Biophilic moodboards: leveraging the power of light in interiors

in biophilic moodboards

Lighting has a substantial effect on human wellbeing and is crucial in the design of any interior space.

So, in this month’s episode of Biophilic Moodboards, we’re looking into light. Dynamic and diffuse light to be precise, which summarizes the two main features driving the benefits of light on wellbeing.

Biophilic design moodboard showing examples of dynamic & diffuse lighting. 1. Light drawing a pattern on the floor while filtering through a brick ceiling. 2. A palm leaf reflecting on a wall. 3. A sunk outdoor space with strategically placed accent lighting.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credits (from top left): Block Architects (opened in a new window/tab) – Photo by Quang Dam, Desenio (opened in a new window/tab), Nicholas Plewman (opened in a new window/tab). Moodboard by DforDesign.

The benefits of natural light

Light is a functional necessity to see what we’re doing.
But natural light is far more than that. Natural light is what controls our biological clock, driving hormones’ production to make us awake during the day and ready to rest as the night comes.

Natural light affects sleep quality, mental balance and mood. In practice, exposure to quality daylight has been shown to improve concentration, performance and mood in both children and adults. *

To simplify, the elements that make natural light so beneficial can be summarized with two adjectives:

  • dynamic – because it changes during the day – from low and warm at dawn, to very bright and cool during the day, to low and warm again in the evening.
  • diffuse – because it spreads in the space
View of a table with natural light filtering from outside.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Menu (via Instagram) (opened in a new window/tab)

Natural light in biophilic design

Natural light is key in every interior design. When constructing buildings, windows should be placed to ensure natural light throughout the interior space. And when designing an already-built space, the layout should be decided considering the availability of natural light as well.

Abundant natural light is particularly important in areas where people spend a lot of time.
This includes “the heart of the home” (whether this is the dining table of the living room), home offices or the desk space, when talking about biophilic office design.

Biophilic living room with minimal furniture and plenty of natural light.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Keiji Ashizawa Design (opened in a new window/tab)

Artificial lighting in biophilic design

Artificial lighting is a precious invention, but it can put our circadian rhythm off. This is because normally, artificial lighting is set to a fixed intensity and colour, taking away the beneficial dynamism of natural light.

This is one of the reasons why artificial lighting is best when designed in layers. Juxtaposing ambient, task and accent lighting creates an uneven – read dynamic – lighting distribution in the space.
Layering lighting also brings the space to life, creating several points of interest that stimulate sight. And making spaces engaging with sensory features is a key objective of biophilic design!

Outdoor restaurant space punctuated by lit tables.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Natu (opened in a new window/tab)

Technology also helps in making artificial lighting better for wellbeing.
As discussed when exploring the latest Human Centric Lighting innovations, modern bulbs allow for both colour tuning and intensity regulations. Some are also equipped with sensors that detect the level of natural daylight and adapt lighting accordingly (practically a natural analogues strategy at its best!)

In practice, modern lighting systems allow mimicking the changing colour and intensity of sunlight during the day. Following the innate needs of our bodies, this can have a huge impact on wellbeing!

Bedroom with dimmable strip-light hidden in the wood panel behind the bed.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Sergey Makhno Architecs (opened in a new window/tab)

The importance of flexibility

Another essential element when speaking of light is visual comfort. Namely, light should never be glaring.

Once again, it’s interior design’s task to prevent any occurrence of glare.
In the case of natural light, this means installing operable curtains and blinds. For artificial lighting, dimmers are the key. And the choice of materials also plays an important role.

These strategies are also precious in that they give occupants the possibility to adjust lighting according to the task at hand. And this sense of control over the space also has a role to play in overall wellbeing.

Living room with minimal furniture and plenty of natural light.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Artem Babayants Architects (opened in a new window/tab)

Designing with natural light

Not to be forgotten, natural light can become a decorative feature too. When designed intentionally, light and shadow effects become an artwork that’s never equal to itself and changes during the day and across seasons.

This is inherently engaging and contributes to our connection to natural systems. Also, the alternation of light and shadow gives an intriguing vibe to the space, contributing to a sense of mystery .

Light also interacts with other natural elements. The reflection of a water feature or the light filtering through the branches of a tree are examples of moving light that engages the senses. Turns out that many naturally-occurring light reflections follow a fractal pattern, bringing further interest in the design.

Light filtering through the holes of a wall in a sunroom.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Sanjay Puri Architects (via Designboom) (opened in a new window/tab) – Photo by Dinesh Mehta
Silouette of branches reflecting on tables on a pation.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Tribù (opened in a new window/tab)

To summarize, light plays a key role in our overall wellbeing. And a deliberate use of both natural and artificial light in interior design opens many options to add character and functionality to the space while supporting wellbeing at the same time!

* Sources

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