I don’t know about you, but we are trying to squeeze in as much outdoor time as possible these crisp, autumnal days. The thought of winter approaching, especially winter during a pandemic, has many of us embracing the outdoors more than ever — with good reason too. Studies have proven nature’s potential to positively impact our wellbeing and mood — and we can all use a boost in those areas right now. A presentation I heard recently drove that point home. It discussed how we can harness the power of nature in design.
Last month, I participated in the two-day Future of Home conference (held virtually this year), which covered a wide range of design-related topics. The segment on Evidence-Based Design, presented by science journalist Emily Anthes, particularly resonated. In a nutshell, the theory behind evidence-based design is that, by drawing on data and research, we can create spaces that achieve desired outcomes — from increased productivity and cognitive memory to reduced stress and anxiety. And according to Anthes, the science points to nature as a powerful tool for achieving those outcomes. Viewing nature, both directly and indirectly, allows our over-active minds to take a restorative break.
Biophilia and Biophilic Design
Biophilia has become a buzzword in design. The term refers to humans’ innate need to experience nature. So it’s no wonder we want to connect our spaces to the natural world. Expanses of glass that invite nature and daylight indoors are one means:
The good news is that you don’t have to have a million-dollar view of forest, mountains or water to reap the restorative rewards. Aquariums and plants, for example, also allow us to incorporate nature within our spaces.
We created a custom saltwater aquarium for one Arlington couple, fulfilling the husband’s long-time dream.
Floor pillows provide comfy perches for soaking up the tranquility of the underwater scene.
House plants are a simple yet effective way to bring nature’s beauty and benefits indoors. We often add one or more to complete our clients’ spaces:
In this Arlington family room, we directed the longer sofa toward the backyard view. We also framed the windows with panels and valances fabricated in an embroidered linen, featuring a large-scale leaf motif. In fact, the entire nature-inspired design, which includes grasscloth-wrapped walls, was sparked by the wife’s love of the outdoors.
Experiencing Nature through Color
Directly experiencing nature through views, aquariums and house plants is great. However, indirect experience with nature –through evocative colors, images and materials — can be beneficial too. It’s clear that the major paint brands looked to nature as they each chose their 2021 Color of the Year.
Benjamin Moore recently announced Aegean Teal (2136-40), a blend of blue-green and gray, as its top choice.The brand credits the hue — which takes its names from the Aegean Sea, of course — for creating “natural harmony.” Here’s what Benjamin Moore’s Director of Color Marketing & Development, Andrea Magno, said in a press release: “Amid uncertainty, people yearn for stability. The colors we surround ourselves with can have a powerful impact on our emotions and wellbeing.”
Sherwin Williams went natural too. Its 2021 Color of the Year is Urbane Bronze (SW 7048):
In part, their announcement reads: “As we’re looking to create the ultimate retreat for reflection and renewal, we’re turning to a hue whose natural simplicity and nature-inspired energy cultivate a sense of calm from the ground up. The trend for biophilia continues to shape our spaces, proving that nature is never far away.”
Experiencing Nature through Imagery
Even viewing photographs of nature can help reduce our stress, according to Anthes. If you want to amp up the power, consider turning your favorite photograph into a wall mural. Rebel Walls makes the custom process easy. They also offer off-the-shelf murals, many of which depict nature scenes.
Perfect for an accent wall, a digital mural is a great way to incorporate nature in design.
Nature-themed artwork can have a calming effect in a space. We hung a grouping of serene paintings over the sofa in our clients’ great room:
If you’ve been following us for a while, you know that natural motifs often find their way into our schemes, by way of wallpaper, fabrics and rugs. While Anthes didn’t specifically address these elements in her evidence-based design talk, we say an extra dose or two of nature can’t hurt!
The Science-Design Connection
If you want to dive even deeper into evidence-based design and biophilic design, check out the book by Emily Anthes, The Great Indoors: The Surprising Science of How Buildings Shape Our Behavior, Health, and Happiness. In short, our spaces impact every aspect of our lives. Incorporating nature in design can affect us in positive ways.
We hope you can use the ideas in this post to realize the proven restorative properties of nature in your home. Enjoy a few nature hikes, bike rides and/or socially distanced outdoor gatherings with friends while the weather is still mild. I am busy planning a backyard baby shower for our daughter. (Yes, a second grandchild is on the way!) Fingers crossed the weather cooperates.