Biophilia is something that gets me really excited! It is all about our well-being after all and not only that, it is exactly how I like to design and is core to the style and choices that I make!
Anyone who loves nature will know all about this subject even if you have never heard the term before. The Oxford English dictionary defines the word as:
Noun – (according to a theory of the biologist E. O. Wilson) an innate and genetically determined affinity of human beings with the natural world.
OK got it! So, it’s all about plants? Presence of plants is so beneficial, but it is about so much more than that. Us human beings are programmed to be in, and part of, the natural world and for us to be in an environment where we are devoid of that, creates an unhealthy discord within us and can detrimentally affect us as a form of ‘stress’. Our ancestors would have been much closer to Nature than we are today, but the evolution of our brains have been conditioned to live within a green environment, so it makes sense that this still plays a very important part of modern life. In fact, some would say, that trying to be closer to Nature within our own homes is more important today as we potentially experience so little of it in the busy, concrete worlds of our everyday life.
There have been many studies on the subject and the benefits of being close to Nature works wonders on our mental health by reducing stress, anxiety and depression, better concentration by affecting mental restoration and improving our general mood. There are a couple of entertaining studies that show that introduction of indoor plants into the workplace resulted in a marked reduction in sick leave and views of Nature through a window for hospital patients greatly improved their rate of recovery. It makes sense that the more we incorporate Nature or natural elements within our homes, the happier and less stressed we would be.
So how do we incorporate natural elements within the home? All of the elements that I will discuss below have literally been around for years! Wood is a great biophilic element within interior design. It was once a living thing and the texture and calming quality that it has is second to none. This goes for painted wood as well as waxed or untreated. Consider flooring and furnishing items or decorative accessories that can give you what you need from this important element. Of course, with planting and ‘greenery’, this can be a double-win as many plants have air-purifying qualities, such as the humble spider plant, snake plant (Mother-in-law’s tongue!) or one of my favourites, the Philodendron. The indoor jasmine, for example, has an essence that has great sleeping qualities. If you have spaces that look out onto green areas outside, consider making the windows as large as possible to really soak in all the benefits from this vista.
Larger access to the outside brings me onto air as another biophilic element. We have talked about air quality with plants, but ventilation and filtration systems are highly beneficial to our homes. In recent years, more often seen in hotels, these types of systems are now making their way into the residential market and best incorporated, although not exclusively, into new builds. Failing this, get as much fresh air into your home as you can – you will still reap the benefits.
Finishes such as natural stone, cork, bamboo, rattan or basketry (personal favourite) are all fantastic natural products that add to the calming and soothing effect in your home. You can find these in kitchen counter tops, furnishings, and decorative products. Furthermore, most of these products have great sustainability credentials (naturally aligned with biophilia) – see my blog on sustainability.
Colours have a great affinity with the natural world. Blues and greens particularly, and for obvious reasons. But what about that beautiful pink that reminds you of baked clay, the red/brown of glossy chestnuts, the glorious golds of the fields of wheat and rape across the fields throughout the year? Natural colours or colours that remind you of nature will be more restful and pleasing within the