Few people rebut the idea that immersing ourselves in nature is good for the body and mind. Study after study shows people are happier, healthier, and more productive in every type of environment when exposed to natural elements.
While spending time in nature is always a goal, the majority of the population spends over 90% of their time indoors. The solution is to rethink interior design in order to bring the outdoors inside, also introducing the positive effects that come with it.
There’s a label for this type of architectural and decorating style called biophilic design, and it’s the primary design trend for 2022.
If you have plans to change your interior design in 2022 or beyond, you should know more about biophilic design as an option for you.
There’s no reason to think this mindset will pass anytime soon, so unlike trendy design, biophilic elements are set to be the zeitgeist for the foreseeable future.
What Is Biophilic Design?
At its core, biophilic design connects inhabitants with nature. It not only emphasizes natural elements such as cross-ventilation and natural lighting but also places a focus on creating a healthy and productive space.
That’s something we all seem to crave as the work-from-home trend extends.
The prefix ‘bio’ means ‘life,’ making it clear why the movement involves a lot of plants and other greenery, both inside the space and within view out windows and doors. “Philic” is a Greek word meaning “Love of.”
Together, the biophilic movement is about mirroring our intrinsic love of life and the natural world in order to surround ourselves with it at all times.
In addition to vegetation, other natural elements such as branches, wind, fire, clay, and water are introduced.
Origins of Biophilic Design
Stephen Kellert, professor of social ecology at Yale, is credited with the early foundations for the design style. He developed a guiding set of principles aimed at bringing outdoor experiences into the home and work environments.
Starting with these basic elements of biophilic design, you can match your existing or desired interior design while making your space more Zen, calm, relaxing, and healthy.
During construction or renovations, the best way to develop biophilic design is to invite in natural light at every possible avenue through skylights, big windows, and glass doors.
Natural light comes with a host of benefits. For example, it’s the type of light the human eye is best adapted for. It also means less reliance on artificial light, which equals improved energy efficiency and cost savings on the utility bill.
If a remodel isn’t on the docket, incorporate surfaces that reflect light, such as glass tables and large mirrors.
For interior lighting, use natural and energy-efficient bulbs, and give yourself options with teardrop, can, strip, and chandelier lighting. Provide additional task lighting with under-cabinet lights, floor lamps, and table lamps.
Think about how light moves through your space from morning to night and how you use the space. Place your bed, desk, or couch near a window. Put a dining table where it will receive evening sun.
You can also use natural lighting as an element in passive temperature control within your house, shading from the sun when it’s hot and welcoming in the rays when it’s not.
Nature has acted as a template for interior design since the term was phrased. Color holds a lot of power in setting the tone of a space. When leaning into biophilic interior design, keep the color palette subtle and natural.
Think creams and beiges. Also look at soothing shades of blue and green. These colors can create a backdrop as wall paint or fill the interior as a choice for furniture, curtains, carpets, and throw pillows.
When deciding on shades, think about the colors in nature. Place bold color pops on removable surfaces like throw pillows, curtains, and rugs if desired, but leave the foundational elements of walls and furniture calm, light, and natural.
Fresh air creates an invigorating reaction. It flushes out stale air in the space and brings an instant connection with the outdoors. With this in mind, rely on open doors and windows with screens.
Cross-ventilation allows air to tunnel through the space without relying on the central HVAC system. If you don’t have a natural air source, use a ceiling fan instead. Consider airflow options when placing your furniture to avoid blocking doors, windows, and vents.
Plants are at the very core of biophilic design. When we think of nature, we think of trees, bushes, shrubs, herbs, flowers, hedges, grass, and other types of plants.
Bringing living bits of nature into your space sets the tone for a connection with the natural world. Plus, since plants naturally filter the air, they provide a healthier environment.
Research has also shown caring for plants reduces stress while improving productivity, creativity, and performance. Look to every level when displaying plants.
Use ceiling hooks to hang them, take advantage of surfaces such as mantles, window sills, bookcases, shelves, and half-walls, and incorporate multi-tiered plant stands.
Place them in pots, large and small, along the ground too. By the way, plants don’t have to be living. You can use dried flowers, artificial plants, or even pictures of plants. Terrariums are a nice addition too.
On the other hand, living walls are very popular in corporate areas as well as in homes. A vertical living wall can act as a natural separation between spaces and double as an easily accessible garden.
There are many new options in the hydroponics world that are perfectly suited to urban living, decks, and even indoors, so you can have a garden year round that provides fresh food and contributes to your biophilic design.
Few natural elements elicit a response quite like flowing water. You can achieve this benefit through a tabletop or wall fountain. Large or small, the movement of water is calming and naturally connects to the other elements of water and air.
Even being able to view water offers a calming effect. When considering architectural design for your home or office, make sure your living and working spaces face a courtyard with a fountain or a pond.
Larger spaces can support large water features indoors, such as a canal of moving water or a fountain in an entryway or atrium.
