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The 7 Key Factors of Biophilic Interior Design

June 18, 2020

Biophilia translates to “love of nature”. The Biophilia Hypothesis proposes that, “humans possess an innate tendency to seek connections with nature and other forms of life.”

This idea is supported by a number of scientific studies and reviews that have found that when people work amongst nature or have natural design elements in their homes & workspaces, they benefited in numerous ways, including:

  • Reduced stress & anxiety

  • Boosted cognition

  • Improved feelings of happiness and well-being

  • Boosted productivity & creativity

But with so many of us working in offices or now working from home, it can feel hard to find connections with nature that humans so innately desire. In fact, it’s estimated that 90 percent of our time is spent indoors.

Biophilic design helps to address our lack of connection with nature in urban environments.

In this post, we’re going over the 7 key factors in biophilic interior design plus tips on how to implement them into your space.

1. visual connection

Seeing nature with your own eyes gives you a direct visual connection to it.

You don’t need to live in the forest or have walls made of glass to get this visual connection. You can get the benefits of biophilic design throughout the home or office.

This can easily be achieved by positioning your furniture to get a view of natural elements, adding live plants throughout your home, or even putting up photos or paintings of natural landscapes and animals.

2. dynamic & diffuse natural light

According to a study published in The Harvard Business Review, natural lighting and views of the outdoors are the top desires for employees in the workplace. This beats out both fitness centers and workplace childcare!

Natural lighting is so important for our bodies to regulate wake and sleep cycles and it helps us feel connected to the natural cycle of the day. Natural light can also boost your mood, reduce feelings of seasonal depression, and improve productivity & focus.

While windows are a good go-to option, there are plenty of other ways to bring in natural light. Skylights are a great way to bring light in from a different angle & perspective to brighten up the home.

Try placing or hanging large plants in front of your window to get the green hue of the light filtering through the leaves for a truly natural feel. This sort of diffused light can also be accomplished with window treatments as well.


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3. non-visual connection

Think to yourself what it feels like to go for a walk in the woods. Besides the visuals of trees, soil, leaves, animals, etc.

You also feel wind against your skin. You smell soil, leaves, and flowers. You hear branches crunching under your shoes.

The point here is to incorporate non-visual natural elements like scent, sound, and touch into your space, whether that is your living room or your office. For example, our B-Well Rooms include nature sounds and the smell of all of the plants inside of it helping to produce a calming effect. On top of that, we include overhead plants that help create a feeling of refuge (see point #6). We’ve seen people’s heartrate drop within minutes of stepping inside.

Other things you can include would be aromatic desk plants or flowers (like this lavender & anthurium combo) to add natural scents to your space.

4. air flow

We all know the feeling when stuffy and still air makes us feel restricted.

Wind, swaying trees, and general movement of air is common in nature and can help us feel more comfortable.

Moving gentle breeze inside can be achieved by:

  • Opening windows (if possible)

  • Ceiling fans

  • Oscillating desk or floor fans

Air flow can also create movement in the plants in the room, leading to natural sounds, the diffusion of scent throughout the room, and more.

Air flow can also move your curtains and create the sense of touch against your skin.

5. presence of water

Water is necessary for life. It helps us feel safe and secure; the sight, sound, and smell of water can be added to your space quite easily.

Small fountains or bubbling miniature waterfalls can add soothing design, visual, and non-visual connections. You could also add a humidifier to add moisture (and oftentimes the scent of essential oils) to the air.

Even playing sounds of the ocean, a bubbling stream, or rain can be a great way to incorporate water into your space. Images, paintings, and art featuring water is another option.

6. feeling of refuge

Above us and behind us are where we are most vulnerable. As we have evolved as a species, it’s innate that these places would leave us open to attack or ambush from predators.

Let’s go back to the walk in the woods that we mentioned earlier. Your surroundings have trees & leaves above you, flanking you, and behind you. We are usually protected and have that feeling of refuge above and behind us thanks to our natural surroundings.

Soothing that inherent concern for protection from above and behind can be easily achieved with biophilic design philosophies. Add some hanging plants above you or turn on your ceiling fan to get this refuge along with visual connection, air flow, and more. Even chandeliers can act as overhead refuge!

Try positioning yourself so your back is towards the wall to give you the feeling of protection from behind. If that’s not possible with the furniture you have, adding floor plants or a standing screen behind you can work.

7. natural materials, minimal processing

We recommend using as many minimally-processed natural materials as possible.

For example, desks made of wood with the natural grain, color, and feel would be a perfect addition. Hardwood floors, natural stone tiles, blankets made of wool, and decorative sand & stones are all great examples.

Analogs to things you see in nature also work with biophilic design. Wallpaper or art that features nature or appears to be natural will create a symbolic connection and invoke a similar feeling to the real thing.

incorporating biophilic interior design throughout your space

These tips can be applied throughout your space to reap the benefits of biophilic interior design wherever you are.

In your office, you can have a desk plant, natural light, and a wooden desk. The kitchen could feature an herb garden with stone countertops. Even a playroom can feature nature-inspired wallpaper with live plants alongside the sounds of a running faucet for the presence of water.

Get creative in how you use elements to satisfy multiple elements in biophilic design.
For easy access to biophilic design elements including plants, puts, and more, check out our online store. We carry high-quality & curated products that can be delivered right to your door.

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