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Embracing Biophilic Design in Home Decor

Historically, we’ve lived in close contact with the natural world by living off the land and dealing with the hard work that comes with it. While life was much harder back then, we enjoyed the benefits of being close to nature. Now, our lives are confined by our modern habitats. Paved sidewalks and streets, cars & buses and houses & apartments families call home have made our lives convenient. One design trend attempts to merge the best of these two styles of living. Biophilic design embraces the modern understanding that bringing more nature into our life will further enhance our well-being and health.

Biophilic design evolved in tandem with modernism. It complements contemporary principles that emphasize living spaces with lots of natural light while embracing the use of natural materials and creating an easy flow from inside the home to the outdoors.

You don't have to renovate a property or find the perfect modernist gem on the rental market to take advantage of biophilic design benefits. Here are a few easy ways to bring more nature into your home.

Buy houseplants

Horizontal rectangular shaped living wall hanging on a white wall, an example of implementing biophilic design. Couch is against the wall surround by plants.

Plants can work in any room of the house. Even darker areas benefit from a bit of green that's suited to thrive in minimal light. Houseplants do more for the indoor environment than merely provide a hint of green to look at. They can make the air green by emitting oxygen and absorbing indoor air pollutants. 

Don’t have much room for house plants? Create a living wall. Green walls or vertical planters are trending in office spaces. They make use of empty space, offering the benefit of having several plants without making the room feel crowded. Choose low-maintenance plants that will blend together to give you the feel of being outdoors. It’s also a good idea to install an irrigation system so you’re not forced to climb to water the plants.

Bring in the light

Computer desk area is located in between large window on right and large window patio doors on the left. Plants on shelf above desk area and in front of window on the right.

Maximize natural lighting from large windows by using fewer drapes & blinds and keeping the glass sparkling clean. Hanging plants are great, but don’t allow them to block the windows. Yes, the plants need sunshine, but so do people.

Increase the natural sunlight coming into your home by strategically adding mirrors. Place the mirror or reflective glass on the west and east-facing walls where they’ll reflect the most sunlight. Biophilic design aims to make it easier for us to wake up when the sun rises and fall asleep as it sets, and that’s easier when you have access to natural daylight.

Additionally, you can open the windows to let in the breeze and the scents of the outdoors. Keep an eye out for cross-ventilation for the most impact.

Maximize the views

Close up view of green plants, succulents and purple plants located in front of a window. Plants are an easy way to implement biophilic design.

You can change your indoor environment by planting beautiful plants outside of critical windows. Since the emphasis is on natural surroundings, your best choice would be native plants. In dryer, warmer areas, this leads to xeriscaping. Before you assume this will lead to a yard filled with cactus and succulents, understand that xeriscaping is the practice of using drought-resistant, native plants to decrease water usage and maintenance time.

You can also boost the natural feel inside your home by placing a native plant on the window sill where the view is less than optimal.

Pictures incorporating biophilic design

Accent wall filled with framed paintings of different plants. Dresser in front of wall topped with plant paintings and flowers. Surrounding plants are also present.

Images and paintings can provide an indirect experience with nature. These can range from beloved framed paintings of natural settings or personal photographs set in a forest or ocean setting. Consider using wallpaper with leaves or ocean waves to help bring the outdoors closer.

Natural materials

Bedroom with frame, nightstand, dresser and stool made from tree trunks and wood. Bedding includes a weaved cotton blanket and pillows.

Choose natural fibers for bedding and towels as consistent contact with nature involves all the senses. Nourish the sense of touch with cotton, silk, bamboo, linen and wool.  The warmth of a down comforter, the luxury of linen sheets or the silky feel of bamboo towels offer simple but undeniable pleasures.

Decorate with natural materials and soothing natural colors. Wood and stone are definite winners, and a color palette that incorporates the brown wood and gray stone will have a bigger impact. Opt for naturalist forms such as curves over straight lines, and choose wallpaper with natural designs. Accessories such as fine shells or beautiful stones will enhance your theme. Even the right antiques can work if they show the passage of time.

You don’t have to break the bank to incorporate biophilic design into your rental home. Looking for the right elements for your space can be a reward in itself, bringing you in contact with wonderful natural forms, materials, objects and colors.

Categories: Renters

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About the Author
Jay Betts

Jay Betts is a graduate from the University of Texas at Austin, a licensed real estate agent and an avid gardener.