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biophilic moodboards: creating unexpected stimuli in interiors

in biophilic moodboards

Being immersed in nature is a rich experience that involves all senses. In particular, every natural environment is full of sounds, movements and smells. Many of them are not predictable and just happen. Think of birds chirping or branches swinging in the wind.

In biophilic design terms, these unexpected movements, sounds and smells are called non-rhythmic sensory stimuli.

Non-rhythmic – because they don’t follow a predictable pattern. Sensory – because they involve our senses. And stimuli – because they attract our attention, diverting it from whatever it was concentrated on.

In this episode of Biophilic Moodboards, we’re looking into non-rhythmic sensory stimuli and their application to interior design.

Biophilic design moodboard explaining unexpected stimuli in interiors: 1. Curtains moving in the wind.. 2. Landscape with grass swinging. 3. Shadows casting on a table.
Credits (from top left): Patrick Ponseele, Bas van den Eijkhof, Block 722. Moodboard: anooi studio

unexpected stimuli and wellbeing

Unexpected sensory experiences like those happening in nature act as a restorative break for the mind. They distract it for a moment, helping it get back to whatever it was doing more focused than before. These positive distractions are therefore ideal for offices or spaces where people concentrate.

In nature, these unexpected changes are also clear signs that the environment is alive. Bringing them indoors will then give life to the space, making it more interesting, compelling, and ultimately healthier.

Let’s review some ways to reproduce unexpected sensory stimuli in designed spaces…

View into a home from the outside, with plants swinging and interesting light reflections.
Credit: Teke Architects – Photo by Yercekim Architectural Photography

outdoor views

Sensory experiences naturally happen outdoors and can easily become part of indoor life by means of outdoor views.

All natural views provide stimulating elements. A view of the sky will draw the eye to clouds moving and birds chirping while passing by. A view of greenery will show branches and leaves moving in the wind. Also, plants attract wildlife, which will bring more unexpected movements and sounds - in a word, life.

Home office in front of a fully glazed facade.
Credit: Nicolas Schuybroek Architects – Ph: Claessens & Deschamps

the 4 elements

Incorporating the 4 elements in interiors creates spaces that feel alive and connected to the natural world. Think about a curtain that swings in the wind, a bubbling water feature, a crackling fire…

Outdoor space with a lively water feature.
Credit: Depth of Field


Light and water can also create unexpected stimuli through reflections. Light and shadow plays are not static. They vary during the day and with seasons, strengthening the interior’s connection with natural systems.

The same is true for water reflections. When a water feature reflects on a surface it creates movements and sounds that will fill the space with life.

Sunlight reflection on a patio table.
Credit: Block 722
Water pond reflecting on the wall.
Credit: Sordo Madaleno Arquitectos - Ph: Miguel Angel Acevedo

All in all, unexpected sensory stimuli create engaging environments. They add life and make spaces restorative for body and mind, transforming the time spent in designed spaces into a wellbeing-centered experience.

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