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Biophilic design: embracing the 4 elements in interiors

in biophilic design

Air, Water, Earth and Fire. Each with its own distinctive features, the 4 building blocks of the natural world have a role to play in designed spaces as well.

In line with a biophilic approach, the 4 elements set and strengthen the connection between designed spaces and the world outside, adding depth, richness and authenticity. In turn, this will inspire in people a sense of closeness to the natural world that is fond and respectful at the same time.


Natural air is essential for interiors to be healthy and feel alive. Fresh air is vital for indoor air quality and its dynamism gives vitality to any space. From an emotional perspective, the image of a curtain moved by a light breeze evokes a pleasant sense of calm and freedom.

Air goes together with light and space. It’s not by chance that an airy space is one that feels open and is flooded with natural light. Incorporating fresh air in interiors and designed spaces calls for generous windows as well as indoor-outdoor layouts that bring life outdoors.

Living-dining area with glazed walls and a garden outside.
Credit: Junctions90


Looking, listening, feeling… water has a unique calming effect on the mind, and multi-sensory interactions offer a deeply regenerative experience.

Water is freshness, it is gentle yet resilient and – given enough time – it can carve stone. Access to water and water features brings this one-of-a-kind mix of strength and patience into designed spaces, enriching them with a reference to the source of all life.

Living room with full-height windows looking at the ocean.
Credit: Mim Design
Stone wall with water jets flowing out of it.
Credit: Block722


Earth is our safe harbour, it is grounding and reassuring.

Tactile surfaces, substantial shapes and rich juxtapositions are all elements that reference earth through their materiality. Engaging the sense of touch, they introduce a layer of richness in the physical space and in its experience. Earthy features are also particularly suitable to recall nature’s local identity, shaping more authentic spaces.

Dining room with a juxtaposition of rich earthy textures.
Credit: Elena Sedova
Entrance hall with a richly textures artwork.
Credit: Makhno Studio


Fire is light that shines in the dark. It is wild energy, and it needs to be treated with caution. More than for other elements, the dangerous side of fire is more apparent, yet it doesn’t outshine its unique and timeless appeal. This captures the essence of a healthy relationship with nature, one that admires its beauty, is fascinated by its processes, yet doesn’t forget respect and a level of restraint.

Indoor fireplaces and outdoor fire pits are among the most common ways to incorporate this fascinating element, adding moving light, comforting warmth and lively movement to interiors and designed spaces.

Minimal fireplace raising from the floor.
Credit: Metalfire

Both in nature and in designed spaces, the 4 elements are an example of contrast in balance. From a wider perspective, they represent a metaphor for the value of diversity, which applies well beyond design…