The Pillars of Biophilia and How You Can Incorporate Them Into Your Home

Decoration and Design
By Contractors.com Team May 31, 2021

Biophilic design is all around us in urban and residential settings alike. Even interior design that features exclusively artificial materials and design elements will still have traces of nature present in one form or another. Offices with state-of-the-art technology and inorganic materials tend to have plants propped or hanging around the space. Highly-industrialized areas of the city with hulking factories and machinery will still feature a wooden bench here and there, perhaps even a small garden in the courtyard, and even rows of trees.

The biophilia hypothesis states that humans always strive towards nature and find ways of incorporating it into even the most sterilized and manufactured environments. Natural decor, materials, colors, and forms are all elements of biophilic design and can be easily achieved in your home. Sure, putting a few plants around the house and making a green accent wall is a great place to start. However, if we’re really going to get into the meat and gravy of biophilic design, it’s worth exploring its roots and why nature surrounds us in the patterns it does, even in the modern world.

The Origins of Biophilic Design

The Origins of Biophilic Design

Early Examples of Biophilic Architecture

Despite the growing demand for artificial, yet sturdier materials, large-scale biophilic interior design has been around for quite some time. Architects and interior designers have been working with biophilic design for years. Carpenters have been making most furniture out of natural wood, gardeners have been creating gorgeous natural landscapes around homes since time immemorial, and natural stone has been an important building material in the construction of buildings for millennia. Nowadays, most buildings are made out of steel, glass, or concrete, which may not be biophilic, but can be quite accommodating to biophilic designs nevertheless.

Nick Warner (Niquinho), CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Nick Warner (Niquinho), CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Though not a very early example, the Waterside in Harmondsworth was built in the 90s. It is the head office of the British Airways and is a very good example of large-scale biophilic design. The Waterside building was one of the first major projects that molded architecture to the surrounding landscape. 

Marrying Nature and Architecture at Apple Park

Marrying Nature and Architecture at Apple Park

Nowadays, you can find many major tech companies and big players in the Silicon Valley with biophilic buildings, like the Apple Park surrounded by the Apple headquarters building. But these are examples of biophilic design on a much larger scale than most common homes require. For you to incorporate biophilia into your home, there are merely a few patterns and principles to keep in mind when developing a greener, living design.

The Founding Principles of Biophilic Design

Visual Connection to Nature

Establishing A Visual Connection to Nature

Establishing A Visual Connection to Nature

One of the most important elements of biophilic design is easy access to nature for your eyes. The simple answer here is windows. Ideally, you should install big windows on the sides of the house that overlook natural vistas, like forests, hills, mountains, rivers, or deserts. This will put nature in your line of sight, whether you are working, relaxing, or have guests over. 

Non-Visual Connection to Nature

Connect to Nature through Textures

Connect to Nature through Textures

Our other senses are just as important a part of biophilic design as vision. Touch also plays a very important role in creating biophilic design. Incorporate natural textures into your home’s interior and exterior design, like bamboo, logs, refurbished wood, and natural stones you can touch and feel. 

Non-Rhythmic Sensory Stimuli

The Power of Movement In Design

The Power of Movement In Design

Nature is rarely ever still. There is always movement, even if it is a tiny leaf blowing through the wind or drops of water in a pond. Most interiors tend to be very motionless and lifeless. This is where decorations that are in motion come into play. A portable fountain, for example, does more than make for a nifty tabletop decoration. It establishes movement in the shape of flowing water, helping your interior come to life with some kinetic energy.

Thermal and Air Flow

The Element of Air In Biophilic Design

The Element of Air In Biophilic Design

Similarly, you can rarely be outdoors without being able to feel the flow of the air around you. It would be hard to imagine being outdoors with the air around you being absolutely still. This element of the real-life outdoors is also adopted in biophilic design. Because enclosed areas do not have this kind of organic airflow, it’s very important to optimize the airflow and thermal settings of your home’s interior to not only keep the air fresh but also flowing naturally. It is often recommended to keep ventilation air pressure low so air flows gently. Another way you can bring your home closer to nature is by having light drapes instead of blinds, to help establish the feeling of airflow when the windows are open.

The Core Elements of Biophilic Design

The Core Elements of Biophilic Design

It shouldn’t be surprising that water has its own principle in the founding notions of biophilia, despite the fact that it is also incorporated in sensory stimulus design. Water has an innate and tangible effect on humans. Flowing water is known for being a great source of relaxation and de-stressing, and can even help increase focus and productivity. If you do not have the pleasure of living close to a river or coast, then consider installing a Koi pond or a little garden waterfall at home. Waterfalls may seem like they are complicated, but you will be surprised how easily specialists can have them installed for you.

Dynamic and Diffuse Light

The Art of Lighting In Biophilic Design

The Art of Lighting In Biophilic Design

Our eyes have been trained over millennia to recognize the different times of the day based on the kind of natural light we see. Natural light plays a big role in our vision and the way we see our surroundings. The more of it there is in your home, the better. Fluorescent lighting, while practical, will never match the soothing effect that natural light has on us. And there is no better way to bring as much lighting into your home as possible than with skylights. Some homes may be limited in how much light makes its way through from either side of the house (especially in apartments). However, if you have access to a roof, then there’s no way you don’t have access to the sky.

You can take advantage of how much a skylight can brighten up a room by having a truly biophilic design and adding a small indoor garden as well. You can contact a professional glazier to have skylights installed in your home, but make sure you or the contractor procure all the necessary permits and licenses required to undertake such a project.

