For those of you that have been following me and the blog for some time, you will know that I have always had a passion for using interior design to help us connect our homes to nature and the environment around us, and, whilst designing our own home, we used a lot of biophilic design principals without even realising that it was an thing with an actual name.
You can read more about that journey in a previous blog post that I wrote called ‘The Story of an Accidental Biophilic‘.
Fast forward a few years, and thanks to the free marketing platform that is Instagram, I began designing peoples homes and outdoor spaces with these principals in mind, and I can now call myself a Biophilic Designer. Whist I still pinch myself every day at how lucky I am to do something that I love, and get paid for the privilege, I am also really keen to help prove that you do not need to be an interior designer or architect to implement some simple changes to your homes and workspaces, to improve the health and wellbeing of yourselves and your families in the process.
I’ve put together this blog post, ‘5 Simple Ways to Connect Your Home to Nature’ to help you make a start.
But first of all, what is Biophilia?
Biophilia (meaning love of life) focuses on our innate need to feel connected to nature, not only to survive but to thrive. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the concept of Biophilc Design in homes and office spaces has been getting much more airtime of late due to the increased amount of time we’ve all been spending in our homes.
Incorporating just a couple of small changes to your home and lifestyle could benefit your health and well being, and make your home a place of sanctuary to retreat to, from all of the hustle and bustle of modern day living.
1. Colour can evoke such strong emotional reactions within us, so when deciding on which hues to choose for your home it’s key to think about the kind of atmosphere you want to create and which colours will help you to achieve this.
Blues and cyans immediately make us think of clear skies and the sea, and can create a calming environment helping us to reduce tension and stress.
Shades of green perhaps unsurprisingly are associated with health, lush healthy vegetation and natural landscapes, and can trigger motivation, enthusiasm and productivity.
Red is generally associated with fruits such as berries or apples, and can support cognitive behaviour for complex, intense tasks, but, too much of it can be over-stimulating, making it the perfect choice for room accents.
Yellow is commonly voted the happiest colour and if used in the right intensity, hue and saturation, reminds us of the sun’s warmth and can improve creativity and optimism.
Earthy browns and greys are very prevalent in our natural landscapes – soft browns, gentle stoney greys, and warm sandy tones are reflective of the shores of our coastlines, and are thought to ground us, making them the ultimate go to colours for a cosy, relaxing space.
You can read about this in more detail in a previous blog post that I wrote called, ‘5 Colours Inspired by Nature‘.
2. Choose natural materials and reclaimed wooden furniture where you can. Studies have shown that sleeping in a solid timber bed not only reduces blood pressure and anxiety but also improves a person’s emotional state and relaxation levels.
A wooden table is also a great way of bringing in the tactile benefits of being in contact with wood, without having to splash out on a new wooden floor. There are lots of stylish, natural alternatives to synthetic carpets now too such as; sisal, jute and seagrass, which are practical, durable and low maintenance – not to mention being tactile underfoot.
There is so much more research going into off-gassing from synthetic and veneer furniture, and the damage caused by the chemicals that artificial materials give off in the home, which is just another reason to go eu natural.
3. Natural light is featured heavily in the principals of biophilia, it will help you to feel more energised by day and sleep better at night.
Have you ever noticed that you feel energised and drowsy at the same times every day? Well this is all thanks to our circadian rhythm. Put simply, it’s our sleep/wake cycle. We all have a 24 hour internal clock running in the background of our brains, that cycles between sleepiness and alertness.
Make the most out of your natural light by removing heavy curtains and replacing them with a sheer fabric or a roller blind. Use mirrors and reflective surfaces to bounce light into a room.
Don’t forget to let your rooms breathe, now is the time to have that clear out that you have been putting off. Excess clutter is a big old light sponge. Give your best bits the time to shine, and banish the bits best hidden away to baskets and storage boxes where they can be easily pulled out and accessed whenever you need them.
A clean and decluttered surface will feel a lot lighter and brighter, not to mention the extra space that it will help to clear out in your mind.
4. Air quality – Indoor pollutants can be found in many building materials and numerous household products. You can reduce the amount of harmful chemicals within the home by using natural, untreated materials and household products where possible.
Paint is arguably the most commonly used, and largest surface-application in our homes so that is a great place to start.
There are lots of ecologically and sustainably-produced lime, clay and chalk paints on the market now – lime paint is a breathing, mould and bacteria resistant paint, making it extremely suitable for application in a kitchen and bathroom, for example. It has an imperfect and tactile finish, giving it a more natural, stoney feel, and of course it doesn’t emit the same chemical odor or toxins as some man made paints.
A practical and completely free way to keep your air circulating and fresh within the home is to open up your windows every day. Whatever the weather. Fresh air will help you feel more alert and focussed.
If you’re in a windowless space, invest in a dehumidifier – it will improve air quality and reduce allergies that thrive in humidity. A desk fan will also help you to keep the air circulating and cool. It can reduce odours and stop the space feeling ‘closed in’ and stuffy. Both are a great way of blocking out traffic or construction noise too, in the same way as playing celestial white noise, and, having the fan oscillating will give you that natural feeling of an intermittent soft breeze.
You can read more about how to create a healthy home environment using materials free from harmful toxic chemicals and off-gasses in a previous blog post I wrote ‘What the VOC..?‘
5. Keeping indoor plants can help to promote a healthy indoor climate, increasing humidity and moisture in dry air, and even reducing the allergens that cause complaints such as irritated eyes, headaches, sore throats and tiredness.
Office environments that have incorporated plants into their work spaces have seen a noticeable decrease in absence due to illness, and even an increase in productivity. There is no question that living and working in a green environment has a positive effect on our general health and wellbeing. Being around vegetation and greenery relaxes us and reduces stress levels, this is more than likely due to our primitive need to be close to a food and water source. The very idea that we won’t need to travel too far to find our next meal means that we can channel that energy elsewhere, such as productivity, creativity, sleeping well, restoration and healing.
A simple way to give the impression of being surrounded by plants and foliage, without having to break the bank and invest in a living wall, is to ensure that you can see plants at every level, from the ground up. Try to include some on the floor (at base level), have a couple on side tables or shelves, and then hang one or two from the ceiling so that you can always see them in your line of sight, whether you’re standing or seated. This will draw the eyes around the room to the various splashes of greenery, and create the feeling of being immersed in nature.
I’ve put together 5 super simple living plant wall ideas that won’t beak the bank in a previous blog post.
And that’s all folks, some quick and easy to digest tips on how you can create a healthy home using a few biophilic principals.
I hope you found it useful.