Back to all posts

Biophilic Moodboards: Fractals In Nature

Topic: Biophilic Moodboards
Biophilic moodboards: fractals in nature

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.
Credits (from top left): Indulgy, Min An (via Pexels), Jeremy Brooks (via ILTWMT), Wheeler Kearns Architects (via Houzz)

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.


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 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!


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.
Credit: OB Architecture (via Houzz). Photo by Martin Gardner.


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.
Credit: Albero by Graham & Brown
Bedroom with a wallpaper reproducing the natural fractal of branches with leaves, that drape from the top.
Credit: Amour by Glamora

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.
Fractal print reproducing a plant seen from above.
Credits: Matt Walford (via Behance)
Glass mosaic pattern reproducing a nautilus fractal pattern.
Credit: Nautilus by Mutaforma

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.
Credit: Mitya Markov (via Behance)
Floor lamp with round top reproducing the fractal pattern of branches.
Credit: Coral by Pallucco


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.
View from the side of a minimal coffee table with a fractal pattern laser cut on the metal base.
Credits: Enrico Zanolla
Cushion cover printed with a fractal pattern.
Credit: Jillian Amatt Designs (via Society 6)


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.
Detail of the 3D artwork recalling natural fractals.
Credits: Sarah Barnard Design (via Houzz)
Grey wallpaper with brown branches.
Credit: Grace cloud by Graham & Brown
Grey wallpaper representing the veins of a leaf in giant scale.
Credit: Concrete dry lead by Now Edizioni
Dining room with a branch wallpaper on the wall.
Credit: Abstact Branch 03 by Acte Deco

* Sources

Have you liked this post? Pin it!

Biophilic moodboards: fractals in nature. Pin it.