What is biophilia and biophilic design?
It all started with a scientific hypothesis that was introduced and popularised in a book called Biophilia in 1984, written by Edward O Wilson. The biophilia hypothesis
basically suggests that humans instinctively tend to seek connections with other forms of life. The term biophilia actually means “love of life or living systems”.
Now you’re probably wondering what home builders like ourselves are doing blogging about scientific hypotheses but as it happens Biophilia has led to the rise in popularity of biophilic design. This is a creative movement in architecture and interior design especially, that focuses on sustainability and reconnecting people with the natural environment (so it is something we’re really interested in).
It goes beyond just green architecture and green living, because the aim of biophilic design is to not only decrease the environmental impact of the manmade world, but also to fulfil that innate need to connect with other living things.
It’s not your average interior design fad either, because biophilic designs have been proven to measurably reduce stress, improve concentration and creativity and even speed up natural healing processes, so it does have some very real benefits. That being said, it is tricky to get right so you need a strong understanding of how people respond to the natural world – remember not every kind of interaction with nature is positive!
For us, the best way to get started with introducing biophilic design into any home, is to start with thinking about the senses, as these are the primary ways in which we experience the world around us.
Perhaps the easiest sense to appeal to in this case is sight. Think about the ways in which you can create visual connections with nature in your home. If you’re lucky enough to already have views out across open countryside then this is easy, but if you’re in the city, think about bringing nature indoors with houseplants and flowers. Research has even found that just looking at pictures of natural landscapes can lift spirits
too, so a few carefully chosen prints, posters or artwork also counts towards biophilic design.
Particular patterns can also create a visual reference to the natural world. For example, hexagons reference the beehive, while spirals are found in shells and even leaves. Picking fabrics that use these shapes can help create a more subtle visual connection with nature, while still allowing you to create a bright, bold and beautiful interior design if that’s the style you like. It’s not all about natural woods and green tones!
Light is also very important in terms of creating a relaxed and restorative or stimulating and creative environment, so take care over the kind of lighting you choose and the space you choose it for. Maximising natural light is also vital for keeping that connection with nature. It can help preserve circadian rhythms and increase vitamin D levels, so carefully choose your blinds and curtains.
Moving away from sight now, we’d also advise you to think about sounds. Typically, one of the things that makes people unhappiest or most stressed is a lack of sound privacy, in other words, being able to hear everything everyone else is doing be it traffic noise, the TV or the neighbours pet gets us down. That’s why good acoustics are key to biophilic design and there are some surprising materials that can help create a good acoustic environment.
Plants for one, are great at absorbing, diffusing and deflecting sound (depending on how you use them) and they also improve the air quality and create that all important visual link with nature. On the other hand, introducing natural sounds such as water and birdsong can also help mask unwanted noise and create a relaxed, restorative environment. This can be as simple to implement as downloading the right music playlist or even opening the window if you live in the right environment or you can go the whole hog, and think about digital displays or real water features.
Last but by no means list is the physical feel of your home and this mainly comes down to the types of materials you use for things like wall, floors and furniture. Using things like natural woods or natural fibres is a great way to reconnect with nature indoors.
This can be as simple as cotton bedding, linen curtains or wool rugs and carpets, especially those that haven’t had chemical treatments as part of their production process. Driftwood furniture and solid wood floors are also the perfect choice for more durable items too. You can even apply biophilic design to the finer design details too, using found objects to create artwork or decorative items as well as household tools too.
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