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What is Biophilic design?

Biophilia is a trend that began without most people even knowing what it is or was.  Read on to find out how it is being used in interior design – and why.

A colourful wallpaper above white panelling. A chair stood in front.
Some wonderful paper from Lime Lace. Biohphillia in High Colour

Most of us now want to live in homes that are not only stylish and cosy, but sustainable and healthy. As a designer I encourage my clients to consider all elements of their wellbeing when we work together and this includes thinking about how a room ‘feels’. 

The term Biophilia comes from “love of life or living systems.” It suggests that every human being is attracted to nature and has an inherent connection the natural world.

In the work place and in schools, where elements of biophilic design have been introduced it has been proven to reduce stress, improve productivity and aid mental health. In the home it is increasingly being seen as a key element to home design and can help improve sleep, calm us and improve our overall wellbeing.

A bathroom with a tropical leaf foliage tiled feature wall, green panelling and a free standing bathub.
Beautiful fresh floral mural in Peach and soft greens from The Baked Tile Co

The biophilic home

Introducing some elements of biophilic design in to your home isn’t as difficult as you’d imagine There are some basic principles to biophilic design that you can easily introduce in to your home.

Here are 4 ways you can do just that:

Natural light

When considering biophilia, interior designers will look at the natural light in a room – how much there is already and how to introduce more. 

Allowing as much light in to your home is essential, so start by making sure your windows are clean. That’s right, get out the vinegar spray and give them a good spring clean. You’ll be amazed how much dirt and grime they pick up. I buy a huge 5L tub of white vinegar, mix it up with equal part of water in a spray bottle and off you go. Buy yours here .

If you can, remove any heavy curtains – especially during the summer months when you don’t need them for helping the room feel cosy. If you need curtains for privacy, get some tie backs and hold the curtains back from the window as much as you can. You can make your own tie backs using beads, shells, twisted fabric or some offcuts of braid. Fix a hook similar to these to the wall to hook the tie backs to (making sure you use rawlplugs to keep them secure) They should be around a third of the way up from the bottom of the curtain and approximately 7cm in. A higher position allows for more fullness in the top part of the curtain, and a lower position creates more fullness at the bottom.

Also look at what is outside the window. Is there something that’s blocking the light? Overgrown hedges, garden furniture, even bins can block a windows view. Try to provide as clear a view as you can to let in as much light as possible

Inside, consider moving furniture nearer to windows so that you can get as much exposure to natural light as possible. This is particularly important if you work from home. Drag your desk nearer to the window or reposition that favourite armchair to a spot where you can look out when you have a coffee break.

A home office set up with box shelving against a wall and an office hair in front sat. To the left is a window letting in lots of light.
Modular shelving and desk from Shelved

Green colour palette

As a colour, green is one of the most calming and relaxing choices for a home. You can’t really talk about introducing biophilic elements to your home without adding some green.

 It also happens to be one of the most on-trend colours at the moment. 

Find a shade that you love and that works for the room you are in. Consider what you want the room to feel like and choose accordingly. For example, a restful sage green in your bedroom creates a calming, relaxing atmosphere. A zingier lime green will help wake you up in the morning, so great for a bathroom. 

a dab of green paint
Bracken Green emulsion from Woodchip and Magnolia.

Indoor plants

The most obvious way to introduce biophilia in to your home is through house plants and they’ll earn their keep – helping to purify the air! 

Choose real rather than fake as part of creating a healthier home is reducing the amount of plastic. Stand plants on their own if they are large and statuesque, or in groups if smaller specimens. Hang them in macramé style slings in the corner of a room, stand them on pots stilts or stands like this one, or place them on window sills. 

Try to differ the heights and type of plant for interest. The variety of textures and shape will create an interesting focal point. You can also group types of plant together, this works particularly well with succulents or herbs for example.

Natural materials

Using natural materials is a key element of biophilic design, as is mirroring the shapes seen in nature – you are looking for fluid, natural shapes. Use wooden wall panels to create media units. Wood panelling also does wonders for a rooms acoustic elements.

Consider how you can incorporate stone work surfaces – in the kitchen or bathroom is popular. There are many options for stone worktops for example. Or how about cork wallpaper or tiles in your home office?

A curved hand basin adds a stylish element as well as some biophilic style. Or a round edge on a kitchen counter top can make a huge difference. Create a feature wall and use a wallpaper that has a natural design – the world really is your oyster here with some beautiful designs like those shown below.

Even your sofa can join the biophilic party. Those sumptuous velvet slouchy sofas you’ve seen and loved, or what about the boucle ‘hugs’ as I call them that are all over the high street. A lovely way to add some natural soft lines to your room whilst providing a snug and cosy place to rest.

Read more

For more fantastic ideas on ways to introduce some biophilic elements to your home check out this book by Oliver Heath – who advocates the use of ‘biophilic design’ principles to stimulate the adoption of happier, healthier places to live & more productive places to work. You can get a copy of his book here and find out more about his work here.

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