Biophilic moodboards: fractals in nature

in Biophilic Moodboards

One of biophilic design's preferred ways to introduce patterns takes inspiration from fractals in nature.

But what are fractals?
Fractals are patterns created by indefinitely repeating one single shape in different sizes (which is why they're said to be self-repeating patterns).
Examples of fractals in nature are everywhere: from leaf veins and pinecones, to tree branches that split into smaller ones, to snowflakes and shells.

But let’s explore how fractals apply to interior design in this episode of Biophilic Moodboards!

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)

Fractals and wellbeing

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

Even more, studies * have highlighted that the ordered complexity of fractals in nature has the power to reduce stress.
Avoiding any mathematical detail, it turns out that the proportion between the parts of a fractal is also at the base of human sight. When looking at complex images, our pupils scan the big picture first and then concentrate on increasingly smaller details. And these details are not randomly smaller, but they follow – surprise surprise – a fractal ratio!
It has been observed that birds also use the same technique to scan what they see below them when flying, and that's why their sight is so efficient!

Back to the wellbeing effects of fractals...
Since they match 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 too busy (namely high-dimensional), they have been shown to be overwhelming and stressful. So moderation is a key factor whenever working with fractals.

Fractals in interior design

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.

So let’s explore some ways to introduce fractals in interiors!

Natural fractals

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 keeping natural materials in 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

Reproducing natural textures and shapes is another biophilic design strategy – that takes the name of natural analogues.

This applies to fractals too. And indeed, there exist plenty of interior design products that reproduce natural fractal patterns, from wallpapers to artworks and lamps!

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)
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)
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 used in interiors as well.
Only caution: staying away from patterns that feel 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 finish off 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)

 
Fractals are yet another tool to make interiors stimulating and engaging. And choosing natural fractals will also help to reconnect people with the natural world!

 
* Sources

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