What is Biophilic Design and why you should get into it

Updated: Aug 11


The term biophilia was popularised in the 1980's when Edward O. Wilson hypothesised it in his book by the same name. He defines biophilia as "the urge to affiliate with other forms of life"


Whilst the subject matter is large and the philosophy behind it can get quite deep, the essence of it is that we have a natural attraction to nature in all its forms.


That doesn't sound too far fetched, in fact it almost feels like it goes without saying. After all we are natural beings. I think what is potentially more topical is that we have had a rapidly declining engagement with nature during the last century in our relentless attempt to organise, build and create structure for our ever expanding existence here on earth.


As a result of this urbanisation, our connection with nature has become distant and in some ways, unnatural. In fact in some cases. nature simply got in the way. With the increased awareness around global warming and let's face it the very present impact of it, our minds have rightfully been guided towards asking how do we fix this. For designers it didn't take much convincing to realise we have an important role to play.. From designing spaces that incorporate more natural elements to specifying finishes and products that are sustainably produced and kind to the environment.


But there is an extra layer that speaks more to our souls than our ethics. Enter Biophilic Design.


What is Biophilic Design


Biophilic design in its simplest form is the intentional incorporation of natural elements into the formal structures and spaces we do life in to promote well being, awareness and connection. These natural elements include things such as natural light, fresh air, greenery, chaos and flowing lines, texture, variation and organic materials. Perhaps most importantly it also includes the dynamic between people and how we engage.


Conversely I feel it important to emphasise that biophilia doesn't necessarily mean botanical or overly organic design styles. Instead it plays a roll in the design process more than the design outcome. Nature has a design language that human designs often juxtapose. Bring these two design practices into harmony with one another can make us feel less trapped in our spaces, more free and one with nature and ultimately more connected to one another.


"We believe that the spaces we move through on a daily basis have the power to impact us in meaningful ways. We believe that design has a responsibility to ensure this impact is positive"

Why is biophilc design relevant to me?


Biophilic design plays an important role in our fight agains climate change in that our love for nature is far easier fostered when we don't feel estranged from it. City and urban dwellers have become desensitised to their impact on nature.


Architecture and interior design have important roles to play here but there needs to be cooperation from city planners, councils and governing bodies. Retailers, manufactures and industry at large have to bring about the impact needed. Consumers are central to making this happen by demanding more inclusive design practices.


"It is more a culture than it is a movement, an instinct more than a policy. "


How to incorporate Biophilic Design into your space.


The objective of Biophilic design in interior design in particular is to spark the connection we have with nature, reminding us of our symbiotic relationship and harnessing the positive impact nature can have on us in our personal spaces.


These are a few things you can do to bring the bio into your space today.


Plants

Whilst this might sound obvious, often plants are overlooked as both a styling and wellbeing element. People are often hesitant due to the maintenance required or general lack of green fingers, and let's face it there is plenty of shame going around if you are not the perfect plant mom or dad.. But be assured there are plants for every type of person. Our friends at https://www.happyhouseplants.co.uk are a great resource to explore and find the best options for you.


Our design tip is to not be afraid to go big. A tall plant or potted tree can add so much character and style to a room. Plants placed in book cases and ceiling hangers are another great way to add depth and volume to a space.


Natural Materials & Textured

Furniture, joinery and paneling is another way to add a sense of nature and calm in your space. Textured wood grains, natural stains and interesting shapes all mimic the designs we find in nature. There isn't much that won't work here but there are things we recommend you avoid such as cheap looking and plastic veneers, overly treated woods and varnishes and too much of it. In minimalist design wood paneling add loads of texture to large flat surfaces. Also furniture and layering elements in a natural finish can create beautiful contrast to harder surfaces. The key here is to create depth and interest. Everything in nature invites a closer look, a discovery of something even more interesting.

Another trend that increasingly popular are mural landscapes, which is a very literal incorporation of nature through art. Quality wall paper designers will often offer these in high quality natural fabrics with friendly die processes which adds to the appeal but is also more sustainable and friendly to the planet.


Another interesting and more abstract way of achieving this is by mimicking textures through fabric, wall paper and in as shown here in rug designs.



Natural Light

Natural light is probably the best thing any space can have. It literally breathes life into a space. Large windows, skylights and glazing can help achieve this. As a rule it is always easier to control light coming into a space than it is to get light into it. If you are in a built up city scape this becomes a lot more challenging but there are some hacks.


Defused light and indirect light sources create the illusion of light breaking through gaps like you would find the tree lines in the forests. Using warmer light colours mimimic the suns natural colour avoiding the clinical artificial light look. Having multiple light sources that change throughout rooms and zones create variety and better simulate the dynamic nature of natural light.


Mirrors are also a great way to reflect what light have into darker areas of the room. A well places mirror can also create glimpses of gardens, parks or tree lines on opposite side of a room. A magic mirror of sorts.


Another great features is to allow light views in through less traditional areas, sun soaks and light tunnels.


Organic Shapes

Nature is full of wonderful shapes. Very seldom do you find symmetry and straight lines. Architecture often contrast this creating wonderful juxtapositions that speak to the relationship we have with nature. It's all about letting our need for organising, structure and massing coexist with natures chaos.


In addition to the above, furniture designers keep on creating wonderful piece that help bridge architectural rigidity by incorporating curved sweeping lines, plush surfaces and asymmetric volumes. Whilst a curved sofa might not always work in smaller setting, taking traditional designs and adding plush fabrics, colour ways and layering items can add softness and a more organic feel to a room. Nature is often very layered, yet all in balance. So don't be shy.