Alongside her husband, Lee, Lee-Anne Stevens runs a business called Healthy Abode which works with clients to achieve natural, clean and simple environments at home through consulting and project management. At the core of their work is a desire to help people to better understand how their environments impact on health and quality of life. Together they have made a healthy home of their own in the Samford Valley, Queensland, that is shared with their daughters Violet and Poppy, Lillee the pug and a menagerie of chickens and bees. It’s a home in which everything has been carefully and thoughtfully sourced from independent makers or ethical producers. We visited Lee-Anne at her gorgeous property and learn more about what makes for a healthy home.
Can you please share with us a bit about your journey to launching your business, Healthy Abode?
Lee and I met in our teens, and purchased our first property a few years later, on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula. This is where our passion for renovating started. Since then, we have worked with large teams, small teams and everything in between and have renovated, built, project-managed and sold more than 150 properties.
The work we were doing creating homes for people was great, but we both felt like something was missing. We knew that the homes we were creating were fresh and modern, but the products and finishes contained toxic properties, and this was not aligned with our personal focus on health, wellbeing and clean and simple living.
In 2013, I fell pregnant with our first baby and decided to engage a building biologist, so I could start investigating the principles of creating a healthy home. This was the catalyst for digging deeper and better understanding the impacts of building a home using non-toxic building materials, internal finishings and furnishings. We renovated our first healthy home in New Farm and while it was under renovation, I became very ill and was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis.
At the time this came as a huge shock…..we ate organic fruit and vegetables, practised yoga, and lived a “clean lifestyle”. We began re-visiting our previous homes over the years and realised that living so close to phone towers, electrical meter boxes and transformers whilst using toxic paints, glues and sealants had finally caught up with my struggling immune system — the damage had been done. I refused to take the prescribed drugs as they had a list of negative side effects of their own and I felt they would suppress my already compromised immune system. Instead we introduced shielding paints to combat the EMF from a nearby phone tower, among many other healthy home principles.
This practice and knowledge begun with the absolute need for me to exist within a peaceful, healthy and happy place, my home. As I started to rebuild my health and strength, we made a tree change and relocated from inner city New Farm to 6 acres in the beautiful Samford Valley. I have since made a full recovery, acknowledging that environment played a big part in this, along with the changes to lifestyle, healthy eating and reducing stress.
The Healthy Abode business has started with friends and family wanting information on how to remove toxins from their homes, tips on renovating, to coaching on things to consider before putting down a deposit on a block of land or house.
Can you share with us any lessons you’ve learned along the way?
Don’t look back at what you could or should have done. Just make small changes along the way that work for you and your family. Enjoy the journey and trust that all these small changes add up to create a healthy home. Don’t search for perfection as it doesn’t exist.
What are four things to consider or question when trying to create a healthier home?
- Consider the location before purchasing an existing home or block of land and engage a building biologist to do a site audit. This way you can establish how close is it to phone towers or high voltage power lines. It is good to know these things upfront, so you know what you’re dealing with and how you can combat it.
- Make an informed decision before re-painting, putting down new carpets, re-polishing floorboards etc. There are some great non-toxic products on the market. Not only will they look and feel lovely, they will be better for you and your family.
- If you are buying new furniture research the source and materials used. The chemicals that off-gas from new furnishings are responsible for poor indoor air quality in your home. To think that your new sofa could contain Formaldehyde (a known carcinogen), flame retardants and other volatile compounds is not a nice thought. Therefore, it’s so good to know the makers and get back to supporting artisans that are truly passionate.
- Ditch using toxic cleaning products and opt for natural fibre cloths and traditional vinegar, bicarb and essential oils to clean your home. Better for the indoor air quality and the environment.
What are some of the first habits we should adopt in pursuit of a healthier home?
- Reduce your exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMF) and electromagnetic radiation (EMR) by switching your wifi router off at night and placing your phone on flight mode before you go to bed. You can even consider using an ethernet cable whilst on your computer rather than using wi-fi. All these little changes add up to dramatically reduce your exposure over a long period of time.
- Install a water filtration system to take out the nasties like chlorine, pesticide residue, heavy metals and bacteria.
- Open windows every day, introduce indoor plants to improve indoor air quality and remove shoes when inside to reduce dirt and dust.
What can you tell us about your own home, The Green House? What are some of the things that you love about it?
I love waking up to the view of trees every morning and the immediate feeling of connection to nature when we go visit the chickens to collect freshly laid eggs and collecting greens from the vegetable patch. A sense of connection to the landscape and nature is so good for your wellbeing.
Rather than using colour we have used a neutral palette incorporating different fabrics/textures, using a combination of wool, linen, organic cotton, jute and hemp. This in conjunction with indoor plants, beeswax candles and essential oils to create a calming and relaxed space to live in.
We love honouring techniques and traditions that have been passed down the generations and continuing the ethos of the healthy home into the furnishings by supporting handmade, fairtrade, natural materials which bring a beautiful energy to the home and accompanies the natural finishings throughout the home. Our artworks and prints are locally sourced. Rugs are handwoven and made ethically by fairtrade standards. We believe in investing in life long pieces that suit your lifestyle and you love as opposed to what is in on trend.
Our locally made furniture. It is rewarding when you get to meet the artisan behind creating your piece. We even got to create some bespoke pieces, i.e. using left over timber from the build to make an outdoor table called “The Poppy” after our daughter. Each piece has a story, this brings a certain energy and joy to the home. I am so passionate about the soft furnishings and furniture selection, I research everything from oils used on furniture to the GOTS certification on the bed linen and fabrics that I use.
Share with us an aspect of your latest project that you most enjoyed?
As more and more people are starting to question the environment in which they live, we are starting to see more non-toxic building products/finishes enter the marketplace. I love nothing more than researching new products and pushing the boundaries on creating an aesthetically pleasing home which also ticks the healthy home principle boxes and offers great liveability.
What are you currently learning more about?
We have had a few clients who had become sick from living in mould riddled homes. Mould is a health risk and the potential symptoms list is very long and can affect things such as respiratory and nervous system, fatigue, brain fogginess just to name a few. Our clients have engaged us to project manage their new home builds to mitigate mould. There are lots to consider and research with regards to design principles, construction process and building materials used. We love the ability to work with a diverse range of clients and make a difference to their wellbeing. Holistic practitioners are relating illness with the environment we live in, it is great to see this increased awareness and questioning around “could your home be making you sick?”
What’s next for you?
After making the move from city to country living we are moving to Northern NSW in 2019. Living here has been incredible but our heart has been singing out to be closer to the beach. We feel so blessed to be starting a project in the little town of Newrybar next year and this will be such a beautiful little community for our girls to be a part of.
Words & Photos: Victoria Aguirre
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