BRINGING THE OUTSIDE INDOORS
How green interior design can boost your mood and relationships
Table of Contents
Instinctively, we know that being in nature is good for us. Have you ever had one of those long days (when your brain feels as frazzled as an old fridge), and you decide to take a brisk walk, or a leap onto the front step? You see that there’s a tree over there – and a bird singing – and a dandelion pushing its way through a crack in the pavement – and that the sky is still there smiling down on you in all its purple greyness. As if stepping into a hot bath, the things that were cramming your brain with worry and doubt dissipate into the air around you; all those cobwebs are blowing away.
Eric Fromm, a social psychologist, coined this sensation ‘biophilia’: a love of all things living. Later, social biologist Edward Wilson explored this term more deeply in 1984 as the “innate tendency [of humans] to focus on life and lifelike processes”. In essence, humans have an intrinsic need to connect with nature, and when we do, we feel better.
Nowadays, we spend 80-90% of our time indoors. Whilst here at Old Green we always encourage anyone to soak up as much outdoor wonder as possible – we know that this isn’t always easy. So, to boost our wellbeing and time with nature, we need to bring the outdoors in – the core tenet of biophilia interior design.
WHY DO WE NEED NATURE?
Before the industrial revolution, many people were living agricultural lifestyles; their lives were interconnected with nature. Living this way meant people were more in tune with the seasons, the movements of the sun, the changes in the soil and the trees; these elements affected their everyday.
In the 18th century, the time of the industrial revolution, floods of people cascaded into city-centres and began working in factories; they no longer lived in accordance with the sun or the seasons but by clock-schedules, timetables, and mechanical demands. Life became increasingly urbanised, cities crew arms and legs and geometric buildings began to tower over the organic curve of nature. Throughout history there have been people resisting this separation from nature – even in the 19th centuries reformers were concerned about the issues of overpopulation in cities, and the affect or urbanisation on people’s health and wellbeing. Green spaces were created in cities to try and combat this.
Today, it could be argued, we are still very much living in the hangover of the industrial revolution. More people than ever live in cities, and more people than ever are reporting mental health challenges. We seem to have become disconnected from our very essence, the very building blocks that make us; we are all part of nature, but our increasingly technological lives make this easy to forget. However, Edward Wilson (our friend from earlier) viewed our need for nature as genetic, something that cannot be ignored. This is where biophilia interior design steps into the picture.
WHAT IS BIOPHILIA INTERIOR DESIGN?
Countless studies tell us that incorporating nature into our indoor spaces matters. In hospitals where patients have a plant/flowers in their room or a view of nature, their recovery times are quicker. In offices where there are many plants and nods to nature, workers suffer less from stress, concentrate better and are more productive.
When our homes are designed with nature in mind, heart rate, blood pressure and stress levels can all decrease; mental wellbeing and feelings of peace can increase. Connections with nature help us to emotionally, physically, spiritually and mentally restore. This means that we can find it easier to focus on tasks, and feel more creative and inspired. When our stress-levels melt away, and we feel like brighter versions of ourselves, we can step into our relationships with more love and compassion. Biophilia interior design is a holistic approach to creating homes that meet this innate human need for nature – and there are many ways to do so.
WHERE DO I START?
Biophilia design can adapt to any of your pre-existing design styles: rustic farmhouse, mid-century modern, Hogwarts-chic. A potted plant here and there is a lovely touch, but is unlikely to achieve the overall impact, as the interior needs to be viewed as a whole. (No offense three-year-old-orchid-from-Tesco). Wherever you live, here are our top tips to enhance the power of nature:
Burn natural candles
Here at Old Green, all of our candles are made with totally natural, synthetic-free essential oils. This means enchanting aromas such as pine-needle and orange (in our winter candle) will envelope your room, purifying rather than polluting the air. The burn time of our large candles is approximately 60 hours – ensuring your house will smell delicious for days.
Open your windows
Breathe in the fresh air and allow it to circulate the room.
