Biophilic Design

Between working late in the office and longer commute times, we are now spending more time indoors than out and its changing the way we live and work. The spaces we live, breath and work in have been proven to affect us from day to day, whether it’s our behaviour, mood, wellbeing or health.

It’s been proven that nature and the great outdoors instantly makes us happier and therefore, more productive. From rattan and bamboo, to wooden designs, we’ve put together a guide to tell you all the ins and outs of biophilic design and how you can start incorporating it into your homes. What are you waiting for? It’s time to bring that productivity back indoors.

What is biophilic design?

Translating to ‘love of nature’, biophilic design focuses on bringing outdoor elements indoors and offers us an easy way to reconnect with natural materials, natural light and other experiences of the natural world in a modern environment. Transferring biophilic design into our living and working space can create a sanctuary of calmness and improve our overall health.

Wooden dining table with ceramic tableware

Why is biophilia important?

Placing nature and natural materials in our home environments has been shown to not only reduce stress, blood pressure levels and heart rates, but it can also improve our overall moods, making us feel happier, calmer and more relaxed. Biophilia allows us to reconnect with the outside world and have a more positive outlook on life.

Green mantlepiece with flowers and crockery

How can biophilic design improve our health and well being?

Being in and around nature makes us feel good in ourselves and can improve our physical wellbeing. Depending on how long we spend in a natural filled environment, it can boost our productivity levels and general health. Whilst there are many positive benefits that all relate to human interaction with nature, a few key proven benefits are that it can help with productivity, lower stress levels which enhances our learning and in some cases it can lead to faster recovery rates following an illness.

Improving and looking after our health is important in both work and home environments. It’s been reported that placing plants and natural materials in working environments and offices can improve colleagues productivity levels by 8%, as well as their overall wellbeing by 13%. Living in an area with easier access to nature and the outdoors can have calming and restorative effects.

Wooden shelving units with plants

How can you use biophilic design?

With many of us now going beyond the standard green living initiatives, there are many ways in which we can incorporate biophilic design into our homes and we can bet you already have some of these in your home without realising it…

Outdoor living space

Many home owners these days are choosing to invest their time into creating a chic outdoor space that allows them to spend more time in the great outdoors. But even if you don’t have a large outdoor space and only a small patch of grass or a balcony, you can still create an area that feels relaxing and therapeutic – it’s vital you put every square inch of your home to use.

Fresh air

It may sound simple, but opening up all your windows on a summer’s day will give you access to fresh air and allows you to experience the outdoors whilst being inside. It’s time to open up your windows to feel that cool breeze and hear the birds tweeting away.

Wooden chest of drawers in the bedroom

Plants

Placing plants in your home is the easiest way to bring the outdoors in and is an excellent way to reconnect with nature. Live plants will not only purify your air, but they can also promote a happy, peaceful atmosphere. Add a few plants in every room of your home from small succulents to herbs on a windowsill to help infuse nature into your home.

Materials 

Apply natural finishes such as wood, bamboo, rattan and stone to your home interior to create a space where you would happily spend all day and night.

Wooden shelving unit with yellow plant pot

To help you gain a better understanding into the world of biophilic design, we caught up with interior designer and biophilic design consultant Oliver Heath, and luckily for you, we asked him a few questions…

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you became interested in biophilic design?

Growing up in Brighton my life was always connected to nature, be that swimming in the sea, climbing trees, riding bikes through the woods, and later as a windsurfing instructor. As I went on to study architecture it seemed to make sense that the buildings I designed should embrace sustainability, plus the aspects of the natural world that inspired me, connected me to it, and of course made me feel happy.

In a nutshell, what is biophilic design?

Biophilia quite literally means “a love of nature” and was a term that was popularised in the 1980s. This simple idea was then developed into a framework of ideas or “patterns” by the godfather of Biophilic Design Stephen Kellert, which allows us to pick and choose nature inspired elements that can improve this connection in the buildings that we live and work in.

It can be subdivided into 3 key aspects:

  • A direct connection to nature – incorporating real sensory elements of nature such as plants trees, light, water and fresh air
  • Indirect references to nature that allow us to mimic or evoke a feeling of nature – be that natural materials, colours, texture and patterns
  • Human spatial response – to create spaces that both excite and inspire us but also allow us to relax and recuperate.

It really is so much more that just adding plants to a space; it’s about creating spaces that make people feel good, happy and relaxed.

Natural rattan dining chair

What is driving the increased awareness of biophilia?

