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biophilic design: nature in the space

in biophilic design

Nature in the space is the first of the 3 categories of biophilic design patterns.

Not surprisingly, Nature in the space refers to the use of real natural elements in interiors. This includes:

The above elements are described in more detail in the 7 Nature in the space patterns. Let’s discover them one by one!

1. visual connection with nature

View of natural elements from within a space.

Research has proven the benefits of natural outdoor views in terms of reduced stress and improved mood, concentration and recovery rates.


“Visual access to biodiversity is reportedly more beneficial to our psychological health than access to land area (i.e., quantity of land).”
(Fuller, Irvine, Devine-Wright et al., 2007)

This is a great finding, especially if we think of dense urban areas, where increasing the quantity of green land is no easy task. A substantial variety of visible biodiversity is then the essential point for a successful biophilic design.

To increase the visual connection with nature, big windows or fully glazed walls are an amazing design choice. Adding greenery indoors is another great move. But this means more than having a few potted plants here and there! In the scope of biophilic design, greenery needs to be a cohesive element in the space and include diverse plant species (living walls are a very good example of that).

Read more about Visual Connection with Nature

Full-height window in a minimalist living room, great example of biophilic design.
Credit: Kråkvik & D’Orazio (Photo: Jonas Bjerre Poulsen)
Angular bay window in a modern living room, a great biophilic design example.
Credit: Meier Architekten
Garden wall design feature in a minimalist dining area, great example of biophilic design.
Credit: Muuto
Planter in a corridor with several different plants, great example of biophilic design.
Credit: Articulture

2. non-visual connection with nature

Interactions with nature through other senses: sound, touch, smell and taste.

This is an interesting point because the other senses (except sight) are often undervalued in the design of interiors.

What sounds are characteristic in your home? Does it have a defined smell?
These are questions we often cannot reply to, because those senses were not taken into account in the design of the space.

Here are some ways to incorporate all 5 senses in a biophilic design:

Read more about Non-Visual Connection with Nature

Birch bark wall artwork, a great example of biophilic design.
Credit: Freund
Stone bathroom sink on a wood vanity, great example of biophilic design.
Credit: Obumex
Hanging herb garden, great way to bring in a natural scent in a biophilic space.
Credit: Purple ID
Indoor outdoor living room, great example of biophilic design.
Credit: Faulkner Architects (via Deavita)

3. non-rhythmic sensory stimuli

Unpredictable and non-repetitive movements that happen in nature like birds chirping or leaves moving in a breeze.

These features are part of every natural environment. Plants always attract birds, insects and butterflies. And the wind moves grass and branches.

These movements catch our attention and are highly regenerating for the mind, especially thanks to their irregular and non-repetitive nature. Applying this biophilic pattern in a design is a way to make the space interesting, stimulating and slightly different at all times.

Read more about Non-Rhythmic Sensory Stimuli

Modern kitchen with view to the outdoors, great example of biophilic design.
Credit: Espresso Design

4. thermal and airflow variability

Variability in air temperature and flow, changes in relative humidity and varying surface temperatures.

Introducing temperature and air flow variations makes an indoor space invigorating and alive, like a natural outdoor environment would be. One way to introduce this pattern is by prioritizing natural light and ventilation. This will let the outdoor breeze come in and create an alternation of sunny and shaded spots.

Another way to play with this pattern is through the use of materials. For instance, wood is naturally warm whereas stone is cold. Mixing them in a design can introduce some interesting temperature variability among surfaces.

Read more about Thermal & Airflow Variability

Minimalist bedroom with big window, great example of biophilic design.
Credit: Studio Esteta
Minimalist kitchen with wood cabinets and stone countertops, great example of biophilic design.
Credit: Studio Esteta

5. presence of water

Water as a design feature.

Water is a powerful tool in biophilic design as it affects different senses simultaneously.
Naturally-moving water (like a waterfall or fountain) is preferable as it can be seen, heard and/or touched. But the movement should never be too violent, as this would end up feeling uncomfortable and intimidating.

Even if it may not seem so, a wall fountain is not too hard to install, and could fit even in a smaller balcony. Just remember to incorporate a system of continuous water recirculation to prevent water waste!

Read more about Water as a design feature

Wall water fountain, great and easy example of biophilic design.
Credit: CL Garden

6. dynamic and diffuse light

Varying lighting intensities and light changes over time that recall the natural cycle of day and night.

In indoor spaces, dynamic lighting can be achieved with a layered lighting system, that includes a mix of general ambient lighting, task lighting for specific activities and some accents. Dimmable solutions are also precious to create a dynamic lighting system. But what’s most beneficial to us is the use of artificial lighting to recall the natural cycle of day and night. This takes the name of Human Centric Lighting and has been the focus of the latest innovations in lighting design.

Read more about Dynamic & Diffuse Light

Minimalist kitchen design with lit shelves.
Credit: Obumex

7. connection with natural systems

Awareness of seasonal and temporal changes.

The easiest way to achieve this pattern is by having an outdoor view. The passing of seasons will change the outdoor scenario, creating a stronger connection with nature.

Read more about Connection with Natural Systems

Bedroom with winter outside view, great example of biophilic design.
Credit: Niseko (via Interiørmagasinet)

Head to the biophilic design guide to keep exploring biophilic design.

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