food, health & wellness Home & Decor Le Dome

How Low Humidity at Le Dome House Turned Me into a Plant Lady

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As much as I love nature and being surrounded by trees and gorgeous greenery OUTSIDE, I’ve never really been an in-house plant person (although I would DIE for an in-house atrium!) Aside from my kitchen window orchids (a mainstay in all my houses) and a possible much larger and usually tropical living room tree of sorts, I haven’t kept plants in or around my interiors – ever. To be honest, I just didn’t like the look.

I think this came from growing up in the ’80s… look back at any 80s movie, series, interior design book and photos from the decade, and you’re bound to notice that every interior is flooded with plants, mostly POTHOS, which is why I’ve also never like those plants, in particular.

I always love large trees in homes though, because they feel rebellious in a way, a bit ’70s as well, and create a fun and natural space, bringing the outside in. However, I’ve never had much luck with larger indoor plants and trees like fiddle leaf figs or money trees or even the eucalyptus tree I once tried (especially up here in the mountains), so I eventually just purchased larger faux trees to keep the look I love without killing more plants.

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When I moved into Le Dome (read this post for clarification), I had 3 orchids I was regrowing, I purchased one new orchid (a move-in tradition for me), and 3 small gifted Pothos plants, which had surprisingly survived 2 other moves and 3 winters on the mountain as well. I left my kitchen window full of orchids at my old place, where Chad still lives, because I didn’t have the space at the townhouse and don’t have a large kitchen bay window here as I did there. So other than my orchids and 3 Pothos, the house was empty.

orchids in 80s kitchen window

holding a pink orchid in 80s kitchen in dome house

I soon realized that this area of the mountain where Le Dome is located, is much dryer (and gets more wind) than other areas.

For instance, when I lived at the townhouse, I was right on the lake and of course, being closer to the water adds more humidity to the area, inside and out. There are also more “leafy trees” and ferns and grass and ground cover surrounding the townhouse and generally more trees closer to the lake BECAUSE of the moisture, which then creates more humidity in those areas than the massive Pines and Oak trees (and wind) that seem to suck the moisture right out of the air on this side of the mountain… which is also closer to the high desert, and to make a much longer story short, I felt like I was dying of dehydration once I moved in.

I noticed pretty quickly when at night I’d lay my head on my pillow and try to pull my hair up and away from my neck and up onto my pillow, that the level of static electricity in my hair was so intense, it felt like it was standing up all the way to the ceiling. I know that’s a bit dramatic but it immediately clued me into the notion that something was MUCH different here than in the other houses I’ve lived in on the mountain.

To remedy this, I bought a small humidifier to use when I sleep, and it worked! But because my bed is in the loft, it’s difficult to to keep the humidity in control, and though it helps tremendously in that small area because I have it on the half wall directly above my bed, as soon as I turns off, the humidity drops again.

80s pink loft bedroom with plants

Once I noticed a difference in my overall wellness with the use of a humidifier at night, I began researching indoor humidity and dryness and realized that all the “allergy” symptoms I was suffering from (super dry skin and hair, dry, burning itchy eyes and throat, hoarse voice, sinus headaches, stuffy nose and random dry coughing – on some days but not others) disappeared when the humidity was up over 40% in the house. And the only time the humidity was up this high was the day or two after it rained.

THIS is how I finally was able to deduce that it was not allergies I was suffering from, but low humidity symptoms.

The humidifier solved my small bedroom area, but it was too small to have a positive affect on the rest of the house, especially because of the high ceilings and open space. I learned that comfortable humidity in a house should be between 30%-50% (and based on my symptoms, I don’t like when it hits below 37% and feel best when it’s at 41-43% steady, overall)

I purchased a few Hygrometer Thermometer (humidity thermometers, which unfortunately all read differently even when in the same exact spot -ps. I now have FIVE 😂 ) and I’ve put them around the house to make sure I’m maintaining comfortable levels at all times.

I was really excited to solve a problem we thought was just something we had to deal with living in this area of the mountain… allergies my mom suffered with for 8 years living here! Because I have lived in other areas and houses on the mountain and NOT experienced allergies in the same way I did here, it had me questioning the symptoms more than my mom did. She assumed they were allergies because she had no other point of reference and had only lived in this house. Living in a higher altitude already forces us to drink more water to stay hydrated but when our environment indoors is also zapping us, it can make life pretty uncomfortable!

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Of course, I became obsessed, naturally 😊

I researched how to add more humidity to the house at large and most of the suggestions start with adding plants and a boiling pot of water on the stove, along with humidifiers. I tried the boiling pot on the stove and while it does help slightly (mostly in the small area of the kitchen), I don’t like having the gas on all day long especially with the low ROI. I think if I had used this method in the townhouse, it might have worked because it was a much smaller area and an electric stove, but it barely leaves the kitchen here.

