Biophilic moodboards: designing interiors for all 5 senses

in biophilic moodboards

How to create interiors that don't just look good?
Designing spaces that engage all 5 senses is at the heart of biophilic design.

In the jargon, this is called “Non-visual connection with nature”, and we’re exploring it in today’s episode of Biophilic Moodboards.

Moodboard depicting the 4 non-visual senses in biophilic design. 1. A zen garden with sand 2. Oranges arranged on a table 3. A crackling fireplace 4. Fragrant flowers in a vase.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credits (from top left): House of Grey (opened in a new window/tab), Andrey Sanko (via Behance) (opened in a new window/tab), Sarah Stacey Design (opened in a new window/tab), Foscarini (opened in a new window/tab). Moodboard by DforDesign.

Biophilic design & the 5 senses

Interior design is often associated with “how things look” (a tendency that became even more intense with the rise of social media).
But the discussion around the 5 senses is actually even broader.
In the digital era – where many activities pass through a screen – sight is by far the sense we use the most in our daily lives, to the detriment of the other 4.

But – when experiencing an interior first-hand – sight is just one part of the game.
If and how the other senses are stimulated is also going to influence how we feel in that space – a lot.
An uncomfortable sofa, a disturbing noise, a bad odour…these are all examples of non-visual features that largely affect our perception of a space.

On the flip side, a thoughtful design that incorporates positive non-visual features can make us feel better in a space, creating a richer and more engaging experience.

So let’s look at how to incorporate the 4 other senses in biophilic interiors…


Touch is the most ancestral of our senses. It’s the first that humans develop and – as kids – we touch things to discover and understand the world around us.
Even as adults, we touch things all the time, but we tend to give less relevance to what we feel.
Rich and pleasant natural textures (or reproductions of natural textures) can create a deep tactile experience, one that will make us stop and consciously appreciate the surface we’re touching.

Greenery and water can also become tactile features if they’re designed to be touched instead of just looked at.

Bedroom with stone textured back wall.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Sergey Makhno Architects (via Behance) (opened in a new window/tab)
A faucet showing the water jet becomes a water feature in itself.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Axor (opened in a new window/tab)


The impact of noises on human wellbeing is immense. Studies* have also shown that exposure to nature sounds reduces stress and helps concentration.

In interior design, it’s the surroundings that dictate the characteristic noises of a space. It’s clear that a home built in the middle of a forest will largely differ from one that looks onto a busy city street!
But still…nature sounds can be introduced indoors with flowing water, a crackling fire or even recordings of natural sounds.

Another strategy – that goes beyond design – is training ourselves to pay attention to the natural sounds that occur around us.
For instance, rain and wind are something we experience no matter where we live. But how often do we stop and listen to the sound of rain?

A faucet showing the water jet becomes a water feature in itself.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: MIM Design (via Instagram) (opened in a new window/tab)


Smells have the incredible power of bringing back memories of the past. They can be relaxing or energizing and studies* have even shown that certain natural smells influence healing processes.

From a wellbeing perspective, it’s preferable to choose naturally produced scents, like fragrant plants & flowers. This has to do with the VOCs (volatile organic compounds) released by candles, incense, deodorizing sprays etc. that might accumulate in the air.

Minimal dining table with a vase of flowers as centrepiece.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Amanda Axelsson (via Instagram) (opened in a new window/tab)


What does taste have to do with interior design? Is there even a way to include it in the design of interiors?
Taste is the fundamental sense when it comes to eating and drinking, so it naturally belongs to kitchen and dining areas.

Taste goes hand-in-hand with smell and sight.
Think at how many times seeing or smelling inviting food is enough to get your mouth watering!
This connection among different senses makes it possible to indirectly involve taste in the design of a biophilic interior.
Growing a herb garden in the kitchen is an example (that will provide fresh cooking ingredients as a plus). Or – why not – even using food as décor!

A kitchen with integrated planters for herbs.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: SieMatic (opened in a new window/tab)
A dining table with coconuts used as décor.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Vladyslav Naumenko (via Behance) (opened in a new window/tab)

Interiors that mix the 5 senses feel naturally more interesting and engaging. And a thoughtful sensory design can truly improve how we feel in a space!


* Sources

Share this post


Don't be shy, let me know what you think!

On Tara Ciampi said:
I love this article. Both of my boys are on the autism spectrum, and we've been hyper aware of our surroundings for years. I just recently decided that I want to incorporate this as a specialty in my interior design business. Do you have any words of wisdom? I'm a newbie in the design world and could greatly use any advice. Thanks again for a great article.
On Silvia - DforDesign said:
Hi Tara, thanks so much for your lovely words and for sharing your story. It’s a moving one and I’m very happy you’ve found a source of inspiration in my content!

Being new to biophilic design I would suggest you start with the page called “biophilic design guide” ( you’ll find an overview of the main biophilic design patterns and links to dedicated articles from the blog. Also, there are a few different biophilic design columns on the blog so you might want to have a look around! Last but not least, feel totally free to drop me an email anytime if you have questions or you’d like to have a conversation about your interior design business (btw best of luck!!!) Speak soon, Silvia


Join 100+ biophilic and sustainable design enthusiasts on the monthly newsletter.
I'll never share your email with third parties and you can unsubscribe at any time.