Do you remember the House Greyjoy’s Castle of Pyke with dark interiors from the Game of Thrones ? How do you compare it to the refreshing Alcázar Palace of the House Dorne? There is a whole new different feel, right? In the latter, the high ceilings, plenty of daylight, big windows and access to nature all contribute to increasing positive vibe. In contrast, despite its warm and cosy atmosphere, the Castle of Pyke fails to provide a lasting 'feel good' sensation in oneself. Yet, it could be argued that both places have their own values. The aim here is not to appreciate one over the other, but is to explain how different places cause varying ambiences in our mind. This is simply because we humans interpret places through the sensory experiences and other stimuli, like colour, smell, sound, sight and feel (and perhaps emotion). Today, let us learn how good interiors keep us productive, healthy, and of course happier.
Castle of Pyke and Alcázar Palace ©HBO
The Psychology of the ‘Space’
A 'space’ is a critical resource for humans. Spaces are a medium that can stimulate the brain both positively and negatively. Our homes, our workplaces and our surroundings have a huge impact on our happiness and overall health. Thus, the places we live and work in should be a place of relaxation, escapism, and above all, happiness. But do we really get this feeling every time we step into our room or a space? Do our spaces influence our health positively?
With the growing health care technologies, it is now clear that a human body conceals self-healing capabilities. Through the use and release of neurochemicals from transmitters in the brain, our bodies naturally reduce pain, enhance mood, reduce anxiety, and even improve the immune responses (Sternberg 2013).
If designers can create spaces that increase the release of neurochemicals from our brains and stimulate positive emotions, it can thus influence the wellbeing of the end users. There is much scientific research which demonstrates through evidence-based design that architecture can and does influence the health and well-being of the inhabitants4. In short:
Speacialised Design > Igniting the Stimilus > Positive Emotions > Improved Wellbeing
How Do We Get There and Why Interior Design?
A neglected space or a place with no user wellbeing taken into design consideration impacts our living, working productivity, and even cognitive functioning. It spreads the negative energy among the inhabitants. Moreover, with urbanisation taking over, we spend around 86-93% of our time within buildings and enclosed spaces1. This indicates the high importance of 'healthy indoors' in our lives. Nevertheless, with 85% of the Brits experiencing stress regularly, a 2018 survey by Forth points out the current devastating state of human health2. What if with the use of specialised interior designs we can achieve proven health enhancements and stress release benefits while we continue to enjoy our lives.
The point here is not that places are the sole reason for our stresses, but rather with bad interiors the healing potential - as a result of a greatly designed space - is lost. A simple example: I hope most of us have been to the British Museum in London or atleast seen its pictures (if not just lower your eyelids). If the ceiling here was to be a solid concrete roof instead of the glazed canopy, the building would not only need unsustainable artificial lighting but the two-acre space could have been deprived of the natural daylight. If you are not sure what natural light means to you, you need to know this right now:
Optimising exposure to daylight alone can3:
- Increase the speed of learning by 20-26%
- Improve attendance by an average of 3.5 days/year
- Improve test scores by 5-14%
British Museum, London © Madinpgh.com
Isn't that great for a national museum and a learning centre?
Now let's learn more about such human-centered designs, their underlying principles, their values, and how designers could employ them.
Introduction to Biophilic Design
The recently trending, one of the most interesting concepts in wellbeing and sustainability in the design industry is ‘biophilic design’. Biophilia is an art of connecting human and nature. Correspondingly, biophilic interior design is the growing adoption of nature-inspired design in interiors and architecture. By incorporating elements of nature into our living and work environments, research has proven to lower stress, blood pressure levels, and heart rates whilst boosting creativity and productivity.
Nature + Wellbeing
Before we move on to interior design, lets briefly understand what nature is capable of. How does it actually work? Why nature? These questions will begin to make sense if you could ponder upon why strolling through the countryside have restorative and healing effects?
Dovestone, England: 2020 © Wildwood Studio
A global sustainability consulting firm, Terrapin Bright Green, states: "Biophilia is humankind’s innate biological connection with nature. It helps explain why crackling fires and crashing waves captivate us; why a garden view can enhance our creativity; why shadows and heights instil fascination and fear; and why animal companionship and strolling through a park have restorative, healing effects".
Nature by all means has long played the role in human refreshment and mental recovery. The introduction of natural scenes elicits positive mental stimulation. We respond positively to forms of nature, their processes, and patterns. Not only this but research on the brain's electrical activity has also shown that individuals are more relaxed when exposed to nature (Ulrich 1981).
"If pharmaceutical companies could put this effect in a pill, they would do so and they would make billions.
