How do interior design, wellbeing and nature relate?

in Biophilic Moodboards

Biophilic design ultimately aims at improving our wellbeing. And it does so by creating interiors that take inspiration from the natural world.

But how exactly do interior design, wellbeing and nature relate?
This is the question behind biophilic design, and we’re going to tackle it in this month’s episode of Biophilic Moodboards.

Biophilic moodboard showing the relationship between nature (a forest), wellbeing (a girl doing yoga in front of a lake) and biophilic interior design (a living room with huge windows looking outdoors).<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credits (from top left): Matthew Smith (opened in a new window/tab), @honkainkeskella (via Instagram) (opened in a new window/tab), Marion Michele (opened in a new window/tab)

Wellbeing & nature

Let’s take it from afar…what is wellbeing?

The dictionary defines wellbeing as

a state characterized by health, happiness, and prosperity.

In other words, wellbeing is that desirable condition where we thrive (prosperity) both physically (health) and mentally (happiness).

Now one could ask, what is the link between wellbeing and nature?
Actually, spending time in contact with nature has been proven to affect our bodies and minds in many ways. One could write a book exploring them all in depth, but here are some examples:

  • natural light supplies our bodies with vitamin D (which helps preventing several diseases including obesity, diabetes, hypertension, depression and neuro-degenerative diseases*)

  • exposure to nature decreases anxiety and increases memory

  • spending time in nature improves creativity and problem solving

  • nature acts as mood booster and – since natural landscapes are compelling to our senses – they can effectively distract us from negative thoughts.

  • observing nature makes us feel part of something bigger and this has numerous positive effects. It helps us put our concerns in perspective, stimulates a positive mindset and a general sense of gratitude and even makes us more prone to help each other!

  • certain plants act as natural air purifiers

*Sources at the bottom of the post

These are just some of the findings that connect health with nature. But they’re enough to conclude that staying in contact with the natural world can do a lot for our overall wellbeing, both physically and mentally!

Home exterior at night. Light hits the plants whose reflection decorates the wall.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Spasm Design (opened in a new window/tab). Photo by Photographix.

Interior design & wellbeing

Now onto the next big question: can interior design influence wellbeing?

The answer is a sound yes! Sure, interior design cannot treat illnesses, but it can contribute to preserving and improving our physical and mental health.

The effects of interior design on physical health

A healthy interior design is one that takes good care of:

  • Indoor air quality
    Indoor air is often more polluted than the outdoor one. In particular, it is stuffed with harmful VOCs, that are released by building materials, glues, cleaning & air freshening products, burning reactions (like wood stoves, candles and incenses) etc.

  • Lighting
    The way we function is very much influenced by light: we’re awake during the day and sleepy when the dark comes. This innate rhythm is called circadian cycle and is at the base of our overall wellness. Therefore, artificial lighting shouldn't just provide enough light to allow us to see. It should also follow our natural cycle by adapting both temperature and intensity of light to the time of day. This wellbeing-oriented approach to light is called Human Centric Lighting, and its importance is being more and more recognized in the design industry (it has even been one of the 5 main lighting innovations presented at Euroluce 2019!)

  • Ergonomics and movement
    The word ergonomics refers to the positions we assume while we sit, stand or lay down, and interior design can help us assuming healthy positions. Also, it can make sense (according to the project) to create a layout that invites people to move around, because – as they say – sitting is the new smoking.

  • Thermal comfort
    A space that is too hot or too cold can affect our mood and productivity. The definition of thermal comfort is very personal, but still, this is an important aspect to take into account in interior design.

  • Acoustic comfort
    Ensuring the best possible acoustic comfort in a space goes all the way from avoiding unpleasant echoes to creating silent areas where needed (think about bedrooms or office spaces).

Biophilic living room.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: SuperLimão Studio (opened in a new window/tab). Photo by Escanhuela Photo.

The effects of interior design on mental health

The impact of interior design on mental wellness can be summarized in that feeling good sensation we all have felt at least once. This can translate differently for different people, but it always includes things like creating an overall welcoming feeling and including appropriate spaces for different activities (one of which should always be a dedicated space to relax).

Biophilic living room corner, ideal for snuggling and having some privacy.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Sergey Makhno (opened in a new window/tab)

Interior design & nature

Pulling everything together:

  • Interior design can influence our physical and mental wellbeing
  • Nature has evident positive effects on our health.

So it actually makes perfect sense to take nature as a design inspiration, because this can really unveil interiors' wellbeing potential in full!
But taking nature as a design inspiration means way more than just adding a few indoor plants, and here is where biophilic design comes into play.

Nature is a rich ensemble of colours, textures, smells, temperature variations, space configurations and sensations that all impact the way we feel. Biophilic design looks at nature in its entirety and – from space planning to the selection of materials – it reproduces indoors the many elements of nature that are beneficial to us. And this is what makes biophilic interiors not only beautiful, but also engaging and ultimately healthy!

Biophilic living room with big windows leaving the view to the outside totally open.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Marmol Radzine (opened in a new window/tab)

If you want to know more about biophilic design, you can take a look at its pillars: nature in the space, natural analogues and nature of the space. Or, you can browse through the previous episodes of Biophilic Moodboards!

* Sources

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