What IS Biophilic Design and Why is it Trending?

Biophilic Design is a term that we’re hearing more often in the design world, but many people want to know, “WHAT defines Biophilic Design and HOW can I apply it to my own spaces?”

Here’s one definition: Biophilic Design is the practice of connecting people and nature within our built environments and communities. However, let’s start with a little background information first, such as determining WHY it’s become such a popular design trend.

One very big reason for its popularity may be the proven connection between spending time in nature and experiencing an improved sense of well-being. Interacting with nature, even in small doses, can benefit us cognitively, psychologically, and physically.

The American Psychological Association published the article Nurtured by Nature in April 2020 detailing the proven benefits of our exposure to Mother Nature, which include “improved attention, lowered stress, better mood, reduced risk of psychiatric disorders, and even upticks in empathy and cooperation.” Other scientific studies have found that even looking at pictures of nature, whether in photographs and art or listening to the sounds of nature can boost our mood and cognitive powers. Connecting with the natural world has been shown to lower blood pressure and heart rate, reduce the levels of stress hormones, improve the immune system, and even shorten the length of hospital stays.

At the very time the APA article came out in 2020, we were entering what became a prolonged period of lockdown, where we were cut off from other forms of support and many of us became chained to our computers for any kind of interaction beyond our immediate families. As a result, we often retreated to outdoor spaces for comfort, relaxation, and escape. The natural world became a sanctuary, whether it was visiting parks, spending time on or near water, walking, biking, and hiking, or simply hanging out in our backyards. Being outside was one of the safest places to be.

Finally, there’s both a growing appreciation and deep concern for our planet and its shrinking natural habitats. Incorporating the natural world into our interior design is one way of celebrating it, serving as a daily reminder that it needs to be preserved.

How can we incorporate Biophilic Design into our own homes? There are a variety of ways to do this. It might involve designing spaces with larger, energy-efficient windows or skylights that allow for better views and more natural light. It might include using natural stone elements in fireplaces, countertops, and tabletops and bringing in natural wood tones in cabinets and flooring, even if it’s actually a tile or luxury vinyl product that looks like real wood or stone. Incorporating greenery, real or faux, can bring the outdoors in. Real plants are known to improve air quality, another health benefit!

The colors of nature can be incorporated through wall color, art, and furniture choices. I recently found a lovely piece of contemporary wall art for some clients, which featured water lilies and the comment I got from the homeowners was, “It makes us happy!” Certain fabrics, through both color, design, and texture, can evoke the feeling of being outdoors. See the two example below that show this beautifully.

Morning Walk II Art Print
Morning Walk II from Minted for West Elm
Botanical Weeds from Spoonflower

Rattan and wicker furniture and accessories, sisal rugs, unpainted wood, live-edge mantels and tables, and even wallpaper with botanical prints or textures like grass cloth can foster a sense of being outdoors.

Pottery Barn Woven Abaca Round Coffee Table
Williams Sonoma Sliced Teak Live Edge Coffee Table
World Market Wicker Nest Pendant Shade

Is it really a coincidence that most of the major paint companies chose a shade of GREEN as their Color of the Year for 2022?

Evergreen Fog by Sherwin Williams
October Mist by Benjamin Moore

Biophilic design may also be extended beyond cosmetic design to reduce our carbon footprint by choosing earth-friendly options whenever possible, such as buying energy-efficient appliances, installing solar panels and heat pumps, and choosing building products that incorporate recycled materials. It also means choosing materials that aren’t made with harmful chemicals. It’s a combination of using sustainable “green design” in our buildings while incorporating other design elements that promote our “personal wellness.”

Image from freepik.com

I see this as a long-range trend, not only because of the powerful and positive effects it has on us as human beings but also because of our growing appreciation for our planet and our desire to protect and preserve it for future generations.

Want to discuss how to incorporate Biophilic Design into your home? Contact me to set up a consultation!