indoor plants in bedroom

Biophilic design, or “the architecture of life,” is “an innovative way of designing the places where we live, work, and learn,” according to biophilicdesign.net. Going beyond the trend of green architecture to reduce environmental impacts, biophilic design is all about connecting people with nature—at home and in workplaces. It’s design intended to make a difference. As this site notes, it’s “hospitals where patients heal faster, schools where children’s test scores are higher, offices where workers are more productive, and communities where people [who] know more of their neighbors and families thrive.”

Biophilic design is all about bringing the outdoors in, says Joanne Archer, content editor for Expert Home Tips. “This could be something as simple as positioning furniture to face a window or as dramatic as adding a living wall to your home,” she says. “Natural design, whether inspired by natural colors or as literal as bringing plants inside, is thought to improve heath and well-being.” She offers an example of her own grandmother who is disabled. “Biophilic design was really important to me when helping to lay out her room,” says Archer. “I ensured that the bed was positioned so that she could see out into the garden without having to move.”

Removing Barriers

“Design is no longer just about beauty, it’s about ensuring your space is helping to support and rejuvenate you,” says Josie Abate, founder and design director with Ambience Design Group. “Designing spaces that inspire, energize and support the people who use them is so important,” says Abate. “That’s why we believe in supporting the meaningful practice of biophilic design. We look to create spaces that remove barriers between indoor and outdoor spaces.”

The Benefits of Biophilic Design

David Brenner is the founder and principal of Habitat Horticulture, a firm that designs, builds and maintains living walls. The firm has outfitted most of Silicon Valley, including Salesforce.com’s Ohana Room and the largest living wall in the country at the SFMOMA.

Brenner says, “As city populations are becoming increasingly dense, living walls serve a critical function for incorporating sustainable greenery and biophilic design in urban architecture.” Living walls and vertical gardens, he says, help to create energizing communal spaces—“spaces where city dwellers can find an ecological connection, beautification, and respite in urban environments.”  

It’s a concept that can readily be adapted to both professional workplaces and personal home settings.

Incorporating Biophilic Design Into Everyday Spaces

“Our homes directly influence our health and overall energy, yet we largely ignore the effects of our dwellings on our well-being,” says Abate. Yet, she points out, we spend 90 percent of our time inside. “That’s why we must optimize our environments for health, productivity, happiness and well-being, she says. “When you have a view of greenery and trees, it really affects mood. Studies have proven that people are happier when they connect with nature.”

She offers some ideas to improve homes through biophilic design:

  • Create a relaxation space with a view of nature.
  • Use natural landscape art in your home to create a similar wellness effect to viewing nature.
  • Bring more plants inside to create the nature connection and reduce toxins naturally.

And in workplaces:

  • Provide access to natural light within the office or in common areas.
  • Support mental and emotional health through relaxation spaces with a connection to nature.
  • When a nature view is not possible, use nature-inspired art or wall graphics for the same positive effect on well-being.

“Bringing elements into the workplace that allow a nature connection can help us to mentally recover from day-to-day stresses and improve our well-being,” says Abate. “Research shows that the presence of natural elements indoors can evoke the same benefits as the outdoor environment, supporting the case for biophilic office design.”

Wherever you are, whether at home or in the office, today’s biophilic design options offer the opportunity to bring the outside in—that’s a healthy option for all of us.

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