Wellbeing Design: Why Biophilic Interiors are More Relevant Than Ever 11th June 2021 | IN EXPERT INSIGHT | BY SBID

In a particularly turbulent world (enduring an ongoing pandemic) where there is so much uncertainty, striving for wellbeing in our daily lives is all the more important. Our homes now act as a substitute for offices, gyms, entertainment centres and sanctuaries to name but a few of their additional uses. As we’re spending significantly greater time in them overall, it is clear they need to work harder than ever to meet our demands, suit our needs and ease our minds. The question is – can biophilic design really help? Peter Oudejans, director of leading biophilic design studio, Oudejans Interiors shares key insights on the benefits of integrating concepts of biophilia into our interior environments.

biophilic, Wellbeing Design: Why Biophilic Interiors are More Relevant Than Ever
Project Credit: Oudejans Interiors Ltd. Photos by Glenn MacKay ©

Biophilia Explained

Biophilia, simply stated, is the human connection to nature that assists us in attaining wellness in our lives. Have you ever noticed how calm and uplifted you can feel when walking in the woods, strolling along the beach or simply sitting in a park? That’s the ‘Biophilia’ effect. In rural settings, this connection can be more obvious, but as more of us live in densely populated, urban environments, this connection is slowly being lost. That does not mean however, that we are unable to embrace nature’s beauty at home. There are numerous ways to live more meaningful, holistic lives and in practice this is about re-establishing links with nature to create healthy environments for life and work.

“It is the simple core truth that humans need a connection to nature to be content”, according to Sally Coulthard, author of the book Biophilia. It is the notion that humans need to feel connected to their natural environment not only to survive, but also to thrive.

Benefits of Biophilia

Research undertaken over the past few decades has shown that biophilic design can improve cognitive function, physical health, and psychological well-being with benefits that include:

  • Improve memory and concentration
  • Reduce anxiety and depression
  • Lessen stress levels
  • Lower heart rate and blood pressure
  • Enhance sleep patterns
  • Calm the mind and boost contentment

According to architect Claudia Bonollo of Monamour Natural Design, “our mood and our capacity for communication are influenced by a combination of physical, mental and sensory factors. Therefore, an environment that involves all the senses makes us happier and more receptive,” she says.

Oliver Heath Design, has found that the inclusion of Biophilia to the design process can increase productivity by 8% and rates of wellbeing by up to 13% in an office environment. In healthcare settings, pain medication was shown to be reduced by 22% and in the education setting, rates of learning can be increased by 20-25% where biophilic designs have been incorporated.

And finally, Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing weighs in with “I shall never forget the rapture of fever patients over a bunch of bright-coloured flowers… People say the effect is only on the mind. It is no such thing. The effect is on the body too.”

biophilic, Wellbeing Design: Why Biophilic Interiors are More Relevant Than Ever
Project Credit: Oudejans Interiors Ltd. Photos by Glenn MacKay ©

Biophilia in Interior Design

With regard to interior design, Biophilia is considered more of a lifestyle than a design trend. It can be applied across the entire spectrum of interior styles from contemporary to classic and has a place in all areas of interior design, be it in a residential or commercial setting. Eco design and green architecture are very closely related concepts with a focus on environmentally-friendly design practices that are good for people and planet, just as Biophilia is focused on the wellbeing of humans through their connection to the natural world.

Biophilic design has three key threads that together make a space biophilic:

1. Being in a space that has a direct, physical contact with nature;
2. Being in a space that reminds you of nature through the use of natural items;
3. Being in a space that connects to natural rhythms and outside spaces.

biophilic, Wellbeing Design: Why Biophilic Interiors are More Relevant Than Ever
Project Credit: Oudejans Interiors Ltd. Photos by Glenn MacKay ©

Key Elements of Biophilic Design

There are numerous key elements of biophilic design which include incorporating a few or all of the following:

  • Flora and fauna – enhancing spaces with carefully selected vegetation to create a natural aesthetic and aid air purification;
  • Natural effects – embracing natural patterns, textures, colours and materials, evoking nature to bring the outdoors in;
  • Light – integrating natural light to deliver more vibrant and luminous interiors in tune with day and night cycles;
  • Air – improving ventilation for a healthier home with well-designed airflow;
  • Space – creating spaces that offer both a sense of perspective of outside and a cocooning refuge inside.

Take the example of firelight and candle light, which have slowly decreased in domestic settings as the use of heating (central and otherwise) and of course, electric light, now almost completely dominate in the modern home. Yet the ‘red’ light that emanates from firelight and candlelight plays an important trigger in the body’s preparation for rest and relaxation, making us feel calm and cosy.

In a study by the anthropologist Christopher Lynn, he measured people’s blood pressure and how sociable they felt after watching a log fire on a screen. One group watched with sound, the others no sound. The results found that those that watched with no sound showed little benefit, but those that experienced the audio and visual effects of the fire, had significantly reduced blood pressure, felt more mindful and focused on the present and were increasingly communicative and sociable. [1]

Including such a simple yet multi-sensory element such as a fireplace within the home can make a significant difference to the wellbeing of the individual. Just imagine the other benefits and sensations a real fire provides, such as the soothing radiant heat and comforting wood scent. And this is just one simple addition in the whole armament that nature and Biophilia can provide.

biophilic, Wellbeing Design: Why Biophilic Interiors are More Relevant Than Ever
Project Credit: Oudejans Interiors Ltd. Photos by Glenn MacKay ©

A Biophilic Future?

Biophilia is still deemed to be in its infancy within the interior design profession, despite being based on one of the most fundamental connections humans have with their environment. But with the current focus very much on the recovery, both physically and mentally, from a global pandemic, never has there been a better time or more crucial need to draw upon the healing powers of nature to improve our wellbeing.

Interior designer’s approaches to home design should now be looking to design sustainably with nature at its core for the creation healthy, happy homes that are better for people and the planet. After all, it truly is all about creating nature-inspired spaces to support our health and wellbeing.


[1] Lynn C.D. The Psychophysiology of Fireside Relaxation. American Journal of Human Biology 25 (2013). 265-265

Projects photographed are undertaken by Oudejans Interiors Ltd. All photos are credited to photographer Glenn MacKay.


As a leading biophilic design studio, Oudejans Interiors feels it is vital to live more sustainably, in an increasingly connected manner to the natural world. Their motivation for designing spaces is to consciously straddle the line between nature and interior architecture. From creating a living wall to redecorating with natural hues, incorporating biophilia into living spaces is an effective way to restoratively transform them, whilst boosting body and mind.

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