Biophilic moodboards: fractals in nature

in Biophilic Moodboards

One of the preferred ways to introduce patterns in biophilic design is taking inspiration from fractals in nature.

But let’s start with the big question first: what are fractals???
Fractals are patterns created by repeating indefinitely one single shape in different sizes (which is why they're said to be self-repeating patterns). In practice, just think of a big branch that splits into smaller ones or the inside of a sunflower.

Examples of fractals in nature are everywhere: from leaf veins and pinecones, to tree branches, to snowflakes and shells. And that's what inspired me for the Biophilic Moodboard of this month!

Moodboard showing a spiral staircase and some natural fractals: a pinecone, a succulent and the branches of a tree.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credits (from top left): Indulgy (opened in a new window/tab), Min An (via Pexels) (opened in a new window/tab), Jeremy Brooks (via ILTWMT) (opened in a new window/tab), Wheeler Kearns Architects (via Houzz) (opened in a new window/tab)

The reason why fractals are so fascinating is that they are complex and simple at the same time; they give a sense of order but at the same time they mesmerize because one cannot find a beginning or an end.

BUT WHAT DO FRACTALS IN NATURE HAVE TO DO WITH INTERIOR DESIGN?

To start with, fractals are ultimately the repetition of one single shape. And repetition has always been used in interior design as a way to give order to the space and lead the eye in a certain direction.
Even more, several studies * have highlighted that the ordered complexity of fractals in nature can reduce stress. Avoiding any mathematical detail, it turns out that the proportion between the parts of a fractal is the same "used" by our eyes. Indeed, when looking at complex images, our pupils first scan the big picture and then concentrate on increasingly smaller details. And these details are not randomly smaller, but they follow – surprise surprise – a fractal ratio! It has also been observed that birds use the same technique to scan what they see below them when they're flying, and that's why their sight is so efficient!

Back to the effects of fractals...by matching the way our sight works, fractals don't strain the eyes, which in turn gives us an overall sense of relaxation.
Fractals can also be tricky though: when they are too busy (or high-dimensional, as they’re technically called), they have been shown to be overwhelming and stressful!

So – with moderation in mind – it looks like a good idea to introduce fractal patterns in interiors! And their positive effect on our wellbeing is the reason why they've been included in the natural analogues patterns of biophilic design. Let's then see some interior design examples that take inspiration from natural fractals!

FRACTALS IN NATURE

The texture of natural materials is often fractal; think about wood graining. So here is yet another good reason to choose natural materials in interiors! In particular, biophilic design suggests to keep natural materials at their original state as much as possible. In the case of wood, this means embracing the graining and – why not – making it become THE design feature!

Black and white interior with a wooden staircase with marked wood graining.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: OB Architecture (via Houzz) (opened in a new window/tab). Photo by Martin Gardner.

REPRODUCING NATURAL FRACTALS

From finishes to accessories, there exist plenty of interior design products that reproduce natural textures and shapes. Wallpapers are a particularly good example, as they often reproduce the fractals we find in nature.

Grey wallpaper reproducing intricate branches and leaves as an example of the use of natural fractals in interiors.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Albero by Graham & Brown (opened in a new window/tab)
Bedroom with a wallpaper reproducing the natural fractal of branches with leaves, that drape from the top.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Amour by Glamora (opened in a new window/tab)

Artworks are also an easy way to introduce a fractal pattern and nature-inspired ones are my favourites!

Print reproducing the fractal spiral of a plant.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Fractal print reproducing a plant seen from above.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credits: Matt Walford (via Behance) (opened in a new window/tab)
Glass mosaic pattern reproducing a nautilus fractal pattern.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Nautilus by Mutaforma (opened in a new window/tab)

And what about a lamp that reproduces natural fractals? There exist many, from very detailed to more stylized and minimal.

Wall lamp reproducing natural fractals.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Mitya Markov (via Behance) (opened in a new window/tab)
Floor lamp with round top reproducing the fractal pattern of branches.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Coral by Pallucco (opened in a new window/tab)

MAN-MADE FRACTALS

Fractal patterns can also be man-made out of precise geometric shapes. And these can be applied everywhere in interiors! Only caution: staying away from patterns that look too busy.

Minimal coffee table with a fractal pattern cut on the metal top.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
View from the side of a minimal coffee table with a fractal pattern laser cut on the metal base.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credits: Enrico Zanolla (opened in a new window/tab)
Cushion cover printed with a fractal pattern.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Jillian Amatt Designs (via Society 6) (opened in a new window/tab)

FRACTAL INTERIOR DESIGN

Let's close with a gallery of interiors that have taken inspiration from natural fractals!

Living room with a 3D artwork on the wall that recalls natural fractals.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Detail of the 3D artwork recalling natural fractals.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credits: Sarah Barnard Design (via Houzz) (opened in a new window/tab)
Grey wallpaper with brown branches.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Grace cloud by Graham & Brown (opened in a new window/tab)
Grey wallpaper representing the veins of a leaf in giant scale.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Concrete dry lead by Now Edizioni (opened in a new window/tab)
Dining room with a branch wallpaper on the wall.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Abstact Branch 03 by Acte Deco (opened in a new window/tab)

* Sources

Silvia's signature

Share this post

Comments

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

Newsletter

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.

Powered by Mailchimp.

Let's Connect on Instagram !

Sustainable Product Picks
Scroll