Last week’s blog talked about the Blue Mind effect and how being in or near water offers restorative benefits. (People will pay 127% more for a property with a water view.) Being in and experiencing nature is something humans innately crave and has many benefits on our wellbeing. Yet studies indicate that today’s modern lifestyle means we spend close to 90% of our time in office buildings, restaurants, malls, movie theatres, and retail outlets. And lately, most of us have been spending that 90% in our homes. Using the concept of biophilic design, you can easily infuse nature in your home to enhance your wellbeing, reduce your stress, and fulfill your inherent need to be connected to nature.
Stephen Kellert, professor of social ecology at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, spent much of his life researching the human-nature connection. His work pioneered the concept of biophilic design and how incorporating natural elements in “built environments” enhances the health and wellbeing of its occupants.
“The fundamental goal of biophilic design is to create good habitat for people as biological organisms inhabiting modern structures, landscapes, and communities.” – Stephen Kellert
The principles and framework he developed “celebrates and respects nature” and creates “multi sensory environments that enrich urban environments.” Many retail and commercial spaces in Silicon Valley and beyond have integrated Kellert’s principles by designing architecture that uses higher ceilings, expanses of glass, rooftop gardens, natural materials, and living walls. Companies like Google, Facebook and Amazon are all embracing the concept of Biophilic design in their office spaces. Facebook’s Menlo Park headquarters and Amazon’s Spheres in Seattle are perfect examples of commercial buildings that invite a connection with nature.
Adding elements of biophilic design into your home can make you more relaxed and comfortable. You may already have unconsciously included many of these principles because they simply felt right. Evoking the natural environment using houseplants, wood floors or rustic furnishing, images of nature, and organic textiles are simple ways to embrace biophillia.
Direct and indirect experiences of nature are two of the foundations of infusing nature into a space. Direct experience includes light, air, water, plants, animals, weather, and fire. Each of these components provides an aspect of wellbeing including satisfaction, awareness, productivity, comfort, creativity, and calm.
Direct nature experiences resonate with us as humans.
Light: Along with illumination, light creates natural patterns, movement, and shadows. It tells us the time of day as well as the seasons. Skylights, large windows, reflective materials, and atriums are wonderful ways to introduce light.
Air: Providing ventilation, humidity, and temperature, air creates a space that is comfortable and productive. Air is introduced through windows, ceiling fans, or HVAC systems.
Water: Fountains, aquariums, and exterior bodies of water offer soothing, restorative properties such as the Blue Mind effect..
Plants: Living walls, houseplants, and blooming garden spaces are ideal ways to add verdant greenery. Green has been proven to be one of the most soothing and restorative colors and plants increase our wellbeing by promoting good air quality.
Animals: This explains why most humans are so drawn to having pets as family companions. They calm and center us, entertain us and help alleviate stress. Aquariums, bird feeders, and butterfly gardens are other ways to add interest and mental stimulation into your space.
Weather: Observation of weather through windows as well as through the manipulation of temperature is conducive to mental acuity and physical fitness.
Natural Landscapes: Beautiful gardens that mimic natural flora and can be seen through expansive windows are calming and ignite creativity.
Fire: Firepits and fireplaces are the most common ways to incorporate this natural element, which creates a cozy warmth and sense of security.
Indirect experience of nature is another core fundamental of biophilic design. This aspect includes use of photographs and natural imagery, using natural materials (wood, rock, stone, and textiles such as cotton and jute), colors and hues that are derived from nature (greens, blues, warm earth tones), materials and objects with natural patinas such as copper, and organic shapes and patterns that flow and curve as well as natural geometry and repeating patterns found in nature all infuse a space with elements that bring us closer to our natural environment.
Biophilic design explains the desirability of indoor-outdoor flow in homes, especially in urban and suburban areas where we may have to travel to get into nature. Integrating elements of nature in our homes and yards offers immense benefit.
The final principle is the experience of space and place, using transitional areas, spaces of refuge, integration of the elements, ease of mobility and wayfinding, and organized complexity.
The feeling of fresh air flowing through rooms, crystal clear, large windows overlooking attractive outdoor spaces, the sounds of water, the look and feel of fluffy cotton towels, natural materials and patterns, lots of natural light and greenery are innately inviting, calming ways to connect ourselves with the beauty and serenity of nature in our own homes.
Share with us — how have you connected with nature in your home?