Research shows us that exposure to nature, even when we are indoors, helps us to reduce stress and improves our wellbeing. We explain what Biophilia is, and how you can enhance your interiors using Biophilic Design.
You may have come across the term ‘Biophilia’ quite a lot recently, in magazines and online blogs. However, we need to clarify a few things before we go any further. Firstly, Biophilia is not the name of an interior look, like Industrial, Scandinavian or Shabby Chic. Biophilia is a hypothesis, and it suggests that there is an instinctive bond between human beings and other living systems. Secondly, it is a concept that has been around for a while. In 1984, American biologist Edward O. Wilson wrote a book called ‘Biophilia’, which described our love of connecting with other forms of life, and how this tendency is, in part, due to our genetics.
Changing our ‘indoor’ society
In times gone by, humankind embraced buildings that strongly emphasised the link between ourselves and the great outdoors. The indigenous architecture that can be found all across the world shows our incredible ability to adapt our structures to the surrounding climates, reflective of the surrounding landscapes. The Mayan temples in Central America, for example, represented the relationship between humans and the universe.
Biophilia literally translates to ‘love of life’.
In recent times, we have moved our lives indoors and passively accepted buildings that disconnect us from nature. Many of us work in offices that do not have a window. If we were to spend time surrounded by other living things, it might be something that we do for an hour at the weekend, or on our holidays.
A connection with other living things has an impact both on our psychological and physical health. It helps us to clear away the cobwebs and leaves us feeling energised and at peace. Tests have proven that a window in a hospital room makes a difference to the length of a patient’s stay and their need for pain medication. Pupils who spend time learning in a place that has natural daylight do better in their exams. We just seem to function better when nature is close by.
Biophilic Design in the home
When it comes to creating a home, Biophilic Design focuses on our need to connect with nature. Its purpose is to help immerse ourselves with nature daily, in the places where we spend most of our time.. It looks at how a built space can generate the same feelings that we can get when we are standing at the edge of a lake or walking up a mountain.
On a grander scale, architects are starting to champion Biophilic Design, playing with light and texture in our buildings and bringing in plants and green walls into our offices.
In Albania, for example, the Mayor of Tirana has plans to re-design the whole city with an Orbital Forest, a tree-planting initiative and buildings that incorporate Biophilia. The MET Tirana is a great example of how greenery is being brought into the urban buildings in Tirana, which we wrote about in a previous article.
Biophilic Design can decrease our stress, improve productivity and creativity, and help avoid the risks of sickness and disease. The Japanese have been well aware of the benefits of nature, and have included Shinrin Yoku, or Forest Bathing, on their national health programme since 1982. They believe that merely spending time among trees will improve our health and wellbeing. Forest Bathing improves our blood pressure and leaves us feeling happy and peaceful. In Japan, there are unique Forest Bathing trails and curated forests, and companies that specialise in Forest Bathing events.
The easiest way to embrace Biophilic Design
We can express this connection with nature in our own homes by adding water features, garden rooms, countryside views, natural materials and images of beautiful landscapes.
Filling your interiors with houseplants is one of the easiest ways to incorporate this trend into your life, and what’s more, plants help to purify the air. Do not hold back, turn your living room into an Eden if that is what feels right for you. The beautiful thing about plants is that you can embrace a wide range of styles to suit the aesthetic you are trying to achieve. Some unusual plant species can be real showstoppers, such as a Fiddle Leaf Fig (which you can see in our showrooms in Essex) or a Ponytail Palm.
First, assess the natural light that you have coming into your home. Download a light meter app such as Lux Light Meter onto your phone, which can assess how much sun exposure you have in each room. The app will help you to choose between plants that need low light, medium light and high light.
Then think about the amount of care you can give to looking after your plants. If you are likely to have holidays throughout the year, choose plants that do not need much looking after. Do not hang plants over desks with electronics, in case you spill water. Plants need to have drainage, so choose a pot that has a drainage hole on the bottom, which sits in a saucer, or include a drainage material inside the container like pebbles or aeration stones. Avoid ‘blind watering’ and always use your fingers to test the soil to see if it needs some water.
Buildings that have been inspired by nature and help us to connect our senses to the great outdoors will help break down the boundaries between our inside and outside worlds. Strengthen your link with nature through Biophilic Design, which can bring better health and connections with each other. It is this approach that allows us to celebrate all that is amazing about our natural world, from inside our homes.