Biophilia is the latest buzzword in interiors, but there’s nothing new about connecting nature to living spaces to create a sense of wellbeing. Here’s how to embrace the natural world in your everyday life.
Biophilia is about connecting living spaces with nature and creating calm, wellness promoting environments. The focus is on natural materials. ‘Natural’ in terms of biophilia means materials that are as close to their original form as possible (i.e. natural wood, undyed wool, stone, linen) – the opposite of materials such as plastics.
Author of Biophilia; You + Nature + Home, Sally Coulthard is an advocate for the movement. “Being surrounded by nature, and its rhythms, makes people happier,” she says. “I don’t necessarily mean ‘city bad, countryside good’ – some of my favourite green spaces are in urban centres – but rather that being surrounded by natural light, trees, natural textures and colours, natural sounds and living, breathing plants has a profound effect on mood and wellbeing. I think it’s interesting that, for so many of us, time spent in nature is something we crave, at the weekends so many of us want to escape the bustle and head for the hills.”
While interior trends come and go, Biophilia is a movement that shows increased momentum. “As humans we evolved to respond to natural cues and a natural landscape, but increasingly, we are living lives totally removed from those things,” says Sally. “I use the analogy of zoo animals kept in enclosures that aren’t suited to their needs – most human built environments are not designed with our innate selves in mind. We try to live and raise children in places where we have no quality of natural light, no access to green spaces, industrial noise, no interaction with other living things – and we wonder why so many of us feel ‘out of sorts.’ But people are waking up to these issues. The environment is high on most people’s agendas and biophilia is a part of that bigger story.”
So, the burning question on everyone’s lips is can one truly embrace biophilia if you can't keep a houseplant alive for more than two weeks? “Ha ha - yes! Biophilia doesn’t just mean filling your house with pot plants. If you’re not green fingered it could mean taking a 10 minute lunch break in the park, rather than sitting at your desk; it could mean altering the lighting in your house so you have the right colour temperature for the right time of day; it could mean embracing natural textures, fabrics and designs in your home or enjoying the odd outdoor campfire or stroll in the forest. There are hundreds of ways you can improve your relationship with your natural environment.”
How to Apply Biophilia to your Workspace
1. Biophilia works on three levels: the first is to put yourself in direct contact with nature – if you’re at the office, this could mean getting out at lunchtime for an outside walk, putting pot plants or fresh flowers on your desk, sitting nearer a source of natural light for example.
2. The second thing is to surround yourself with as many things as possible that remind you of natural things – patterns, textures, colours, etc. In the office, this could mean hanging some pictures of nature on the wall, listening to nature sounds on an app, putting a nature screen saver on your screen, corporate performance has been shown to radically improve when biophilic elements are incorporated into a workspace, so try and get your boss on board.
3. The final element is living in a way that connects you to natural rhythms and outdoor spaces – this means using dynamic light in the office environment (lighting which changes colour with the day), having spaces in the office which offer refuge from the noise, taking ‘microbreaks’ making the most of any outdoor views and so on.