a biophilic year: the importance of introspective spaces

in a biophilic year

“introspective spaces gain new relevance in a noisy world”

cit. a biophilic year - #219

The spaces we inhabit have a huge impact on how we feel. And since quiet time is essential for everyone, so are spaces that promote it…

a personal alcove

Home is every person’s own shelter. It is where we start our days and where we come back every night.

In biophilic design terms, our home is like a refuge from the outside world, a personal space that’s capable of supporting our physical and mental wellbeing when tailored to us, our lifestyle, our needs.
Seeing home like a peaceful alcove is even more important in our modern world. A fast-paced world full of physical and digital stimulations, that requires our constant attention and connection. Even though some people withstand a bustling lifestyle more than others, everyone needs a mental space to unplug from all that the world requires from us and just concentrate on what we personally feel and need.

Home is the place for that.
It all starts with the act of closing the front door behind us, which brings the mind to a different dimension – the dimension of home. The design of a home's entryway is then essential to inspire a sense of peace and help the mind get into that dimension.

View of a calming living room.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: OOAA (opened in a new window/tab)
Textures vases with flowers.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Cooee (opened in a new window/tab)

inside the home

In reality, a home needs to be many things: a space for family life to unfold, a place to welcome friends, a gym, an office, a playground…and a personal shelter to unwind. This has been even more true during Covid-19 lockdown, where our entire life had to fit at home. How to combine everything within four walls?
Especially when shared with other people, home is not necessarily peaceful at all times. This is why if home is a refuge from the outside world, certain areas of the home need to be a refuge in the refuge.

Introspective spaces in the home can be small areas such as a reading nook, or whole dedicated rooms such as a meditation room or garden room. But these are by no means necessary. Bedroom and bathroom are by themselves the most private rooms in the home and as such, they are ideal to slow down.

From a design perspective, slowing down calls for a soothing space.
A quiet space, where noise gives way to calming sounds, music or silence. A comfortable space, where rich textures add tactile depth and softness. A calming space, where colours, light, shapes, and patterns are all invitations to unwind. And not less important – an intentional space, where winding down is the objective that guides whatever we choose to do or not to do (read no scrolling devices).

Relaxing bedroom with a planted outdoor view.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Bruce Henderson Architects (opened in a new window/tab) – Ph: MR.P Studios (opened in a new window/tab)
Wide walk-in shower with plants and a window.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Terreo Studio (opened in a new window/tab) – Ph: Conie Suarez Bravo
Soothing space surrounded by plants.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Sarah Ellison (opened in a new window/tab) – Ph: Anson Smart

beyond homes

Introspective spaces are not only for the home. Instead, they are a beneficial addition to public and shared spaces too, and for different reasons.

In the workplace, introspective areas promote focus and concentration; in public spaces (like parks, waiting rooms, restaurants), they carve a sense of privacy and protection.

In other words, introspective areas create a more private atmosphere inside a bigger shared space. This makes public spaces easier to live in for longer periods, adaptable to one’s mood, and more comfortable for everyone.

Restaurant with tables placed inside individual nooks for privacy.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Masquespacio (opened in a new window/tab) – Ph: Sebastian Erras
Secluded seating area in the middle of a public interior.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: NCDA (opened in a new window/tab) – Ph: Harold de Puymorin

Designing spaces for people should always take into account what people need phisically and mentally. Especially in our fast-paced world, accounting for introspective spaces is a fundamental step towards designing better spaces on a more human scale.

The quote that opens this article is drawn from my book ’a biophilic year: 365 thoughts on the essence and practice of biophilic design’. If you have the book, you’re welcome to reach out and request which topic you'd like to see next in this series!

Biophilic interior design book cover: "a biophilic year: 365 thoughts on the essence and practice of biophilic design".<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>

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