Designing For Your Primal Self

Updated: Apr 10, 2019

How To Incorporate Biophilic Design Into Your Home

- By Katie Bachner

Biophilic design practices are shaped by humankind’s inherent connection to the natural world. We all know what it’s like to be serenaded by the sound of crashing waves or how wonderful the air smells when we walk through a forest. In fact, the long time Japanese tradition “Shinrin Yoku”, referred to in English as Forest Bathing, actually prescribes walks in the forest to heal and restore a person's immune system!

The fact that nature makes us feel better is not merely observational. Plants produce oxygen and filter the air, water gives off negative ions that increase the happy/calming mood chemical serotonin. Natural lighting regulates our wake/sleep cycle, also known as our circadian rhythm. Additionally, minimally processed furniture, biomorphic forms, and items that are formally comprised of "complexity and order" have the capacity to produce a calming effect, and in so doing, increase concentration, creativity, and overall well-being.

Below are some easy design ideas for how to incorporate biophilia into your home.

Let There Be Life

Plants and flowers bring vitality into any room. Having a visual and tactile connection with nature has been shown to lower blood pressure, reduce stress and improve mood. Plants and flowers have colors that are both striking and familiar and produce enjoyable, calming smells. They have long been touted as great air purifiers, and that they are, but plants and flowers also make a space’s atmosphere feel better by adding fresh moisture into the air through the process of evapotranspiration.

Natural Light

Natural light regulates our work/sleep cycle. Exposure to it during the day makes us feel more alert and refreshed. Green building certifications across the board such as LEED, WELL Building Standard and Living Building Challenge all recognize the importance of incorporating natural light into the built environment.

Installing high quality windows into your space not only lets light in, it also lowers your electrical bill and makes the room feel larger by extending your connection to the outdoors. However, not all window companies are created equal...

Meadow Room, Boulder CO. Photo by Alpen Windows.

Andersen and Alpen Windows offer dual and triple paned windows. Depending on the climate, innovative coatings can be added to optimize thermal comfort. Andersen Windows and Doors was the first window and door manufacturer to become an Energy Star Partner, and Alpen Windows has been used on Net Zero Energy, Passive House and Living Building Challenge projects.

Biomorphic Furniture

Right angles rarely exist in nature, yet most of what we create including the shape of our rooms, furniture and homes is comprised of 90 degree angles. Though these angles provide order and a stabilizing effect, they can become monotonous if they are all we see. Selecting a few standout pieces of furniture with curves is a great way to change things up.

Celebrated artist Isamu Noguchi understood the importance of biomorphic design and created elegant pieces of furniture made of organic forms. His iconic Noguchi Table and Akari Light Sculptures, made of irregular and undulating shapes, convey a sense of movement and draw attention to the interplay between positive and negative space.

Akari Light Sculptures, Isamu Noguchi.

Noguchi Table, Isamu Noguchi. Photo by Herman Miller.


Patterns are composed of complexity and order, making them perfect analogues to the natural world. You can incorporate soothing yet cognitively stimulating patterns from top to bottom and anywhere in between.

Area Environments offers exclusive wallpaper and mural coverings made by a select group of contemporary artists. Their non-toxic glues and no PVC options allows you to sit back and relax in your painted landscape.

AW-1 Forest, Artist- Agata Wierzbicka. Photo by Area Environments.

Another way to create pattern is through tile work. Fireclay Tile is made from sustainably sourced, high recycled content clay, which is free from heavy metals and has a minimal carbon footprint. A B-Corporation, Fireclay is founded on the principles of People, Planet, Profit. Their factory recycles 5,000 gallons of water and 7,000 pounds of materials daily and in 2017, the company offset 2,568 metric tons of carbon.

"Hexite" by Fireclay Tile: Orlando Soria's Family Kitchen. Photo by Fireclay Tile.

Made with an artisan mentality, Fireclay’s tiles come in many beautiful shapes and colors. They are perfect for kitchens, bathrooms, and even around fireplaces.

Natural or Minimally Processed Materials

Even if you are not going for a rustic look, you can still incorporate natural materials into your decor. Whether it be the warm hue of wood or the cool stability of stone, minimally processed materials make a space feel more grounded.

San Francisco-based Ohio Design’s “Tripod” table offers a circular shape and patterned wood reminiscent of a tree trunk. Made of sustainably sourced wood with a chemically benign coating, Tripod maintains its connection with nature through both its aesthetic and the sustainable materials that comprise it.

"Tripod", Ohio Design. Photo by Ohio Design.

Cambria’s quartz “Brittanica” countertop pulls us to the mountains. Not only is Cambria NSF-51 certified safe for food preparation, but the company also has certifications/documentation that include GreenGuard Gold, Living Building Challenge Declare Label, and Health Product Declaration (to learn more, please see our post Green Building Accepts The Challenge).

Brittanica, Cambria. Photo by Cambria.

These are just some strategies of using biophilic design. We’d love to hear AND see what your nature inspired designs look like!

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