Connection with Natural Systems

The Easiest Way to Incorporate Biophilia in Your Home

The Easiest Way to Incorporate Biophilia in Your Home

A great way to bring nature into your life is by literally bringing it into your home. Even if you don’t live in a house that has a garden or front lawn, there are still ways you can introduce nature to your abode. Growing indoor plants is one of the easiest ways to do so. 

There are limitless species of potted plants that can thrive indoors. A devotedly biophilic home will also be home to a mix of flowers, succulent plants, and maybe even a fruit tree. Terrariums, like a moss terrarium or a hanging terrarium, are also a great way to design as you greenify. The more diverse the plant life, the richer your indoor jungle will be.

Biomorphic Forms and Patterns

Biophilic Forms and Patterns for Every Home

Biophilic Forms and Patterns for Every Home

Form and texture are a very crucial part of biophilic design. What is the use of putting a plant indoors if it is entirely surrounded by concrete and steel? While there is still some use for it, a beautiful stone wall can go a long way in bringing life, texture, and character to space. Natural textures help establish form, contrasts, and accents in an interior. Natural stone elements are especially welcoming of the contrast provided by dark wooden elements, which really bring a space together as a duo.

Material Connection with Nature‚Äč

How to Implement Biophilia in Your Decor Choices

How to Implement Biophilia in Your Decor Choices

If you live in Tucson, Arizona, chances are there aren’t any African Redwoods growing in your area. You can always order it online and have it delivered to your home. But why do that when there are great local materials for you to design with? Succulents, cacti, and pencil plants are the way to go. Learn from your environment and accept that it is yours as well.

Take for example this Claro Walnut table, made from wood that is native to California. Not only does it pair well with the rest of the biophilic design, but it also connects to the microclimate of its region, keeping you in touch with your natural environment.

Complexity and Order‚Äč

Designing Your Home As Nature Intended It

Designing Your Home As Nature Intended It

Interior design must have a balance of complexity and order. Make something too complex, and you have yourself a mishmash of patterns and shapes. Similarly, by making something too orderly, you have an unnatural consistency, one that is closer to being artificial than natural. Balancing complexity and order is a feat worth striving for in design, as it is more likely to create an ambiance most pleasing to our true selves. 

Wooden beams can provide reliable geometry, while textured walls bring in magnanimity. Varied decor can be complemented by ample and smart lighting in order not to get lost. Order is important for harmony, and heterogeneity is crucial for a reflection of real-life - nothing is perfect. You can control both aspects by trying out different amounts and styles of decor, changing the number of paintings on the walls, as well as trying different lighting layouts.

Prospect

Letting Your Eyes Travel in Interior Design

Letting Your Eyes Travel in Interior Design

Sight is not always consistent in nature. Sometimes you can see a mountain range hundreds of miles away, and sometimes a thick forest keeps you from seeing what’s directly ahead of you. Biophilic home design aims to imitate this sensation by keeping the line of sight inconsistent so that you can see a greater distance when looking at one side of the room, while the other is closed off. A good example of this is a room with a window that looks into the garage or another room — the presence of this window creates greater distance in your home, even these rooms are separate. This makes visibility an integral part of biophilic design.

Refuge

The Element of Refuge in a Biophilic Home

The Element of Refuge in a Biophilic Home

While having a wide line of sight is always important in biophilic design, having some limits can also bring about the feeling of refuge and safety. Wide-open spaces are not always favorable when we wish for a little privacy. This backyard refuge is just separate enough to give an individual the privacy they need to relax, meditate, work, or just enjoy the breeze. While most refuge features of biophilic design will be more enclosed, with roofs and walls, the refuge does not need to be a literal enclosure. Find an area of your home that is even a little separate from everyone else and turn it into a little refuge for yourself.

Mystery

Mirroring Principles of Nature in the Home

Mirroring Principles of Nature in the Home

Dividing the entire home with partitioners or walls can be overwhelming for the senses and a little claustrophobic. On the other hand, keeping everything open and sprawled out, essentially not allowing room for subconscious partitioning of functions and purposes of various spaces, can also be somewhat unpleasant. This is where a little mystery can help establish that balance. 

Try designing open spaces that keep a part of the room or the continuation from the room with a partition in mind. Although it doesn’t have to be a wall, a piece of furniture, art, a wooden screen, or drapery, can help establish the mystery. Although your brain knows what lies behind or around it, your senses can rest without having to process it all at once. Look from the entrance and into the room at hand. How much of it can you see and how much of it is a mystery you wish to solve as you travel deeper into the house?

Risk and Peril

The Fundamentals of Biophilic Design

The Fundamentals of Biophilic Design

When we are out in nature, there are many risks that come with being in the natural world. While we are reasonable enough to understand that the likelihood of us getting hurt is rather low, we still know, in the back of our minds, that there is some element of the unknown — how a sequence of events can develop due to you not being able to control nature. Yet, we give into these risks and get rewarded with a little shot of adrenaline. 

This can be replicated within your interior design. A staircase sans railings is a great example of establishing a little fun, beautiful design, and keeping your mind awake as it would need to be out in the real world. The danger would not be a serious factor (unless you live with toddlers) and you would have small doses or potential peril keeping you alive and grounded.

Written by
Contractors.com Team

Written by Contractors.com Team