Being an interior designer who focuses more on feelings and emotions in all my designs for people, I would like to discuss an important design element in the interior design world called biophilia.
If you haven’t yet heard this term, let’s start by defining the meaning.
Biophilia is the “love of living things,” which is the idea that humans possess an innate tendency to seek connections with nature. It has become the word to best describe the innate connection between people and nature, resulting in improved health and well-being of spaces we live and work in.
Psychoanalyst Erich Fromm first noted biophilia in his 1973 book The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness. He described biophilia as “the passionate love of life and of all that is alive.”
The term was later used by American biologist Edward O. Wilson in his work Biophilia (1984), based on the innate relationship humans share with nature.
Interior design uses the word largely when bringing green plants into interiors. We create living environments for the purpose of supporting people’s well-being, to thrive. Plants help with this in so many ways—they bring clean and healthy energy into interior spaces, and they enhance the beauty of any room.
Plants clean the air we breathe by the process of photosynthesis—they take in CO2 (carbon dioxide) from the air and combine it with water absorbed through their roots. They use energy from sunlight to turn these ingredients into carbohydrates (sugars) and oxygen, and they release extra oxygen to the air.
Then there is the psychological fact of living with plants. Living with plants can make you feel better in a myriad of ways.
In particular, plants have been shown to:
- Lower blood pressure
- Improve reaction times
- Increase attentiveness
- Improve attendance (at work and school)
- Raise productivity (at work)
- Improve well-being
- Improve perceptions of the space
- Lower levels of anxiety during recovery from surgery
- Raise job satisfaction
Feeling good around plants is probably not surprising. After all, we surround ourselves with plants during celebrations such as weddings and tragedies such as funerals. We also create green space for parks and community gardens in our cities and communities.
Because of these reasons and many more, plants are now considered an essential part of any environment in which people live and work. Designers and architects will generally include plants in the environments they design.
Plants bring a calming, relaxing energy into spaces. Plants also bring in nature’s beauty, which contrasts and enhances easily with any style of furnishings and color schemes.
Plants bring the outside in, to integrate the natural flow between people and nature.
To me, the operative meaning for biophilia is life! There are so many environments that are stagnant, heavy, boring, and lifeless. Simply by bringing in plants, this energy can be changed.
If you just want to refresh a room without redecorating, rearrange your furniture and make space for a large plant or two. You have instantly created a shift in how you will experience the new environment.
Movement is such a key part of design. Plants’ leaves move outdoors with the wind and rain; indoors we can turn our plant to the light and move them closer or further away from the furnishings as balance dictates. By simply shifting a small accessory or a large piece of furniture in relation to the plant, you have changed the feeling of the space and possibly the use of the same space. Plants can fill spaces or add interest. They can either soften or bring life to inanimate objects.
As we already spend at least 85%-90% of our time indoors even before the pandemic, we once again find the need to rethink and redefine our indoor spaces.
During this time of change in everyone’s lifestyle, we are looking for nurturing and healing from the stress of the changes. Our behaviors at home have changed and our choices may be all topsy-turvy.
The experiences of peace, joy, and comfort have been turned more inward, and our homes are the place we turn to for those needs to be met. By nurturing a plant, we can nurture ourselves. I like to say, “When we water a plant, we are watering ourselves, too.”
Since we are now eating outdoors when we are with friends and relatives, our patios have become our living room for entertainment and dining. This is a perfect place to add some potted plants to make it more cozy, warm, and inviting.
And what about the entrance to a home? This is the first place to say, “Welcome.” A living part of nature is the best way to say we value life inside.
Because biophilic design can reduce stress, enhance creativity and clarity of thought, improve well-being, and expedite healing, going forward there will be far greater attention given to this philosophy which articulates the relationships between nature, human biology and the design of the built environment.
Above all, biophilic design must nurture a love of place.
Always remember, rooms have no feelings, YOU do!