Welcome to our first Homes Magazine style review. This segment is an opportunity to provide an overview of a key style or aesthetic to inspire you and your home. Designing your home is all about finding the balance between being inspired by the work of others, and applying your own twist, and this segment issue by issue will give you a broad overview of a myriad of styles, to see which can suit you best. 

These segments focus on a broader definition of what a style is, its history, and the concepts behind it so that you can investigate further to see if it matches the aesthetic you’re pursuing for your home. 

What is it?

Biophilic design is a design concept that aims to bring people back into touch with their roots, often literally. The aim of Biophilic design is to intertwine our built environment with the natural world, something I think many of us can agree is becoming harder and harder in today’s world. In our broader society, we are pushed the other way, away from the natural world that has supported us for so long and towards a world of our own making, of countless screens, AI programs and self-driving cars. The magics of technology are too many to count, and while in many cases these progressions make our lives easier, make us more efficient and help us rather than hinder, it’s not the environment we have evolved to thrive in. 

The term Biophilia was first coined in 1973, by a psychoanalyst by the name of Erich Fromm. The term was defined as “passionate love of life and all that is alive… whether in a person, a plant, an idea, or a social group.”
Over the years this concept has been adapted and refined into the aesthetic we can see today. 

Biophilic design is all about blurring the line between the natural world and the built environment around us, and while the initial definition might sound like something you’d read on a flyer for a stall in Glastonbury, many of us already engage in Biophilic design without realizing. House plants, Christmas trees, even the need many of us feel to have a healthy and vibrant garden to accompany our homes, these are all ways for us to reconnect with nature, which is what Biophilia’s all about. 

Notable examples/designers

Although Biophilic design as a term was coined in recent history, as a concept we can see examples of Biophilic design reaching far back throughout the ages. Perhaps the oldest, and definitely the most famous example, was one of the wonders of the ancient world- the Hanging Gardens of Bablyon. 

The Hanging Gardens were said to be a construct of unimaginable beauty, a tiered system of gardens bustling with life that ascended high into the skies of Babylon, resembling a living, breathing mountain. Although debate has raged over whether the gardens were a physical construct, or a poetic one that was so revered it has leaked from the pages of fantasy into real historical records, they are a clear example that even in ancient times, as manmade structures progressed, we could never fully be separated from our natural surroundings. The earliest mention of the Gardens can be found in writing dated back to 290 BC, which was a description from a Babylonian priest that reads as follows: 

“In this palace he erected very high walls, supported by stone pillars; and by planting what was called a pensile paradise, and replenishing it with all sorts of trees, he rendered the prospect an exact resemblance of a mountainous country. This he did to gratify his queen, because she had been brought up in Media, and was fond of a mountainous situation.”

Although the Gardens of Babylon is a concept that seems to belong to a world separate from our own, the concept of intertwining nature and our manmade constructs has followed us to the modern day. Considered by many as one of the pioneers of Biophilic design, Stephen Kellert was an author and professor of environmental studies who worked extensively on defining Biophilia, and the benefits it can bring. He defined the framework that for many defines Biophilic design, and by principle aims to celebrate and show respect for nature, as well as providing an enriching environment for any potential residents. 

His principles addressed eight key factors of Biophilia, which can be incorporated into our living environment:

Light: Skylights, glass, atriums

Air: Free flowing air/ventilation

Water: Views of natural water, fountains, aquariums, 

Plants: Green roofs, house plants, gardens

Animals: pets, bird feeders, wild gardens

Weather: Observed through windows, simulated through man made means

Natural landscapes: Vivariums, gardens

Fire: Fireplaces, simulated through warm lighting and heating

How you can use Biophilic design

Many of us are already engaging in aspects of Biophilic design without realising, a testament to the comfort and wellbeing it can bring. Seasonal decorations like wreathes and Christmas trees are a prime example, as well as examples we see all year round such as house plants and natural lighting. 

If you want to make your home feel more natural, think about incorporating other elements of nature beyond greenery – rocks or crystals around the home as decoration, bodies of water in the garden, warm fireplaces. Involving multiple elements of nature in your home will create a more immersive experience, and foster synchronicity between the Biophilic elements being used. 

We spoke to design experts White Dahlia Design, who gave advice on the best materials that can be used in a biophilic approach to interior design: 

“Think about layering. Incorporate a variety of fabrics and textures for a more sophisticated and polished appearance. Don’t hesitate to mix patterns like stripes and plaids with solid colours or combine various textures like faux fur, cotton, wicker, and velvet. Natural finishes such as stone and wood are always a great addition as well. Always dress up seating areas with blankets, area rugs, pillows, and decor to create a welcoming and cozy atmosphere.”

Although as with any aesthetic, it might not be for everyone, the benefits of being surrounded by nature and embracing the natural world are well documented. The calming effect of natural surroundings is something we can all benefit from on a day-to-day basis. For anyone looking for not only a stylish, original aesthetic with lots of room to be creative, but also one that promotes mindfulness and will help you to unwind, Biophilia is the style for you.