How does nature inspire healthy, future-proof interior design?

A common thread between three of my current commercial projects is the use of plants. My clients, a hotel and two dental surgeries, love the idea of bringing nature inside. Indeed, as we face an ongoing climate emergency and global pandemic, biophilic design is understandably a growing trend.

What is biophilia?

Biophilia is our innate tendency, as humans, to seek connection with nature. Many of us who live in big cities and urban sprawls might feel disconnected from that biophilia. But studies have shown a connection to nature is critical to our physical and mental wellbeing.

What is biophilic design?

In the design world, the term biophilic describes spaces which create that connection between its inhabitants and nature.

The best biophilic designs arouse each of our senses.

  • We design and light biophilic spaces to create a natural aesthetic.
  • Natural materials and textures satisfy our sense of touch.
  • For our ears, sounds are either blocked out or added to soothe and relax.
  • We use smell, often forgotten in interior design, to trigger memory and evoke feelings.

Biophilic design combines direct experiences of nature with indirect ones. We invite some elements, for example, light, air, fire, water, plants and animals, weather and landscapes in their original form. Whilst images of nature, natural materials and colours, stimulated natural light and air, naturalistic shapes and forms and biomimicry add to the experience.

Edge and biophilic design

At Edge, we’ve built our reputation on Scandinavian design principles, inspired by my heritage. It was only recently I recognised the close connection between Scandinavian and biophilic design.

It turns out biophilic principles have always been central to my designs, from the use of natural materials, colours, and light to the introduction of plants and candles.

Functionality has always played a big part in my designs. I’m inspired by who will use the space and how. I would never recommend red in a bedroom as it isn’t a calming colour for the most relaxed hours of the day. I take a ‘less is more’ approach, making sure to add enough storage space to keep spaces clean and uncluttered.

For me, connecting with nature through design has always felt instinctive. Welcoming natural elements helps me create beautiful, functional and healthy spaces.

Why biophilic design is important, now more than ever

In today’s world, we’re losing our connection with nature. Scientists believe humankind’s destruction of nature allowed COVID-19 to mutate into such a lethal virus. Meanwhile, technology is developing at such a rapid pace that we spend our lives bombarded by information. The Earth’s lungs are literally on fire as farming and deforestation are spiralling out of control. And now we find ourselves in the middle of a crisis we can’t buy our way out of. It’s time to reflect on how we want the future to be.

One thing is clear. We have to find better and more sustainable ways of living. In the world of property development, biophilic design offers the radical alternative we need.

At home

As our polluted and toxic lifestyles make us sicker, creating healthy homes becomes essential.

Studies show we’re spending more time than ever at home. A trend which COVID-19 rapidly accelerated is the move away from the traditional 9-5 job. Now, 80 per cent of companies offer flexible work arrangement.

Indeed, the principle of biophilia is reflected in people’s approach to homeownership right now. City dwellers are heading to the countryside in search of a better quality of life. In 2019, 340,498 Londoners left the capital to live on the coast. Since COVID-19, many more are planning their escape to the country looking for more space, value for money and to be closer to nature.

But moving house needn’t be the only way to connect with nature. If we bring nature into our homes, we can still improve both our physical and mental health. Abundant plants as part of a biophilic interior help with decreasing blood pressure, reducing stress, improving our wellbeing and productivity.

At work

And it’s not just homes that are primed for a revolution. Employers are beginning to understand the importance of creating environments that benefit their employees’ health.

Biophilic office spaces are good for productivity. Indoor plants improve staff well-being, concentration and productivity by 47 per cent and improve memory by 20 per cent.

Connection to nature

No matter the function or the location of the space, it has never been more important to factor our innate desire to connect with nature into our design and furnishing choices.