A Guide to Biophilic Design and How to Decorate With It

biophilic design

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Are you inspired by spaces that draw from nature and truly bring the outdoors in? If so, you may wish to learn more about biophilic design, which is having a major resurgence as of lately and is all about incorporating natural looking textures, colors, and elements in one's home.

What is Biophilic Design

Biophilic design is a design style that draws from the natural world. This involves incorporating materials, colors, and visuals that occur in nature into one's home.

We spoke with designers to learn more about the origins of biophilic design, and we're also outlining the style's main characteristics and current popularity while sharing some useful decorating tips.

Meet the Expert

Characteristics of Biophilic Design

It's more than likely you're already familiar with the concept of biophilic design, even if you don't know it by name. As designer Swati Goorha explains, this approach is designed to "bring the outdoors in and connect the built environment with nature." And, Goorha adds, biophilic design is thought to have a slew of benefits, once of which includes enhancing creativity and general well-being.

Designer Sarah Barnard shares a few key components of biophilic design. "The most commonly applied biophilic principles are a visual connection to nature (a view of nature, inclusion of plant life), a material connection with nature (wood flooring or stone counters), and connections with natural systems, which refers to seasonal patterns and changes," she notes.

biophilic design

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Origin

Biophilic design has an extensive history but has risen to popularity over the past 50 or so years, according to Barnard. "Biophilic design concepts are ancient in practice, with natural themes appearing in pottery, art, and architecture," she says. "It makes sense that a newfound focus on biophilia would emerge in the 70s, as eco-conscious practices and principles moved into the forefront of collective consciousness and environmental activism gained momentum."

biophilic design

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Recent Popularity

Barnard attributes biophilic design's current popularity to the global environmental concerns of the 21st century. "Currently, as we are experiencing another resurgence in public environmental concern and activism in response to a growing climate crisis, there is an understandable shift towards design that prioritizes nature," she notes.

But this isn't the only reason she believes this design concept is having a major moment. "For many, nature brings a sense of comfort and a feeling of connection to the world beyond their homes," Barnard explains. "After the stressors of the last few years, comfort and connection are a priority for many, and nature seems like a logical place to turn." Plus, there's nothing like turning to nature as an alternative to phone screens and emails, she adds. "Biophilic design offers a break from the tech and helps restore balance."

biophilic design

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Design Tips

You'll of course want to take cues from nature when incorporating biophilic design into your home, and Amber Dunford, style director at Overstock.com, advises simply making note of what's outside your window. "What kinds of greens do you see? What kinds of natural material are there? Try and incorporate the foliage native to where you live and follow the patterns of the season," Dunford suggests. "Embracing a natural color palette also enables you to create a material connection with nature."

The specific textures you choose to introduce into your home will also make a key statement, Dunford says, encouraging the use of wood grains, bamboo, rattan, and stone. Goorha agrees, noting that implementing natural materials is essential. "We also love adding fresh flowers and fresh-cut branches," she says. "The pops of color and the scent of fresh-cut flowers, branches, and herbs are great ways to enhance a space."

You may also wish to introduce some sort of water feature into your space, such as a small fountain, and of course include some plants, shares Jessica Glorius-Dangelo, sustainability coordinator at M+A Architects. Goorha agrees. "Using indoor plants is one of the simplest and easiest ways to bring the outdoors in, so it is no surprise that indoor plants have become increasingly popular in home decor," she says. "Think beyond the traditional snake plant, and look to creative options like terrariums, live moss, or small rock gardens for a more unusual and exciting look. A succulent garden on a coffee table can be a great way to add greenery to your space. Plants can also add height and depth to a room."

No green thumb? No worries. Just try this fun take on walls, Goorha encourages. "For the less horticulturally inclined, green moss walls are an excellent way to incorporate greenery into your space without the maintenance." But if this approach just isn't your style, you can take to the walls another way.  "In common areas, I enjoy a more literal approach and love incorporating textiles or wall coverings with patterns drawing inspiration from local flora and fauna," Barnard says. "This can help build a connection to the specific nature of a client’s region."

And you'll also want to pay thoughtful attention to lighting; Dunford notes that people enjoy indoor lighting that mimics sunlight filtering through the trees. "This can be created through light diffusing lamp shades or a simple set of sconces," she explains. Goorha offers a few additional tips. "While one can't always control the quality of natural light, there are ways to maximize lighting with strategically placed reflective surfaces like mirrors opposite windows or glass and reflective furniture in dark corners," she states. "Effective window dressing and colors that mimic nature will often brighten an otherwise dark room."

biophilic design

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Article Sources
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  1. Weijie Zhong et al. Biophilic design in architecture and its contributions to health, well-being, and sustainability: A critical review. Frontiers of Architectural Research, vol. 11, no 1, pp. 114-141, 2022. doi:10.1016/j.foar.2021.07.006