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biophilic moodboards: creating refuge areas in interiors

in biophilic moodboards

Welcome back to Biophilic Moodboards, the monthly column where we explore the fascinating world of biophilic design…one moodboard at a time!

This month I got inspired by why and how one can create places of refuge in interiors. But – as usual – let’s start from the very beginning…

How would you define the word refuge? The dictionary says a refuge is

“a place that provides shelter or protection”

And indeed, that’s what a home should be! An alcove of wellbeing, a safe harbour, a place to feel at ease and disconnect from outside world…a refuge!

Biophilic moodboard showing a sense of refuge: hanging enveloping chairs, a curved sofa, a cave on the beach.
Credits (from top left): Lloyd's Inn (via Instagram), OOAA arquitectura (via Instagram), ThatPhotoGuyNL. Moodboard: anooi studio

why is refuge important?

In practice though, home is the background to many different activities. It is the place for everyday family life, gatherings with friends and even work for someone! And with so many different activities happening, it’s sometimes hard to identify home as a shelter…we’d rather call it a mess some days!

This is why it’s important to create specific refuge areas inside a home. They will become an invite to carve some – much needed – moments of calm and silence throughout the day. But they can also be used to facilitate concentration and make the most of our working time.

how to create a refuge in biophilic design

Taking inspiration from places that provide shelter in nature, we could summarize the key ingredients of a refuge as:

Ideally, a refuge should provide protection from three sides, and leave the fourth open to still allow viewing the surroundings.

Armchair on a narrow balcony overlooking greenery.
Credit: Jetton Construction, Inc. (via Houzz)

examples of refuge at home

One of the first ideas that comes to mind is certainly a reading nook: a cozy armchair protected from the rest of the room is the ideal spot to snuggle and unwind after a long day.

Reading nook in a contemporary home.
Credit: Sergey Krasyuk (via Houzz)

But the bathroom is also a great candidate to become a place of refuge. We often hear about the importance of me-time for wellbeing, and designing the bathroom as a refuge is certainly going to give a deeper value to our daily grooming routines.
And in the bedroom, a canopy would be the perfect strategy to transform a bed into a real shelter!

Bathtub at the very end on a narrow bathroom creates a refuge corner.
Credit: GIA Bathrooms & Kitchens (via Houzz)
Cozy wooden bathtub area.
Credit: Design by Kengo Kuma - Render by Atefeh Taki
Contemporary canopy bed.
Credit: Igor Sirotov

But a place of refuge can really be created anywhere it is needed. And the sky is the limit when it comes to decide what to use as shield! Even an oversized lampshade can make the ambiance more intimate!

Dining room with oversized lampshade.
Credit: Igor Sirotov
TV corner shielded from the rest of the room with slanted wooden panels.
Credit: Studio iF (via Houzz)
Window seat overlooking greenery.
Credit: Robert Siegel Architects (via Houzz)
Outdoor refuge area with hanging chairs.
Credit: Lloyd's Inn (via Instagram)

not only for relaxing

We’ve mentioned before that a refuge can also create the right conditions for concentration. And this immediately recalls office/home office spaces! In fact, conceiving a desk area as a refuge will facilitate the state of flow that makes us so productive!

Home office space into a large wall niche.
Credit: Acre
Home office shielded with a wooden partition.
Credit: Gregory Lavor (via Instagram)
High back chairs creating refuge for concentration.
Credit: Muuto (via Instagram)

And last but not least, refuge features can be included to create privacy in all public spaces; from restaurants to urban design!

Restaurant with some tables enclosed into artificial rock caves.
Credit: Igor Sirotov
Egg-shaped structure shielding a seating area.
Credit: Tisettanta
Bench with a curved profile that creates individual refuge areas for each person seating.
Credit: "Please be seated" installation by Paul Cocksedge (via Instagram) at London Design Fair 2019

If you’ve enjoyed this post, take a look at the previous episodes of Biophilic Moodboards as well! We’ve talked about the benefits of risky interiors, the connection between interior design, wellbeing and nature, why it’s a good idea to include water features in interiors and much more!

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