Biophilic design has been at the front pages of interior design magazines, and at the minds of many designers around the world. And, it’s rightfully so. What is biophilic design? How did biophilic design originate? How do you create a space with biophilic elements in interior design?
What Is Biophilic Design?
Simply put, the biophilic design focuses on incorporating natural elements into space. It highlights the relationship between humans and the natural world, while especially focusing on the design’s effects on your health and well-being.
Biophilic design slowly became popular after Edward Wilson, an American biologist and a currently retired Harvard professor, published a book called “Biophilia” in 1984. He first used the term Biophilia in his work and defined it as “the urge to affiliate with other forms of life”.
Wilson introduced the “biophilia hypothesis” that suggested that humans have an innate tendency to connect with nature and will typically seek out these connections when possible. These tendencies can be observed in our everyday lives.
Every one of us has enjoyed listening to the soothing sounds of water or crackling fires at some point of our times. It’s not due to the arbitrary chance that generally humans love being outside, or at least feeling as if they are.
Going even back in time, nature has always been a part of the interior, especially for the aristocracy. Representations of plants and animals were used as symbolic decorations. Even earlier, before humans evolved, we have lived in nature for thousands of years.
It is not surprising that our bodies and minds have adapted to the constant presence of nature around us.
The need for nature in design and architecture arose during the times of the industrial revolution. Many artists believed that the growing cities offered a dehumanizing experience, disattached from the natural environment, plants, and animals.
As people kept moving from rural to urban areas, chasing new jobs and the promises of prosperity, many missed the countryside. Around the same time, the love of nature was reflected in art when natural landscapes became the focus of painters around Europe.
Biophilic Design Elements
There are many ways to implement biophilic design details into a room or a house. Though the possibilities depend on the project at hand, as a school is likely to have different needs from an office or a hospital, there is something for everyone.
One of the main features of any room is its lighting. It can dramatically change the feel of the space, as lighting impacts our health, well-being, and perception of the world. If considering biophilic design, think natural daylight. A lot of it.
Usually, having large windows that face south or north does the trick. It will help you get the biggest amount of sunlight during the day, which increases productivity and stabilizes our internal bodily clocks. If you want to know more about lighting and interior design, check out our post about lighting.
The easiest way to transform a space into biophilic-friendly is to add plants. It’s generally one of the easiest, most affordable ways to change things up. As much as possible, try incorporating real plants. Though it may be harder to maintain them, it is worth doing so.
Real plants absorb various toxins emitted from wall paint, plastics, vinyl, and other indoor materials. Thus, plants can help clean the room from air pollution, reducing your risks of allergies and respiratory diseases.
Offices and business spaces often use green walls, which is an accent wall made entirely or partially out of the greenery.
An other crucial element of biophilic design is water. If it seems quite difficult or expensive for you, don’t worry. It doesn’t need to be. There are plenty of indoor and outdoor water fountains available on the market, varying in size and price.
If you have a larger budget or a larger space, consider making an indoor water garden, water wall. These are more popular in corporate settings, though it is totally up to you to have one in your bedroom.
Having a visual connection with nature is as important as interacting with nature physically. Hence, having wide or panoramic views of greenery or water can be a bonus. Not only do they allow for a view, large windows let natural sunlight in during the day, which is equally important.
This one can be tricky, since so many colors can be found in nature, especially in the animal kingdom. You probably should not paint your entire room bright pink flamingo-like color. At best, it will remind you of Barbie dolls.
If you want to experience the benefits of biophilic design, stick to truly natural colors, such as greens and browns.
Apart from real natural elements, you can also rightfully imitate nature. The biomorphic design uses patterns and shapes that can be found in the natural environment, such as trees, shells, waves, or shapes of animals and insects.
Natural Fabrics & Materials
Choosing fabrics and materials that can be found in nature for interior design is another significant way to strengthen the connection with the outdoors.
Consider using woods, lumber, fiber, or brick, among other materials.
It is also important to keep in mind the unique nature of the particular location you are working on. If you live or work in Minneapolis, forcing a tropical atmosphere or decor elements will seem unnatural. Instead, use locally sourced materials.
Not only will it create a very special interior, but it will also encourage you to support local brands and businesses. Shop local!
Why Is Biophilic Design Important Today?
The truth is, we have never been as disconnected from nature as we are today. With the technological advancements and connectivity that is available for us, surveys show that 90% of our time is spent indoors. This has dangerous downsides, particularly for our health.
More and more people every year suffer from mental health issues, or diseases partially or entirely caused by stress. The World Health Organization (WHO) predicts that by 2020, stress-related illnesses will be the largest contributors to other diseases around the world.
Being in nature positively affects our health in many ways, but it’s especially notable that it reduces our stress levels. Interacting with natural elements is also linked to better immunity, mood, and productivity. Thus, biophilic design is now needed more than ever.
A lot of time has passed since the industrial revolution, yet the cities keep growing, as fewer people live in poverty. While that is an excellent dynamic, this also means that fewer people interact with nature on a daily basis. This is not often talked about but is very dangerous.
Health & Well-Being Benefits Of Biophilic Design
Just as spending time in nature, biophilic design makes your life better in plenty of ways.
Productivity & Concentration
Even though the biophilic design has been gaining popularity in recent years, only 47% of the world’s offices have natural light, and only 58% have plants. These characteristics greatly reflect on the workability and happiness of the employees.
Businesses and coworking spaces have been at the forefront of using biophilic design for a couple of decades now. Many famous corporations, like Apple and Google, have focused their efforts on creating biophilic working spaces for their employees.
A study finds that employees who worked in a space with greenery and other biophilic design elements were 15% more productive than workers in a regular office. Most workers in offices that have some degree of biophilic design report being generally happier and more motivated.
In education spaces, research consistently found increased rates of concentration and learning when biophilic decor was in place.
Nature truly does wonders for our mental health. As one comprehensive study reported, “experiences of natural environments provide… emotional restoration, with lower instances of tension, anxiety, anger, fatigue, confusion and total mood disturbance”.
A 2015 study conducted at Stanford showed that a single walk through a park reduces blood flow to the part of your brain that’s usually active when you experience negative emotions or thoughts.
Other studies find that physical interaction with the environment lowers the number of stress hormones released into the brain. The presence of water was found to lower blood pressure and heart rate, as well as increase feelings of tranquility.
As a result of these findings, many hospitality and healthcare services started employing biophilic interior design in their spaces. The results of this show that the intake of painkillers in hospital rooms with nature-inspired decor has decreased by 22%.
In the modern world, biophilic design can be an answer to many problems that arise with the prevalence of technology and the lack of nature.