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biophilic design: the many uses of plants in interiors

in biophilic design

Plants are the most commonly mentioned biophilic design element. And there are many good reasons to add plants in interiors! Plants add life to any space, can help create a connection with seasonal changes, and strengthen local identity.

Adding greenery to interiors opens a whole world of choices and possibilities. In particular, plants are not just decorative and can serve a number of functions in interior spaces.

So let’s review some of the less common – yet equally impressive – uses of plants in interiors…

partitioning the space

Creating a room divider with plants is an option that applies to homes, commercial spaces and workplaces alike. Plant partitions create privacy without closing the space up completely. Light can still pass through, which preserves an airy feel in the room and maintains prospect views. According to the specific case, plant dividers can also help to achieve a sense of mystery or create a refuge corner.

Room divider made with draping plants secured on an arched structure.
Credit: Plant the Future
Floor-to-ceiling room divider made with frames filled with moss.
Credit: Monamour Natural Design
Simple planter used to partition the space in a small apartment.
Credit: Olesia Zhuk (via Behance)

adding a layer of texture

Plants always add an interesting textural element. And when layered over a flat surface, this effect is even more marked. Textures in interiors contribute to wellbeing in that they introduce a multi-sensory feature that can be looked at, touched and smelt, making the overall design more engaging.

Draping plants add texture to the smooth surface of a shower wall.
Credit: Kind of Oj
Frosted glass wall showing the texture of plants placed behind it.
Credit: Autori – Photo by Relja Ivanić

creating a focal point

Plants draw the eye. So they’re an ideal candidate to create impressive focal points in interiors! Living walls are a great example, but they’re not the only option. Draping or potted plants can also be styled to add a point of interest. And since this doesn’t require structural changes, it’s also a great solution for rented spaces.

Draping plants into hexagonal frames behind a sofa.
Credit: Sandra Moura
Neon sign applied over a layer of plants in a café.
Credit: Ihor Skrypnyk (via Behance)

highlighting distinctive features

When used wisely, plants can drive attention to a specific feature of the design. For instance, they can follow architectural lines or highlight the transition between different materials.

Bedroom with hanging plants highlighting the vaulted ceiling.
Credit: Botan Çağdavul (via Instagram)
Draping ivy plant highlighting a finish transition on a wall.
Credit: Studio Effetto (via Behance)

disguising unwanted features

On the other hand, plants can also disguise unwanted features or make sense of funky elements of the space. A column right in the middle of a room gains a whole different appeal when covered in plants. And what about disguising an ugly backsplash with a garden wall design?

Columns in the middle of a room entirely covered with plants.
Credit: Creaplant
Kitchen back wall covered in plants.
Credit: Avantgarde Vegan (via Instagram)

changing the perceived scale

The way in which the size of a plant relates to the other elements in a room affects the overall perception of scale. A plant that goes up the ceiling will make the entire room feel taller, giving a visual clue of the actual height of the space.

Living room with low furniture and an oversized plant.
Credit: House of Grey – Photo by Rory Gardiner
Room with tall plants highlighting the high ceilings.
Credit: SAI Architectural Design Office

providing shade

Plants are a natural way to create shade. Tall and draping plants can effectively substitute (or complement) curtains and shades, improving thermal comfort both indoors and outdoors.

Kitchen shaded by outdoor draping plants.
Credit: MIA Design Studio
Boxy building with protruding balconies filled with plants.
Credit: MIA Design Studio

growing food

Edible plants come with the extra advantage of providing fresh and zero-km cooking ingredients. Herbs are the most common option, but other fruits & vegetables can also be planted in a small indoor garden.

Population growth forecasts even suggest that growing our own food (at least in part) will become a necessity going forward.

Hanging herb planters in a contemporary kitchen.
Credit: Kohler (via Houzz)

adding art + décor

Last but not least, what indoor plants are mostly used for – décor. From sculptural vessels, to hanging vases and moss artworks… There are a million and one ways to complement a design with a living finishing touch.

Wall vase filled with moss and living plants.
Credit: Green Love
Propagation wall: leaves in small tube vessels hanging on the wall.
Credit: Vintage Revival
Moss artwork.
Credit: Greenstems (via Instagram)
Wall frame filled with living plants.
Credit: The Design Umbrella (via Instagram)
Graphic hanging planters.
Credit: Bolia

Adding plants to interiors has multiple advantages. But looking at greenery as a piece of décor is reductive! With the appropriate design thought behind, plants can serve many different functions, becoming decorative and practical at the same time.

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