GREAT INTERIORS: bringing the outdoors inside – HOME & GARDEN MAGAZINE
One of the latest design trends is tapping into something that a lot of people have a hunch about, hum, of course. The biophilic design is spreading through Western European homes and businesses, like the creepy kudzu it mimics. The name comes from biophilia, the idea that humans are intrinsically linked to the natural world, informed by its elements and affected by its changes. In fact, some argue that our connection to nature is one of the deepest roots of human evolution, as it has persisted through millennia, shaping human health and development.
Today, people spend about 90% of their time indoors. Outdoor time is recreational, something special and outside the norm that should be scheduled and sought after. Biophilic design seeks to change that by bringing exterior elements inside. The goal is to improve physical and mental health. In business circles, this effort carries the added bonus of increased productivity.
The distinguishing feature of the trend is that it is not unique, but global. In other words, a sad succulent on a desk is a good start, but doesn’t get to the heart of the concept. As an interior design – and sometimes architectural – movement, biophilic design changes a space from top to bottom. A well-designed space will integrate walls, furniture, decor. Everything will connect and complement each other, just like in the great outdoors.
The trend can also be seen as a moment on the continuum of the green movement. For years, people have sought to make small but significant changes to the environment and to their daily lives. Many have traded SUVs for bikes or low-emission vehicles. Phones now come with built-in apps to cut down on screen time and encourage us to look up, get out and swallow some fresh air. And many health-conscious eaters have made the switch to a keto or vegetarian lifestyle. As disillusionment grows, people search for traditional pathways to good health. Forget what people ate 50 years ago. People wonder what diets were like in ancient times. It is only natural that the same process ends up reaching our living and working spaces.
So what does biophilic design look like? Anyone who’s ever been to a trendy restaurant with an indoor garden or a parking lot with a living green wall has seen clues. Some of the main elements that are often incorporated are widely open views to the outside world, daylighting, water features and, of course, plants and vegetation.
The trend, which was already gaining traction overseas and in urban centers across the United States, surged forward in 2020. The pandemic-related quarantine has forced people to spend even more time in the country. indoors, in domestic spaces that may be small, or that may not have received the proper attention when they were simply seen as the place to start and end the day. Hours spent in a bedroom or at a kitchen table can certainly inspire a design calculation.
Most people started out simple – point out this sad succulent. But that wilted little cactus was the start of something bigger. Often without realizing it, people began to introduce more and more biophilic design elements into their spaces. Since most of us don’t have the freedom to start knocking down walls for new windows, this beautiful oxygen-filled trend manifested simply, in the form of houseplants, natural fibers and of soft color palettes.
By now, the concept is well entrenched in mainstream design, allowing almost anyone to make modest adaptations to their spaces. Are you feeling suffocated? Buy plants. Are you feeling claustrophobic? Let go of the curtains, open those windows. Do you feel overwhelmed by the monotony of endless days in front of a computer? OK, well, there might not be a quick fix for this. But maybe a breath of fresh air can help. Until you are able to fully bring the great outdoors in, just step out, one breath, one step, at a time.