera-suite.com. There’s lots of inspiration, you can take a quiz, figure out what your design style is. So if you’re thinking about renting a new office, perhaps, and needing a solution to help you decorate it, or maybe you want to give your current office a refresh, that would be a great resource for you.
I hope you’re all doing and well. I’ll talk to you next time.
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