The home that healed my migraines | Life and magnificence


Check out Belinda Den Ouden’s Instagram feed and you will notice that her bio reads: “I love interior design. But I have fragrance allergy and migraines. So my house has dark walls, is non-toxic, scent-free and cool.” But it hadn’t at all times been this manner. Belinda, who’s Dutch, and husband Eef and her 3 youngsters, Daisy (12), Liz (10) and Mike (5), all lived in a 100-year previous home in Alkmaar, a city famed for its cheese market, 40km north of Amsterdam.

“It was lovely and small, dark and damp,” she says. “The street was narrow and allowed for little light to come in. I desperately longed for a white, clean, tidy home so in an attempt to make it seem big and bright, I painted everything white. We even had a white floor!”

Although Belinda had at all times been troubled by migraines, they seldom lasted longer than 48 hours, however in October 2015, 1 got here that didn’t go away, and it appeared to be triggered by scent. “I banned perfume from my home and felt much better. I also switched to organic cleaning, washing and personal care products.” However, over time, her signs intensified to the purpose the place exhaust fumes, meals components, aromatic flowers, cleansing merchandise, “even the smell of the laundry detergent of someone I was talking to” made her really feel dizzy, prompted an bronchial asthma assault or one other migraine. “I Googled ‘fragrance allergy’ and was tested, and it turned out that’s what I had.”

Dark grey walls with paintings and a table and chairs in front

‘The dark makes objects stand out so beautifully’: Belinda discovered a lot of her items on Marktplaats, the Dutch equal of eBay. Photograph: Rene Bouwman/Observer

The resolution was radical: transfer home and begin over. Belinda explains: “We chose a new house that’s built in a Dutch 1920s style. It’s dry and well insulated, so no cracks to let polluted air in. None of the new houses have chimneys, so no wood fires in winter. There are no farms nearby so no pesticides or cattle dung. The street is car free, so no exhaust fumes. And there’s a park close by, so lots of oxygen and exercise is possible.”

However this was solely 1/2 the battle, the actual problem was the way to match out and furnish her house with out the usage of solvents, silicone, formaldehyde, fireplace retardants or the Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) which might be current in most glues, paints, new carpets, furnishings and flooring.

“I discovered that glass, stone and steel are safe products to use and I didn’t react to vintage wood, as the solvents have had time to evaporate, so we decided on a vintage style with industrial elements,” says Belinda. And the darkish colors? “I become very light sensitive when I have a migraine. Then I went to a friend’s house whose walls were dark grey. I loved it, took my husband to see it, and he was on board, too.” She continues, “I’d read that using 100% black wasn’t a good choice because it would feel dead, so I bought a paint colour chart, took the plunge and decided on anthracite.”

Skateboards stored underneath the kitchen counter

‘My husband loves things on wheels and I like to move furniture around’: the eco-friendly kitchen. Photograph: Rene Bouwman/Observer

While a lot of the downstairs was duly painted this inky blue-black, the toilet has white tiles, and neon pink is on the playing cards for the staircase, pending discovering “a scent-free version of durable neon bright paint”. Belinda’s bed room is one other shade of very darkish blue. It wasn’t a family-wide prescription, although: her youngest has a shiny yellow room, and her eldest daughter selected pastels. “My husband is totally in love with the darkness. The kids are OK with it, but the middle one loves it more than the others.”

When it got here to picking a kitchen, although, even a go to to a showroom introduced on a migraine. “I spoke to a carpenter about becoming a hand-crafted kitchen, however that will most likely contain glue and solvents, too, and some huge cash that we didn’t have. So I searched on-line. I got here throughout the Vipp kitchen, which is constructed from metal. It was lovely, however very costly. But the metal led me to contemplating second-hand restaurant kitchen parts, after which I realised that I may combine this with classic furnishings to create a budget-friendly, eco-friendly, non-toxic, scent-free kitchen.”

It’s such diligence and dogged analysis that ensures Belinda’s house appears like a contented household house, not a super-sanitised inside. It’s enjoyable, too, with many items within the open-plan floor flooring kitchen/residing house being on castors.

Belinda and her family.

‘It feels like a happy home, not a super-sanitised interior’: Belinda and her household. Photograph: Rene Bouwman/Observer

“My husband loves things on wheels and I like to move furniture around, so it is a logical combination for us.” It has a contact of the Dutch nonetheless life to it, too. Belinda spent hours Marktplaats, the Dutch equal of eBay, sourcing the right items to offer her house character.

“The darkness is so very embracing to be in. It immediately felt like a lived-in home, rather than the empty ‘we’re still working on it’ houses that our neighbours on the block had. I love art, I love paintings and I saw the resemblance to 17th-century painters. The dark makes objects stand out so beautifully and I can really enjoy that.”

With indoor air cleaners on 24/7, metal workplace cupboards within the bedrooms for his or her garments, water filters, underfloor heating (no radiators to lure mud), a free-standing tub (no silicone required), and the fridge and dishwasher “aired out in the shed for a month” earlier than set up, Belinda has managed to show a probably debilitating sickness into a strong power for aesthetic good.

And with the typical house being 5 instances extra poisonous on the within than the road outdoors – in line with a 2012 European research – it would simply give the remainder of us pause for thought, too.

Michelle Ogundehi from

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