As research demonstrates we now spend 90% of our lives inside, so there is a growing recognition that the spaces we surround ourselves with have a deep impact on our physical and mental wellbeing.

We now understand that good design can be so much more than just a visual display, but that we can use it as a tool to energise and stimulate us – to create exciting aspirational spaces, to help us to mix mingle and communicate but also to relax and recuperate. Importantly Biophilic Design is an evidence based approach to design – meaning that there are numerous studies that back up and put statistics to the human benefits, this nature connection can bring. Big businesses around the world are seeing that this evidence base demonstrates a return on their investment -creating spaces that are good for their staff – helping to attract new talent, to keep them focused engage and productive plus to retain them. So increasingly the uptake of Biophilic Design is linked to it simply making good financial sense.

Why is biophilic design important in our homes?

Our homes are arguably the most important spaces in our lives – the place that we wake up to, where we energise and set ourselves up for the day ahead. But also where we come back to, to relax, to help us connect with our loved ones, to remind us who we are and what is really important in life. So where better to harness the power of nature and understand the deep sensory benefit it can have on our mental and physical wellbeing.

Wooden dining table with metal legs

How can it impact our health and wellbeing?

Biophilic Design is an evolutionary design theory- based on the fact that 99.5% of human evolution was spent in close connection to healthy forms of nature for our survival. As a result, we have the ability to quickly recognise spaces that are potentially threatening but also those where life can survive thrive and flourish. As the numerous studies show, an enhanced connection to nature can help us to recuperate from physical exhaustion and also the impact of stress.

Studies show that this is beneficial in many building typologies:

  • In schools students can learn faster and get better test results when learning in natural light
  • Patients in hospitals recuperate faster when they have views onto trees and greenery plus need less pain care medication when recuperating in natural light
  • In offices views onto nature within natural light can increase perceived wellbeing, productivity, engagement, and creativity

What’s not to love about bringing more nature into our buildings?!

Do you have any tips on introducing biophilic design into our homes?

Yes there are plenty:

  • Position furniture closer to windows and make the most of views out onto trees and greenery
  • Create quite nooks around the home or garden – spaces where you can recuperate after a stressful day
  • Let natural light flood in – it’s good for your circadian rhythms helping you to feel more energised by day and sleep better at night
  • Introduce house plants and greenery into your home – I think you can’t have too many.
  • Use natural materials such as timber on walls – research studies show it can reduce heart rates.
  • The calming sound of water is good for reducing stress and making background noise

Are there any Habitat pieces you recommend in particular?

  • I love the textural quality of the Felix ratan chair – a great (and comfortable!) way to add visual richness.
  • I like natural solid wood furniture that feels good to the touch so the Feliz oak dining table would fit in well to my home.
  • The Pepper stoneware vase would be a perfect vessel for bringing fresh scents into the home with a lovely bunch of spring flowers.

Speckled stoneware vase

Habitat’s favourite biophilic interior design and architecture

To help get you started on incorporating biophilic design into your homes, we’ve picked out some of our favourite products that will slot into your interior style with ease…

Natural rattan dining chair with metal legs

Feliz Dining Chair

Wooden dining chairs are a great way to introduce a wooden element into your home. Start off with the Feliz dining chair for a long, comfortable sit and natural finish.

 

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Feliz Sideboard

Showcasing the natural colour variations of European oak wood, the Feliz sideboard is the perfect design for placing in your hallway or dining room. Finish the look with vases and plants.

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Solid Oak Sideboard With 4 Doors
Natural Curved Rattan Easy-To-Fit Ceiling Shade

Elmley Ceiling Shade

With a natural rattan curved finish, the Elmley ceiling shade will create a relaxed aesthetic in your home. Striking day and night, the light will cast dramatic shadows on your walls when lit.

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Roman Tapas Bowls

Adding biophilic design into your home doesn’t always have to be via a big statement piece. Add visual interest to your dining table with the Roman stoneware tapas bowls and fill with your favourite snack time treats.

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Mustard medium tapas bowl
Oak 5 Shelf Bookcase

Cornelia Bookcase

No living room is complete without a wooden shelving unit. Add Cornelia to your home to showcase its beautiful grain and spindle-shaped design and fill with your most prized possessions.

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Discover our collection of pieces designed to showcase the best natural materials and start adding biopihlic design into your home environment.

SHOP NATURAL FURNITURE   » FOR MORE INSPIRATION CHECK OUR GUIDE TO BIOPHILIC DESIGN   »
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