How a real estate developer integrated the five pillars of yoga into her home design.
Real estate developer Tina DePalma began incorporating the pillars of yoga into her new home when she mapped out the design. For DePalma, who is also a certified yoga and mindfulness instructor, the process flowed organically. “Since I was young, these have driven my design,” she explained. “As I went through the process I began to correlate all of my building and design with my love of yoga.”
As a result, the five pillars of yoga—gaze, breath, foundation, heat, and flow—served as the five pillars of home design that she employed when creating her 4,300-square-foot home in Suffield, CT. With each of these yoga principles in mind, DePalma designed a home flooded with natural light, thanks to an open floor plan, light gray walls, coffered ceilings, white trim, and 65 Marvin Elevate windows.
“Large open windows can put us in a state of meditation, which is calming to the soul,” she explained. This abundance of light lent itself to the yoga principle of gaze, known in Sanskrit as “drishti.” Windows dominate every room, even the powder room, allowing DePalma to continue to enjoy exterior surroundings from inside the home.
Nowhere is that more evident than in the family room, where sunlight illuminates the space and accentuates the intricate stonework of the fireplace. The entire front of the house has large windows floor to ceiling with transom windows above.
“The family room was designed with 12 oversized windows,” she said. “I can look outside and see the barn, my gardens, and natural light flows in. Everywhere I look is to an open space with open light.” A floor-to-ceiling window plays a featured role in her office. “I placed my desk against the window,” she said. “Many people find it aesthetically incorrect, but it really works. Looking at nature is more pleasing than a wall.”
The uniquely designed main bathroom has a tub with water flowing from the ceiling and a large window behind the tub. Most of the windows are strategically placed 10 inches from the floor for light and for the family dog, Louie, be able to easily look out. Electronically controlled blinds that fold discreetly into the molding when not in use can be drawn when there’s a need for privacy or a respite from the light. Except for in the main bedroom, DePalma does not employ drapes.
Equally important to the home’s design was the yoga pillar of flow. The open concept of flow, called “vinyasa” in yoga, represents stringing postures together so that you move from one to another seamlessly. “We need physical movement to clear our mind and stay healthy,” she explained. “Movement and uncluttered openness of the home also creates this.”
DePalma, who loves to entertain but also works from home, felt it was essential to create an open floor plan with flow that also had distinct spaces. “It needed to be able to accommodate large groups while still feeling as though guests were not separated into multiple rooms,” she said. The kitchen, dining room, family room and screened porch indeed flow seamlessly together. “I’ve had large gatherings using all of the rooms,” she described, “and yet everyone feels as though they are together in one room.”
An avid cook, DePalma placed special attention on the kitchen, which features a large island and a nearby farm table in the dining area. As she prepares a meal, she can socialize with guests in the adjoining rooms or simply gaze out the window and marvel at nature. “I planned my kitchen to be able to look toward my guests when preparing food, while also enjoying the open layout and the natural lighting,” she said.
Another yoga pillar is called “ujjayi,” or breath. “In life and yoga, it is the most important element,” DePalma explained. “What are we without breath? An open concept without clutter gives us room to breathe.” Easy access to opening windows and doors for fresh air is an important feature. DePalma has outdoor sitting areas on her front porch, behind the home, and a screened porch that brings effortless access to fresh air.
The yoga pillar of heat, or “tapas” in Sanskrit, was created by the warmth of light grey muted wall colors that contrast with dark natural wood flooring. “I kept the colors soft and warm, without harshness,” she said. In addition to the floor-to-ceiling stone fireplace in the family room, there is a fireplace on the screened porch that can be seen throughout the interior of the ranch house creating a natural form of heat. “Heat and warmth can be so calming to the soul,” she said. “Items that you love in your home and can’t live without. The things that bring you peace and joy bring warmth to the heart.” Another way to achieve tapas in the home is through the actual heat in the home and radiant heated floors, especially in bathrooms, and of course the sunlight from the windows.
Finally, DePalma knew that the home must include the yoga pillar of foundation, which focuses on creating a strong base for each pose to enhance stability. In her home, it meant embracing her roots and family. Thus, DePalma has a photo hallway reflecting her Italian heritage. “Everything stems from our roots, just like a home is built from the foundation up,” she said. Indeed, for DePalma, home design and yoga have become intertwined. “I’ve seen what yoga does for the mind and what it has done for me—it keeps us grounded,” she said. “I am always looking to grow in mindfulness, yoga, faith, and finding what truly makes people happy. I’ve learned the mind is such a powerful thing.”
And if she ever forgets, all she’ll have to do is look around for the reminders incorporated into her home.
This article first appeared in New England Living magazine.