Another option was buying a much larger humidifier, but quite honestly, I didn’t want to look at a massive rolling humidifier sitting in my living room all the time! They also say to use distilled water only to help keep mold and bacteria from growing, which gets expensive. I buy about one gallon a week for my small humidifier, imagine how much I’d use for a larger unit!

So I started adding plants to see if it would truly raise the humidity levels and after adding about ten, nothing really changed… and then things escalated quickly and each time I left the house, I returned home with more plants thinking I just need more to create a bio-dome of sorts.

Because this house is a huge ’80s vibe (which I’ve pretty much leaned into hard 💖), the addition of the plants made it so much better and so I just continued adding more and more. I now I have about 27 small-to-medium potted plants intentionally placed around the house and honestly, I think a few more wouldn’t hurt.

I would LOVE to replace my larger faux trees with real/much larger trees for that full ’80s integration because the high ceilings in this house can really hold them AND I think it would look (and feel) amazing – but I’m going to wait until spring/summer to get a feel for how the warmer months will play out, humidity-wise.

I also bought an indoor waterfall/fountain to see if that too would add more moisture to the house (and because I wanted something sort of 80s and sculptural for this area, and this fountain met all my needs)… the obsession continued!

For added protection to the floors (in case of overspray splash or malfunction), I bought a massive plant dish/tray and a secondary smaller tray and stacked them underneath the fountain. I filled the larger area with river rocks to keep water in and regrow new spider plants that I clip from my potted version. This addition was based on more research I found advising placing pebble trays of water around the house to add humidity. I thought, the bigger, the better and along with the fountain, my humidity levels should be through the roof!

Luckily, my dogs are old and don’t even bother with this, but AS A PRECAUTION, make sure this is safe for your pets if you choose a similar option.

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And even after adding all of this, the humidity levels didn’t change much 😞.

The only thing that really boosted the humidity was running the shower on HOT, full blast, with the door open and allowing the steam to fill the air with moisture. In just under 5 minutes, the shower steam pushed the humidity up and over 40% in the entire main house (and even up to 50% in my loft/bedroom area) and lasted up to two hours before starting to fall back down under 40% settling around 37% overall humidity.

The downstairs bathroom shower has a tub, so I would plug it and run the shower for about 5 minutes and it would work the same. The bonus of filling up the tub is the hot water holds even more moisture for a longer period of time and brought the overall house humidity up into the 40%s for a few hours AND then once the water cooled, I grabbed all my saved distilled water gallon jugs (from my humidifier) and filled them all up with the tub water to use to water all the plants. I still do this on super dry days, shutting the door to the rest of the house so my office (which for some reason is the dryest room in the house) steams up in the mornings when I work and then I can refill all my jugs again to water my plants.

Before I even look at my thermometers, I can tell when the humidity has dropped in the house because my eyes start burning, I get a dull ache in my forehead and temples and my throat gets dry. It’s truly amazing to be able to see the difference!

Saying I’ve become obsessed might even be an understatement, but when you can see and feel a HUGE difference in your health just by raising the humidity in your house to a comfortable level, you feel like you’ve solved a problem that feels pretty important. In addition to my own health, I can see a huge improvement in my dog’s breathing. Their eyes are less crusty, they wake up gasping for air and coughing WAY LESS and they just seem happier overall as well.

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Low humidity in houses also dries out any wood furniture, floors, walls and even books. Being that this house has floor to ceiling wormwood paneling in some areas, the humidity levels should technically also be helping the house stay healthy as well. There is an old exterior water feature that isn’t working along with sprinklers that aren’t working and I’m guessing they were all added originally to aid in humidity levels.

NOTE: I haven’t shown you every plant in my house in this post, but even with 27 around the house, it doesn’t feel overloaded at all. It’s a 2000sq ft house, so maybe that’s why, but I will probably add more over time. As I share more of the house with you, you’ll be able to get a feel for the overall vibe.

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Throughout all of this research, my stepdad reached out one day to let me know that there is a whole house humidifier attached to the heater that wasn’t working and once we had that fixed, the house has been pretty consistent and feels so much more comfortable overall. It does stay much higher and more comfortable on rainy days (about 46%) and the 1-2 days following and does still drop down to the low 30s when the heater is not on, so I’m not sure how the summer will be because I won’t be using the heater at all. If I can use the humidifier with the fan, that would be amazing. I guess I’ll just have to wait and see.

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Happy Monday Lovecats!

* Find all my Home and Decor posts here
* Find all my posts about Le Dome house here

Find me almost daily at Substack!

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Maegan Tintari

LA native & lifestyle blogger Maegan Tintari writes daily at sharing beauty & style secrets, including fashion DIYs, how-to nail art manicures, hair tutorials, recipes & home decorating ideas, as well as a look into her personal life, her journey & battle with infertility & recent relocation to the mountains by a lake in search of a better life with her adorable French Bulldog brothers, Trevor and Randy.

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