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biophilic moodboards: the benefits of "risky" interiors

in biophilic moodboards

The third category of biophilic design patterns – Nature of the Space – aims at recreating the layout of natural landscapes indoors.

It is no surprise that nature is filled with risky situations and environments, but can we say they bring positive feelings? And even so, how does this fit in interior design?

Actually risk design features are among the most Instagrammable and sit on top of our Pinterest boards. The question is: why is it so?

This is what we’ll explore in this month’s episode of Biophilic Moodboards. So let’s dive into the fascinating relationship between risk and interior design.

Moodboard showing the concept of risk in biophilic design. 1. A floating staircase 2. A seemingly unstable stone on top of a cantilevered pillar 3. A bed with glass legs.
Credits (from top left): The DMD Group, Spasm Design - Photo by Photographix, Lago. Moodboard: anooi studio

risk & biophilic design

In order to fully support our wellbeing, interiors need to be relaxing or stimulating according to the situation. If a bedroom calls for a soothing ambiance, a stimulating environment will be much more appropriate when creativity is required (like in office design) or just to create a compelling interior.

This is exactly where risk features come into play, as they help to make an atmosphere intriguing and inspiring. But not just any type of risk will work…

how does risk benefit our wellbeing?

Risk is a broad concept and what is in scope for biophilic design is a balanced combination of perceived risk and a rational knowledge of safety. In practice, this refers to situations that seem risky while being practically safe.

Such feelings of apparent risk have been connected with dopamine release in our brain *. And a short dose of dopamine can stimulate motivation, memory and problem solving, all precious assets when trying to be creative!

On top of this, risk design features are among the most spectacular ones. They leave people surprised and amazed, achieving what we would commonly call a wow factor. And this sense of excitement is also key to make an interior engaging!

A terraced infinity pool that seems to go right into the forest.
Credit: Hanging Gardens of Bali (via Instagram)

risk in interior design

There exist several ways of introducing risk in interiors. Essentially, it all boils down to playing with shapes, materials and perspectives to create the perception of risk while keeping everything safe.

One widely-used risk feature is an infinity pool. Despite being practically safe, infinity pools do cause a little shiver at first! Similarly, pools with a glass bottom are also very effective in conveying a perception of risk.

A terraced infinity pool that seems to go right into the forest with a woman on the edge.
Credit: Hanging Gardens of Bali (via Instagram)
Pool with a glass bottom located over a seating area.
Credit: Wiel Arets Architects

More in general, clear glass is a good choice when creating a risk feature. Glass makes things visually disappear creating a sense of perceived risk while still being structurally sound. Examples go from a glass staircase banister to glass floors and furniture legs. Full-height windows are also a favourite feature in biophilic design. Besides creating a sense of risk (especially when located on higher floors), they break the box and connect the interior with the outdoor space in a seamless way.

A corridor with clear glass flooring.
Credit: Leicht USA (via Houzz)
A bed with clear glass legs.
Credit: Lago
Dining table with clear glass legs and solid wood top.
Credit: Lago (via Instagram)

Suspended elements are also an idea to add an element of risk in interiors as they give a sensation of instability.

Hammock flooring.
Credit: Austin Maynard Architects
A floating staircase with a thin and risky-looking thread working as railing.
Credit: DMD

Other seemingly unstable examples are cantilevered features like floating mezzanines, staircases or even entire rooms!

Home with cantilevered dining room.
Credit: Splyce Design (via Houzz). Photo by Ivan Hunter.
Exterior cantilever pillar feature supporting a huge rock that seems teetering.
Credit: Spasm Design. Photo by Photographix.
A floating staircase with no railing.
Credit: Sawamura Masahiko (via Instagram)

playing safe with risk

Risk features are clearly not suitable for all situations nor for everybody. But there is one instance of risk that is less extreme yet equally effective: the risk of getting wet.

A good example of it would be a floating pathway across a water pond.

A floating pathway across a water pond.
Credit: Iván Andrés Quizhp (via ArchDaily). Photo by Sebastián Crespo.

Or also, would you say that falling right into the water from a hammock is enough of a risk? Well, the answer is going to be highly personal. But for sure I would not complain if I had a similar feature in my home!

Hammock hanging over a pool.
Credit: Enrique Cabrera (via Archilovers). Photo by Tamara Uribe.

Risk features are one way of imitating natural layouts. Together with prospect, refuge and mystery, they can transform a space from uninteresting to highly stimulating and engaging!

* Sources

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