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biophilic moodboards: fractals in interiors

in biophilic moodboards

A biophilic approach to design advocates for rich spaces that incorporate – among the rest – natural textures, shapes and patterns.

This includes taking inspiration from fractals in nature. But what are fractals?
Fractals are patterns that originate by indefinitely repeating one single shape in different sizes (which is why they’re said to be self-repeating patterns). Examples of fractals in nature are everywhere: from leaf veins and pinecones, to tree branches that split into smaller ones, to snowflakes and shells.

In this episode of Biophilic Moodboards, we’ll explore how fractals apply to interior design…

Biophilic design moodboard showing examples of fractals in nature and interiors: 1. A wallpaper representing the fractal pattern of branches. 2. The veining of a leaf. 3. A spiral staircase.
Credits (from top left): Glamora, Evie S., Wheeler Kearns Architects. Moodboard: anooi studio

fractals and wellbeing

The reason why fractals are so fascinating is that they are both complex and simple; they give a sense of order and mesmerize at the same time because one cannot find a beginning or an end.

Even more, studies * have highlighted that the ordered complexity of fractals in nature has the power to reduce stress. Avoiding any mathematical detail, it turns out that the proportion between the parts of a fractal is also at the base of human sight. When looking at complex images, our pupils scan the big picture first and then concentrate on increasingly smaller details. And these details are not randomly smaller, they follow a fractal ratio. Since they match the way our sense of sight works, fractals don’t strain the eyes, giving an overall sense of relaxation.

Fractals can be tricky though: when they’re too busy (namely high-dimensional), they have been shown to be overwhelming and stressful. So moderation is a key factor whenever working with fractals.

Bedroom with a wallpaper reproducing the natural fractal of branches with leaves, that drape from the top.
Credit: Glamora

natural fractals in interiors

Fractals are ultimately the repetition of one single shape. And repetition has always been used in interior design to give order to spaces and lead the eye in a certain direction.

The texture of natural materials is often fractal – think about wood graining. Incorporating those materials in interiors will then automatically carry a fractal feature as well, and this will be even more true if they’re kept close to their original state. In the case of wood, this means embracing the graining instead of covering or avoiding it.

Black and white interior with a wooden staircase with marked wood graining.
Credit: OB Architecture (via Houzz) – Ph: Martin Gardner

reproducing natural fractals

Reproducing natural textures, shapes and patterns (including fractals) is another biophilic design solution.

Such natural analogues strategy can guide the design of fractal shapes and patterns, bringing nature’s fractal forms across architectural shapes, finishes, accessories and more…

Wall lamp reproducing natural fractals.
Credit: Mitya Markov
Wallpaper reproducing leaf veins.
Credit: Now Edizioni

Fractals are one more way of adding detail and complexity (in a positive sense), making the spaces we design more engaging and more connected to the natural world we all come from.

* Sources

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