Inspired by nature Home + Design

The biophilic design promotes a stronger connection to nature in our interiors.

Have you ever seen a canopy of leaves glowing in the rays of the sun and felt a sense of calm over you? Or did you stand on a coast and listen to the waves while your worries melted away? It is known that nature is good for the psyche. Just looking at a forest – or even a single tree – can activate our body’s parasympathetic nervous system and make us feel more relaxed.

It follows that bringing elements of the natural world into your home can help create a comfortable environment. “We are nature,” says Kelley Flynn of Kelley Flynn Interior Design in Oakland. “Natural things calm people and [are not] separated from us. “

“We love nature, fresh air, lots of green, living things and running water,” says Yoko Oda from Walnut Creeks Yoko Oda Interior Design. “The relationship between humans and nature is not just visual. It affects physical and mental health, fitness, and work productivity. “

Nowadays more and more architects rely on biophilic design, which “has an impact on our physiological, psychological or emotional as well as cognitive health”, says Dr. Gail Brager, Professor of Architecture and Deputy Director of the Center for the Built Environment at UC Berkeley. “Research shows that people in hospitals needed shorter hospital stays, faster healing times, and fewer pain medication in view of nature. And there are studies that have shown that connecting with nature can lead to lower blood pressure, less stress, and increased positive emotional states. “This compound also improves short-term memory, cognitive engagement, and circadian health, resulting in better sleep.

The pandemic has made the design of our homes more important than ever. “I spend a lot more time in my house,” says Brager. “It is now both a home and a place to work. What can I do to make me feel better when I spend 90 percent of my time in this one place? “

Whether you’re designing a new home or simply freshening up your existing look, here are some of the many ways you can experience the outdoors indoors.


The interior designer Kelley Flynn emphasizes access to nature in her residential work.


Our modern indoor climate has separated us in many ways from the liveliness and dynamism of the natural world. In her research, Brager wants to understand why biophilic design has such a positive effect on humans. “I think this idea of ​​variability is really important,” she says, “and experience monotony can lead to fatigue. Biophilic design is about combining our love for nature with our affinity for variability in our environment. Visually, you could do this by having windows that allow us to see the sky and weather changes daily or seasonally. “The more we are exposed to the constantly changing properties of natural light and not to the relatively constant values ​​of electric light, the better.

“Artificial light is a necessary part of modern homes as it supports our lifestyle on the go. However, it can cause eye strain and make us feel tired when we play around with our natural biorhythms, ”says Oda. “Be sure to choose window coverings that will diffuse light from your windows rather than block it so that you can take advantage of natural daylight. This is very important in rooms where you spend a lot of your time. Home offices should always have a window to avoid headaches and keep us happiest. “

Another way to visually connect with nature is to maximize your outside view. For example, in a recent project, Oda opened a small room by adding windows. “I also added a nice music system and, as always, lots of potted plants,” she says.

“Another option is to open the living room doors to the terrace or repeat elements inside out,” says Flynn.

Woman basking in the sunlight

Studies show that houseplants can help reduce stress and promote relaxation.


In interiors, designers suggest incorporating elements of nature. “Use variations of color and texture,” suggests Flynn. “Nature has the most amazing color palettes. I grew up in the Midwest and find the colors of the fields very calming. Nature is one of the best teachers. “

“The sea, sky, clouds, and earth are examples of color schemes that we can draw inspiration from when deciding which palettes create a more natural living environment,” says Oda. “You can also get inspiration from the colors of fruits and vegetables, or even from your favorite animal.”

And make thoughtful choices about materials. “Use textures that mimic the natural world – like fabrics like linen or materials like wood or stone,” says Flynn.

“Reality is always better than imitation,” says Oda, “and natural materials are often more durable than their synthetic counterparts.”

Another idea is to integrate naturally occurring shapes such as shells and spirals, animal motifs or botanical prints. “Organic shapes that occur in nature next to perfectly straight, angular pieces emphasize the natural elements,” says Oda.


Plants, earthy textures and nature-inspired art are the hallmarks of Yoko Oda’s design philosophy.

“I had a client who had a house in Piedmont with a view of established trees and she wanted to imitate that,” says Flynn. “So we found a table with a log base and used mirrors to mimic it.” For another client’s bathroom, she used beautiful graphic wallpaper with a tree motif.

You can also include treasures such as driftwood, stones, or sea glass gathered during your forays into nature. “Bring natural items into your home, even if it’s a vase of flowers,” says Flynn. “Anyone can do that.”

Oda is an avid advocate of filling a home with plants. “In Japanese design there is a natural concept called nakaniwa, or a courtyard in the middle of a house,” she says. “I grew up in a household where there was always a lot of green in every room. Green like potted plants and arranged cut flowers are visually beautiful and brighten the mood in the room. “

Activate all of your senses

Biophilic design ideally involves an experiential aesthetic that includes a range of sensory pleasures.

“We examined what is known as alliesthesia,” says Brager. “That’s the idea of ​​having some kind of variability or contrast – which gives us that thermal pleasure, that sense of awe. We know what it feels like when you are outside and it is very hot and then you feel a breeze on your face or when it is cold and you are near a campfire. We’re trying to bring that indoors. “

Instead of closing your home and heating or cooling all of the air to the same temperature – which creates thermal monotony – greet the delicious variations of the great outdoors. “Open the windows and feel the breeze, hear the birds,” suggests Brager.

Brager also encourages people not to think of a clear separation between inside and outside. “Think of window seats or verandas that allow you to adapt to the variability of the outside environment,” she recommends. “I think people’s instincts when it rains is to go in and switch off. But there are ways you can find shelter and still have access to the pleasant experiences of the sights, sounds and smells of the rain. “

One way to achieve this is to add man-made water features like a bubbler, indoor and outdoor fountain, or even recorded water sounds, which can help block out street noise and encourage relaxation. “The sound of water is one of those primal triggers for the mind,” says Flynn.

Scent is also a sensory stimulus that shouldn’t be overlooked. “Think of your garden and plant fragrant plants near the entrance to your house or your windows so that you get that smell when you walk in,” suggests Brager.


“We tend to look at rooms in terms of their function – this is the kitchen, this is the bedroom,” says Brager. “But people can also think about how they live in their houses depending on the time of day, season or mood. Create your favorite places for dawn and dusk, in which you occupy the rooms facing east and west in the morning and evening in order to enjoy the different color transitions at sunrise and sunset. “

Make subtle decor changes too to keep them in sync with the changing seasons. “Key pieces of furniture tend to be neutral, so add some seasonal pops,” says Oda. “Also, put seasonal flower arrangements on your dining table and coffee table.”

“I always bring seasonal flowers in spring and leaves with colors in fall,” says Flynn.

In the world of architecture, interest in biophilic design is growing as more houses and other buildings are designed to reunite with our natural surroundings. But even if you don’t plan to build or remodel, there are countless ways to bring the calming influence of nature into your home. “We are increasingly aware of how the indoor climate can have a profound effect on our health and well-being,” says Brager. “Much of it only trusts our instincts. Be aware of what you like, take a look around your own space and think about how you can make that connection with nature in a multi-sensory way. “


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