The addition of a fire brings another natural element into the mix. The crackle of the wood, the smell, and the look of flames climbing upwards all trigger memories of camping, childhood summer camp, and backyard gatherings.
It connects to our primal ancestors and their lives in the outdoors. The effect can be achieved through wood stoves, gas fireplaces, pellet stoves, or even realistic images of flames.
Keep Edges Soft
Look to Mother nature when selecting furniture and decor pieces. She doesn’t have sharp edges. Instead of rectangular, square, or other rigid shapes, choose curved and rounded pieces instead.
Curved couches, round tables, circular lampshades, and carpets all bring softness to the space.
Texture and Balance
Every decision you make in your biophilic design has the potential to add to, or detract from, the cohesion of the look. To achieve balance in the space, make sure all elements are working together.
For example, bulky curtains can block out natural light so consider a transparent and flowing fabric instead.
Rely on natural materials throughout the space for an immersive dive into a connection with the planet. Jute, wood, cotton, natural yarn, stone, and wool all bring the look.
Go with organic clay pottery, stoneware dishes, wood tables, and cotton window coverings. In contrast, avoid the industrial-mechanic feel produced by mass-manufactured products.
Although a calm vibe is the goal, it doesn’t mean your space has to be a blank slate of off-white, smooth surfaces. Use texture to bring depth with throw pillows, window coverings, upholstery fabric, or rugs.
Too much and the space will feel overly busy. Too little and it can feel cold and sanitary. Go for a blend with small accents instead.
Sounds and Smells
In discussions about biophia, there’s a strong emphasis on the visual aspects of the design. But sounds are another way to connect with nature.
In addition to the sounds of water moving, biophilic design often includes nature music to deepen the feeling of being in natural surroundings.
Similarly, the smells of nature can be replicated through boiling plants, herbs, fruits, pinecones, cinnamon, etc. Aromatherapy scents can also transport you to the ocean, forest, mountains, or plains.
Where to Use Biophilic Design
Since the movement began in the 1980s, research has continued to support the many benefits of biophilic design on employee performance, attitude, and focus.
Inasmuch, it’s an architectural and interior design style being incorporated into some of the largest companies on the planet, including Google, British Airways, Scandinavian Airlines, Ford Foundation Center for Social Justice, Oakland Museum of California, Apple, Microsoft, Samsung, and Google, to name a select few.
The truth is, biophilic design is simultaneously comprehensive and simple enough to incorporate in every home and business.
We’re seeing an increased effort to include biophilic design elements in schools, where students find it easier to focus and stay on task.
After research showed medical patients recover more quickly when exposed to nature, many medical facilities are putting an emphasis on it too.
As for your home, you can implement more light, plants, natural materials, water, and other elements around every corner.
Indirect Elements of Biophilic Design
The elements outlined above are considered direct elements of biophilic design. In addition to light, air, water, wind, and plants, direct connections to nature include animals, weather, and natural landscapes.
Indirect elements, however, can be just as beneficial.
Considering more than 50% of the population lives in urban centers, and projections suggest that this will rise to over 65% in the next 30 years, we need to employ every tactic to stay connected to nature.
We mentioned a few of these elements above too. For example, using colors from nature is an indirect connection. The same goes for images of nature.
If we can’t be directly immersed in nature, at least we can play a trick on our minds through pictures, painting, and other artwork that reflects nature.
Another way to think of indirect experiences of nature is through the implementation of biomimicry, which is the scientific branch that studies systems in nature and brings those processes into the home and work environments.
The systems in our homes can, and should, resemble those in nature as closely as possible.
Let the copper oxidize, welcome patina in metals, plant native plants that require little care and less natural resources, place shade-loving plants below large, sun-loving trees, resembling those plants in the forest, and rely on natural materials throughout the home, from planters to rugs and furniture, linens, and building materials.
Similarly, lean into architectural biophilic design elements that resemble nature, such as rounded corners, slatted patterns, rough textures, and geometric shapes.
When selecting materials, choose natural wood, cork, wool, leather, and stone over synthetic options. You can even find products made from natural plant materials, such as algae, coffee grounds, plant leather, banana leaves, and fungi.
Remember the Outdoor Space
First of all, if you have a voice in the architectural design of your apartment, condo, or house, ensure there is some sort of outdoor space connected to your living quarters.
Many modern office buildings even include outdoor gathering spaces for employees on every level of the building. You can do the same at home.
Make your outdoor space as lush, green, and natural as possible.
Even when you can’t get out to personally connect with the plants and trees, seeing them from inside the home can be enough to substitute for some of the time you’re stuck inside.
Biophilic design can help elevate your mood, increase concentration, and create a calming vibe. Plus, it creates a close connection with Mother Earth and the generations of humans before us.
In the bigger picture, biophilic design elements are used in passive house design. Learn more in our article What Is a Passive House?
Also consider Why is it Important to Design a Sustainable House?