How biophilic interior design can improve your wellbeing

There’s a huge movement within interiors right now that is all about harnessing nature’s healing power at home. It’s called biophilic design. You might not have heard of biophilic interior design. So I’m going to explain what it is and how it can help you. It’s really about how connecting with nature through interior design can improve your wellbeing.

Introducing biophilic interior design

Biophilic interior design is about recognising our fundamental human need for connecting with nature, and designing living and working spaces that reflect that. The word biophilia comes from bio meaning ‘life’ or ‘living organisms’ and philia meaning ‘love’. Using biophilic principles in interior design can ensure that our homes feel as good as they look, and that they enable us to live happy, healthy, productive lives.

How does connecting with nature in your home improve your wellbeing?

More and more evidence is showing that when we incorporate natural elements into the design of our homes, we feel less stressed, we are more productive, and our general wellbeing improves.

For example, several studies have found improvements to health and productivity when our windows have views onto nature. Others have shown that when we use wood in inside spaces it calms our nervous system. There is also research which supports the wellbeing benefits of having pictures of natural scenes, soft natural sounds, and plants and flowers in our homes and workspaces.

If you’re interested in knowing more about the research that supports biophilic design, you can find evidence here.

Vignette of a metal lamp, fern in a vase and small succulent
Connect with nature to boost wellbeing

How does biophilic interior design increase our connection with nature?

There are three main ways that we can build a connection with nature into our homes:

1 By direct contact with nature – for example by bringing plants into our homes, lighting a fire, opening windows to let in fresh air, and maximising the amount of natural light in our working and living spaces;

2 Through indirect contact with nature – for example by including images, materials, structures and elements that remind us of the colours, shapes and textures of nature;

3 By creating spaces that incorporate some of the qualities of natural environments – for example by including cave-like corners to retreat and seek refuge in, maximising views and vistas, and by balancing simplicity with more complex, eye-catching features.

How can I incorporate biophilic interior design into my home?

There are lots of easy ways to use biophilic design elements in your own home, no matter what your budget is. Here are 12 biophilic interior design tips.

Direct contact with nature

A lit woodburning stove
Install a fire to evoke feelings of calm and safety

1 Bring some greenery in. We can boost our mood and concentration, and lower our blood pressure, by having plants and flowers in our homes. Try taking some cuttings from the garden or buy a house plant.

2 Open your curtains and your windows. It’s really important to get as much natural light as possible to regulate your body’s rhythms and strengthen your immune system. We feel better when we sense natural movements and currents in the world around us, whether that’s in the air, or through water, so opening your windows to create a breeze can help to lift your mood.

3 Get cosy in the evening. Once the sun has gone for the day, feeling good becomes about making the most of the darkness by dimming bright lights, lighting candles and fires, and cosying up with thick blankets and squishy cushions. This will help to ready your brain for bed.

4 Install a fire. As humans we’ve depended on fire for thousands of years for heat, light and safety, which is why it can exert a strong emotional effect on us. If you’re worried about the pollution that wood burners emit you can now opt for bio-ethanol stoves which are regarded as a sustainable option. They don’t require a fireplace or flue.

Indirect contact with nature

Using fractal patterns and natural materials at home can boost your wellbeing

5 Use natural materials. The likes of wood, stone and cork can be better for our health than their synthetic equivalents; they create a general sense of wellbeing, and are often better for the environment. They have a timeless and classic quality that outlasts any passing trend. In addition they age gracefully, looking all the better for showing the passage of time.

6 Incorporate wood whenever you can. It can create similar benefits to being near trees outside. These include reducing our blood pressure, heart rate and stress levels, increasing our concentration and creativity; and speeding up recovery. That’s down to its texture, its smell, its chemical and physical properties, and our hardwired positive associations with trees.

7 Include natural motifs, shapes and patterns. Especially fractals: repeating patterns made up of the same shape in different sizes. They’re found a lot in nature, for example in the shape of a bracken leaf, or a spider’s web. Evidence suggests that we find these kinds of patterns particularly pleasing and soothing to look at. Use these in wallpaper or fabric, or try buying candlesticks, ornaments and even furniture which mimics a natural pattern.

8 Adopt nature-based colour schemes. The natural world is full of stunning colour combinations and our brains are primed to find these colour-scapes particularly pleasing. Take a photo of your favourite natural scene, and use it to pick out a range of colours. If you use each hue in the same proportions as are present in your image, then you’ll recreate its sense of balance.

9 Put up pictures of nature. Even if your home doesn’t have views of a garden or green space, you can get lots of benefits from putting up pictures of natural scenes and environments. Photos and paintings can still connect us with nature, as can putting a film of a fire onto your large screen TV (there are lots of options on YouTube).

Incorporating elements from nature

Cosy window seat with water view
We thrive when our living spaces incorporate enclosed nooks and expansive views

10 Make room for cosy nooks and corners. As humans we like to have access to enclosed, protective areas within our homes and working environments. Biophilic design refers to these as refuge or retreat spaces. They make us feel more relaxed and calm, and increase our sense of wellbeing: it’s why we gravitate towards beach huts, high-backed restaurant booths and alcove window seats.

11 Maximise views. We also thrive when our living spaces incorporate and celebrate views and vistas. It’s because we evolved in a natural environment; one in which our survival depended on us being able to spot both opportunities and threats. Try to incorporate long sightlines. For example: a view from the front door to the back garden, or floor to ceiling glass doors and windows. Angle seating towards the garden and any outside green spaces. And where possible keep a clear walk way through ground floor rooms to any external doors.

12 Make your home a multisensory environment. We are multisensory creatures and the emotional experience that we associate with space is encoded through all of our senses. Incorporate touch through different textures and finishes; consider the soundscape of the room: what do you want to enhance and what do you want to dampen? and think about how scent should play a role, whether it’s through bringing in fragrant plants, or burning essential oils.

I hope these 12 tips help you to get comfort from the great outdoors and improve your wellbeing. If you’d like more help in creating a home that feels as good as it looks, please get in touch. You can also visit my interior design services page to read about how I can support you.