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What Is Biophilic Design?

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What Is Biophilic Design?

Biophilia – Natural Interior Design


Firstly what is biophilic design?

    Biophilic design is the incorporation of the natural world into our built man-made environment.

    Our bodies are natural elements, and we thrive on connections with nature.

    To live in a minimalist white cube might be your ideal home but it could have dire consequences for your physical, mental and physiological health. 

So I’ll get a plant…

    Houseplants are the easiest and ultimate way of introducing biophilia to your home.

    Air-purifying house plants are ideal – I aspire to a 10ft banana palm and have one opportune space for it in my home.

    The prohibitive price, however, meant that I opted for a somewhat smaller 4-5ft version which I speak to daily regarding its progress towards greatness.

    I often think we should all have such daily encouragement. Imagine what we could collectively achieve! 


Houseplants bring biophilia to your space


    NASA completed a well-quoted study to discover whether plants could improve the air quality inside a space.

    This was to determine the opportunities for growing plants in space (al la post-apocalyptic tale of Silent Running?).

    They conducted the study in air-tight conditions and achieved the result that yes, they could improve the quality.

    However, we don’t all live in airtight boxes (at least it’s not recommended!).

    Therefore by the time you’ve encouraged air flow around your home and opened doors and windows, the air inside the space is continually changing and the plant is unable to keep up.

    A later study suggested a minimum of 93 houseplants to get close to the beneficial effect shown by the original study. Quite the investment!

Fake it to make it

    However, granted, we are not all green fingered and modern lifestyles often mean that nurturing real plants just isn’t practical or desired.

    Fake plants can also achieve this feeling of biophilia.

    Choose the most realistic you can find or afford and stick to greenery and leaf-based varieties rather than fake or dried florals. These can look dated quickly and, according to Feng Shui principles, create negative Chi energy.

Fake plants, plant-inspired and abstract art


Fake plants, plant-inspired and abstract art

What your eye sees

    Our body responds positively to our eyes looking at natural elements, so even looking at natural wooden floors can improve wellbeing.

    Anything to stop the feeling of being in something man-made and sterile. Natural textures are pleasing to the eye as well as touch. 

    Pictures featuring plants, landscapes and seascapes for example also create the same effect.

    But it doesn’t have to be quite so literal as plants per se.

    It also applies to abstract art; anything which uses natural colour palettes, organic shapes and lines, curves, uneven walls, textures, colours, patterns.

dining room with wooden floor


Wooden floors improve wellbeing

Natural elements

    This connection with nature can be achieved either through overt or very subtle additions, amendments or subtractions.

    It can be as subtle or flamboyant as suits you and your style.

    For example, leaf patterned wallpaper lining to bookshelves, modern floral cushion covers on a plain neutral sofa, a textured natural fibre rug on wooden floorboards. 

Living room with chunky throw and cat


Create texture and visual interest

Worn wood

    Choosing wooden furniture which develops patina as it ages is a great way to be sustainable and bring biophilia.

    Vintage pieces are usually cheaper as well as coming pre-aged for a more pleasing look and feel. So much more beautiful than soulless MDF!

Sourcing Vintage

    There are online marketplaces for more desirable modern and antique vintage furniture, but these can be pricey.

    It depends on what you’re after and whether you want quality heirlooms or something quirkier.

    It’s also worth checking out local charity shops, reclamation yards, house clearance retail outlets, local online listings, auctions, and antiques fairs.

Do it Yourself

    Eco-psychology creates a link between head, heart and hands.

    When we get involved with our surroundings on all 3 of these levels then we create bonds and feel emotionally engaged with our home.

    Anyone who has renovated, upcycled, or performed any kind of DIY on your home will understand how it helps make it yours.

    Upcycling, repair and restoration projects can help you achieve your style on a budget. This enables you to customise it directly to your style and requirements.

    Find your local upholsterer and chalk paint supplier and get creative. 


Vintage larder bar cabinet.

Lost connection?

    When you look at the wall you painted, the tiling you arranged, the cushion cover you sewed from an old skirt, you feel an element of pride, of ownership and belonging.

    Even if it wasn’t a great job, there is pleasure in the doing of the task.

    You can get lost in the creative process and enjoy using your hands.

New generation

    In today’s culture of screens, technology and automation, the process of doing is getting lost.

    Creating, crafting, hand-to-eye coordination and tactile involvement with the task at hand brings something pleasurable and tangible. 

By my daughter’s age (8), I was a proficient sewer, creating soft toys and clothes with bead embroidery.

    Although she can sew, I’m ashamed to say I don’t sit and sew with her. The screen time encroaches, and time passes.

    It worries me that the skills will be lost with our children’s generations if we don’t make time to be creative. 

Wall art created from vintage printers tray


Textile art on printers tray

Embrace nature

    Recently I had lunch at a lovely café (shout out to Birdies!) on the edge of the Hayle Estuary (West Cornwall).

    It had a lovely view of the water (or the resultant bird-covered greenage when the tide is out).

    They’ve recently and very successfully extended both café and outside space.

    The floor-length glass walls bring the coffee drinkers into the estuary itself.

    Known as an RSPB area of interest, you’ll have every chance to see the Egrets and Heron if you’re lucky whilst eating your lunch.

    Outside they’ve used planters as table dividers and created green walls for the hard landscaping. Some real plants (trained behind clear plastic “walls” and the rest fake living wall installations.

    However, the effect is the same for both.

    You get a true sense of being enveloped by the elements. It makes us feel nurtured, comfortable and relaxed.

Bringing it home

    So think about how you could bring biophilia into your space.

    If you look around, I’m sure you can already pick out which elements actually tick the box already – a wooden floor, patterns or textures, house plants?

    The combinations are endless and can tailor easily to your taste and style. Be brave, be creative and have biophilia in mind next time you’re shopping for your home.

    I’d love to know what inspired you most and how you’re going to use it.

    Do let me know in the comments below!

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