biophilic moodboards: designing interiors for all 5 senses
in biophilic moodboards
Designing spaces that engage all 5 senses lies at the heart of biophilic design.
Sensory spaces are more interesting, they feel better, and can contribute to bringing people closer to the natural world.
In the jargon, this is called “non-visual connection with nature” and we’re exploring it in this episode of Biophilic Moodboards.
biophilic design and the 5 senses
Interior design is often associated with “how things look”. In fact, sight is the first sense we humans use to navigate a space, but this doesn’t mean the other senses should be considered irrelevant.
It’s the 5 senses together that define how people feel in a space. An uncomfortable seat, a disturbing noise, a bad odour…these are all examples of non-visual clues that affect the perception of a space. On the flip side, a thoughtful design that incorporates positive non-visual elements will create a rich and positively engaging experience…
Touch is the most ancestral sense and the first humans develop. As kids, we touch everything to discover and understand the world around us. Even as adults we touch things all the time, but we tend to give less relevance to what we feel.
Rich natural textures (or their reproductions) can create a deep tactile experience, one that will make people stop and consciously appreciate the experience of touch. Other biophilic features such as greenery and water can also become tactile features if they’re designed to be touched instead of just looked at.
The impact of sounds on human wellbeing is immense, and studies have shown that exposure to nature’s sounds is able to reduce stress and help concentration. *
In interior design, the surroundings largely dictate the soundscape of a space. Yet, nature sounds can be introduced indoors by means of flowing water, a crackling fire, or even recordings of natural sounds.
Paying attention to the natural sounds that occur around us and enjoying them is also something we can train ourselves to do. For instance, rain and wind are something we experience no matter where we live. But how often do we stop and listen to the sound of rain or the whisper of wind?
Smells have the incredible power of bringing back memories of the past. They can be relaxing or energizing and studies have even shown that certain natural smells facilitate healing processes. *
From a wellbeing perspective, it’s preferable to choose naturally occurring scents, like fragrant plants and flowers. This has to do with the VOCs (volatile organic compounds) released by candles, incense, deodorizing sprays etc., which might accumulate in the air.
How does the sense of taste fit into interior design? Taste is the fundamental sense when it comes to eating and drinking, so it naturally belongs to the kitchen and dining area.
Taste goes hand-in-hand with smell and sight (think about how many times seeing or smelling inviting food is enough to get your mouth watering).
This connection makes it easier to indirectly involve taste in the design of a biophilic interior. Growing a herb garden in the kitchen is an example, that will provide fresh cooking ingredients as a plus.
Interiors that stimulate the 5 senses feel naturally more interesting and engaging, inviting people to experience the space at a deeper level.
- Alvarsson J., Wiens S. & Nilsson M. (2010). Stress Recovery during Exposure to Nature Sound and Environmental Noise. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 7 (3), 1036-1046.
- Jahncke H., Hygge S., Halin N., Green A.M. & Dimberg K. (2011). Open-Plan Office Noise: Cognitive Performance and Restoration. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 31, 373-382.
- Kim J.T., Ren C.J., Fielding G.A., Pitti A., Kasumi T., Wajda M., Lebovits A. & Bekker A. (2007). Treatment with Lavender Aromatherapy in the Post-Anesthesia Care Unit Reduces Opioid Requirements of Morbidly Obese Patients Undergoing Laparoscopic Adjustable Gastric Banding. Obesity Surgery, 17 (7), 920-925.
- The 14 Patterns of Biophilic Design is a framework conceptualized by Terrapin Bright Green