But they can't. Nature can't be packaged or marketed."
Best selling author, TEDx speaker and explorer
So how does this relate to the interior design?
The Art of Specialised Interior Design
Nature + Interior Design : Biophilia
For me, interior design is way more than aesthetics. It's an art of creating a space that tells a story while serving its multitude of functions. Where every piece and pixel of a space has an inspiration. Places that make you slow down, think. Biophilia design takes inspiration from nature and reproduces them indoors, creating interiors that actively support our wellbeing. By designing planting, natural materials and views to nature we can create buildings that perform better and enhance wellbeing. Such designs not only enhance wellbeing but also support the natural environment.
The main objective is to bring characteristics of the natural world into built spaces, such as greenery, natural light and ventilation, water, elements like wood and stone in a sensible way. As well as establishing a visual relationship, for example between light-vs-shadow. It is about creating restorative spaces.
Biophilia is way more than just adding a few indoor plants.
Harlan + Holden Cafe © DeZeen
Curvilinear forms emulating nature intrigue the senses and support wellbeing. © Perkins + Will
Sunlight House © Juri Troy Architects
Implementing the Biophilic Interior Design
Biophilic design can be employed in three patterns:
- Physical (direct): Incorporating actual natural elements in space
- Analogue (indirect): Replicating natural shapes, patterns, colours and textures in the design
- Spatial (concept): Using the principles of nature in spatial design
This a direct method where views of nature indoors is established using physical natural artefacts, like plants, water, daylight, fresh air, etc. This method also includes interactions with nature through other senses like sound, touch, smell, and taste using techniques like sound masking etc. Know more at DforDesign!
Here, references to nature are made by replicating natural shapes, patterns, tone, and colours in furnishing, fabric, flooring, etc. This pattern influences the style of your curtains, the pattern of the underlying rugs, or even the paint on a wall. Know more at DforDesign!
This is more of an architectural principle of a space rather than just styling or decorating. Here, necessary structural and non-structural modifications to the spaces are made that mimic natural layout in order to evoke positive feelings like prospect, refuge, mystery, and peril. Ex: A space with an unimpeded view over a distance, or places with partially obscured views to entice an individual. Know more at DforDesign!
The Benefits of Biophilic Interior Design
Our Biophilic Interiors and Products
To summarise, we have covered how interior design, nature, and human wellbeing all relate to each other. This piece of writing not only provides a simple breakdown of biophilic interior design but also demonstrates how it can help us create more productive, healthier, and happier spaces. Even though it focuses more on home designs, it is important to note that biophilia designs can be, and is, widely being used in designing workplaces and offices, hospitality, healthcare facilities, and educational centres. In fact, businesses at the vanguard of workplace design such as Google, Apple, and Amazon are investing heavily in Biophilic Design elements. More interesting posts related to this topic will follow here soon. Know more about biophilia.
It is well worth noting that biophilic interiors are one of the most sustainable design approaches that support both people and the planet. It not only creates positive spaces but also contributes to ecological up-valuing. It is the ultimate investment in people in an architectural sense.
After my studies in landscape architecture, my passion for nature has led me to a path of founding Wildwood Studio, a biophilic design firm. My everyday inspiration comes from nature’s colours, materials, and textures. Exploring nature creatively, and bringing its elements together, to create rich multi-sensory indoor experiences is my passion.
At Wildwood Studio we not only offer human-centred interior design but also create bespoke biophilic products including lighting, fabric, rugs, wall art, etc. We refine every pixel of your space right from the layout design, to the feel and touch of a fabric. Check out our full services.
Want to know more? I would actually love to hear from you even if it's just a curious question. Get In Touch
Lastly, before you fly away, let me ask you this: would you consider biophilic interior design for your next makeover? Comment below...
1The European Commission Report (2003) http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-03-1278_en.html
2Great Britain and Stress https://www.forthwithlife.co.uk/blog/great-britain-and-stress/
3Analysis of the performance of students in day lit schools –Nicklas Bailey, 1996
4RIBA Architecture: Do we really understand the way the built form affects the brain? https://www.architecture.com/knowledge-and-resources/knowledge-landing-page/do-we-really-understand-the-way-the-built-form-affects-the-brain
Ulrich, R. S. (1983). Aesthetic and affective response to natural environment. In I. Altman & J. F.
Wohlwill (Eds.), Behavior and the natural environment. Plenum Press: New York.
Dr. Stephen Kellert for Human Spaces blog: Nature by Design: the Practice of Biophilic Design, 2015
Workplaces and Human: The Global Impact of Biophilic Design in the Workplace.
Interface: 14 Patterns of Biophilic Design.