Adding potted plants
Adding potted plants to your home can improve the air quality. They do this by:
- Absorbing our CO2 and photosynthesizing it into oxygen
- Absorbing toxins & pollutants
- Balancing the humidity of the air – reducing illness
For a sustainable pot, check out our planters made from repurposed glass
Clean your windows
let that lovely daylight flood in.
Make a cosy nook
By adding a chair, cushions, or blankets near a window, you may feel encouraged to sit there with a book and soak in the light.
Add mirrors to reflect natural light e.g. opposite a window.
Create light, shadow & soft glows
In nature, light is always changing; there are the flickers of shadow, the speckles of sunlight through whispering trees, the bright midday sun and the quieter evening amber. In our homes, we can try to echo these patterns; flowy curtains can be used to mellow light through the window, light fixtures can be chosen to craft shadow, LED technology can mimic the rhythms of light during the day. In the evening, light a candle (such as the soothing Old Green Solace candle) and bask in the cosy candlelight. Trying to reflect the road that the sun takes each day can help us restore our circadian rhythms, and even sleep better.
Natural Processes, Shapes & Colours
Add in natural colours such as earthy tones (reds, browns etc), blues & greens
Invite natural patterns by choosing artwork, wallpaper, cushion-covers, blankets with nature motifs (such as a floral print) or patterns (such as waves)
Create natural shapes. Rather than angular, mathematical lines – echo the uniqueness of nature with curved lines and circles such as rounded tables, rugs and mirrors
Find the fractals
Fractals are repetitive patterns in nature – such as ferns, leaf-veins, clouds, mountains, succulents, snowflakes, trees. Mathematician Mandelbrot defined fractals in 1975 as “a rough or fragmented geometric shape that can be split into parts, each of which is (at least approximately) a reduced-size copy of the whole”. In other words – a branch of the centre of a singular snowflake will continue to grow their own side-branches – it is repeating the pattern of the whole. Fractal frequency is the intrinsic human desire for natural, repeating patterns. These patterns are all around us in nature, so when we bring them into our home, they can create a sense of calm and completeness. These can be incorporated into your home by choosing soft furnishings displaying fractal shapes (e.g shells).
Oliver Heath, an expert in biophilia interior design, says that as well as direct & indirect touches of nature, it is important to address ‘human spatial responses’. This means creating spaces that fulfill our needs and reflect the varying sensations of being outdoors. Nature is not only calming; it is invigorating, exciting, inspiring. Have you ever felt the thrill of being up high, rising above an expansive view, or the curiosity of watching orange flames flicker and dance between the campfire logs, or the rush of energy when submerged under icy wild water? All of these feelings can be reflected in your home; biophilia interior design incorporates the cocooning slumber of the evening hot chocolate as well as the energising, stimulating rush of the morning coffee.
There is a theory that when looking at an appealing view or landscape, from a place of safety, we feel secure and happy. This can be championed in our homes by enhancing the views from our home (make whatever space you have from the window as lovely as possible), and even within the home, by accentuating features such as landings. Heath suggests elements such as treehouses, balconies and swinging chairs also nod towards a more exhilarating feeling of being outdoors, whilst being safe.
Vitally, when we begin to care for nature – by watering that plant-pot – or hanging that bee-hotel – or painting a flower motif onto our walls – we begin to realise just how much we want to conserve it. The UK has lost almost half of its biodiversity – a heart-breaking statement – but by recognising our connection to nature, and incorporating biophilia interior design into our homes, our compassion for the greater environment grows.
In this way, we are not only creating a sanctuary for our souls where nature takes care of us, but blossoming our own agency & empathy to take care of nature.
MOVE WITH THE SEASONS
For a simple way to start, we have a candle for each of the four seasons, reflecting the natural aromas at each turn of the year. These help us to tune into the changing rhythms of nature and bring the outside in.
fresh & citral
notes of bergamot & mint
sweet & exotic
notes of citrus & patchouli
spicy & herbal
notes of cedarwood & thyme
sweet & woody
notes of orange & fir needle
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