How to bring na­ture in­doors

Dec­o­ra­tors of­fer tips for bio­philic de­sign

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - REAL ESTATE - By Kim Cook

The term “bio­philia,” an affin­ity for the liv­ing world, was coined back in the 1980s by Amer­i­can bi­ol­o­gist and au­thor E.O. Wil­son. We have an in­stinc­tive drive to con­nect with na­ture, he said, and the more we con­nect, the hap­pier we are. That’s why a walk in the woods can feel so good, or a sit on a quiet beach.

In our homes, we might try to bring the out­side in with a pot­ted tree, some herbs on the win­dow sill, per­haps flo­ral wall­pa­per or land­scape art.

Some other cre­ative ideas from in­no­va­tive de­sign­ers to­day:

“When I first started read­ing about bio­philic de­sign and how we needed to be flood­ing our homes with gor­geous nat­u­ral views, day­light and plants I thought, ‘Well that’s dandy, but how about peo­ple in homes and work spa­ces that just don’t have ac­cess to these things?’ ” says Phoebe

Ol­drey, who runs Smart Style In­te­ri­ors in Tunbridge Wells, Eng­land.

“How do I, as an in­te­rior de­signer, give them the ben­e­fits of bio­philic de­sign? The an­swer came in the choice of ma­te­ri­als we use in our de­signs, and nat­u­ral ma­te­ri­als is the way to go.”

In one home, she de­signed float­ing maple cab­i­netry in­laid with a pat­tern of swal­lows in flight. In a din­ing/ kitchen space with doors open­ing onto a leafy out­door area, she placed a large light fix­ture com­posed of col­or­ful glass bub­bles; it’s as though a clus­ter of er­rant bal­loons drifted in from the back­yard. And in a week­end cot­tage, she placed a ceil­ing fix­ture made of wo­ven sticks over the bed, evok­ing a cozy bird’s nest.

Light­ing is a great way to bring a bio­philic el­e­ment into a room.

If you like the idea of that stick fix­ture, check out Ser­ena & Lily’s Vero pen­dant made of wispy wo­ven rat­tan twigs. All Mod­ern has the Or­ganique chan­de­lier, a freeform ‘nest’ of rubbed bronze. Ar­te­ri­ors Home has the Tilda fix­ture made of white­washed wood sticks, and the Wi­chita floor lamp crafted of downed teak tree trunks.

Brook­lyn’s Nea Stu­dio has found a for­mula for treat­ing green marine al­gae so it be­comes firm yet mal­leable. De­signer Nina Ed­wards

Anker hand­crafts the al­gae into light shades that cast a warm glow. Anker has also cre­ated a so­lar chan­de­lier made from shells and pho­to­voltaic mod­ules; hang the fix­ture in a win­dow and it be­comes a so­lar clock, turn­ing on at dusk. Pass­ing breezes make it a wind chime, too.

New tech­nolo­gies are giv­ing us light­ing that’s more re­flec­tive of out­door light. Ke­tra of­fers an LED sys­tem that can be tuned so the room light­ing moves from warm can­dle­light to a win­try Arc­tic sky. Nanoleaf ’s light pan­els in­ter­lock; af­fix them to a wall, then op­er­ate them re­motely to cy­cle through ar­rays like “sun­rise” and “North­ern


If you’re ren­o­vat­ing or build­ing, think about adding cutouts be­yond the tra­di­tional win­dows and slid­ing doors — hor­i­zon­tal light­ing like sky­lights, for in­stance.

Bo Sundius of Bunch De­sign in Los An­ge­les says the firm al­ways thinks about how sun and light mov­ing across rooms can be used to con­nect in­te­ri­ors to the out­doors.

In one con­verted garage pro­ject, long clerestory win­dows were placed high on the walls of a small liv­ing room. Af­ter­noon light streams through a west-fac­ing sky­light, and a stepped ceil­ing cre­ates more in­ter­est­ing light plays. “The house sits in the mid­dle of a dense res­i­den­tial neigh­bor­hood,” says Sundius, “yet it feels airy and open.”

This fall, Far­row & Ball de­buted Colour by Na­ture, a col­lec­tion done in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Lon­don’s Nat­u­ral His­tory Mu­seum. Rare books, in­clud­ing an early color guide used by Charles Dar­win, provided in­spi­ra­tion. There’s an orange-tinged white in­spired by the breast feath­ers of an owl; a green evinces the emer­ald hue of a mal­lard’s neck.

Behr Paint’s 2020 color of the year is a sooth­ing green called Back to Na­ture; com­ple­men­tary col­ors in­clude Light Driz­zle, Se­cret Meadow, Drag­on­fly and Blue­bird.

Mu­rals can show­case na­ture dra­mat­i­cally; they work well in fam­ily rooms, hall­ways or bed­rooms. For some­thing un­usual, con­sider Fla­vor Pa­per’s Saguaro Ses­sions col­lec­tion. The stu­dio’s founder, Jon Sher­man, and pho­tog­ra­pher Boone Speed were in­spired by a trip to Saguaro Na­tional Park to make wall­pa­pers that show­case macro pho­tog­ra­phy of gem­stones and min­er­als, with the crys­talline struc­tures cre­at­ing unique pat­terns in ex­treme close-up.

Roche Bobois’ Bois Par­adis col­lec­tion from Mai­son Lacroix fea­tures wood cab­i­nets and screens, and up­hol­stered seat­ing, printed with a wood­land scene. On the case­goods and ta­bles, the pat­tern is in sil­hou­ette, giv­ing them an air of mys­tery.

Bed­ding maker Buffy of­fers the Breeze com­forter made of sus­tain­able eu­ca­lyp­tus, and stitched with a wave and wind pat­tern in­spired by the rolling hills of artist Maya Lin’s Storm King

Wave­field in Orange County, New York.

Buffy’s also in­tro­duced a col­lec­tion of nat­u­rally dyed sheets, with dye ex­perts Maria Elena Pombo and Kathy Hat­tori. They’ve used botan­i­cals like wal­nut, gar­de­nia, turmeric and pome­gran­ate to gen­tly color the tex­tiles.

Mi­ami-based de­sign house Plant the Fu­ture is known for bio­philic in­stal­la­tions like “liv­ing” plant mu­rals on build­ing ex­te­ri­ors. They also clad the walls of a Florida client’s din­ing room in a blan­ket of soft green moss, and cre­ated a 3-D mu­ral out of mush­rooms for a client in Spain. They sell pre­served moss cir­cles and hearts to hang on the wall, moss let­ters, and a lush, cur­sive “I love you.”

And to bring the out­doors in via scent, Other­land has soy­based can­dles with scents of smoke, wood fires, grass and desert sand.


A con­verted garage pro­ject by Bunch De­sign in Los An­ge­les where long clerestory win­dows were placed high on the walls of a liv­ing room. Af­ter­noon sun streams through a sky­light, and a stepped ceil­ing cre­ates more in­ter­est­ing light plays.


One of the pieces from Roche Bobois’ Bois Par­adis col­lec­tion from Mai­son Lacroix fea­tures a wood­land scene in sil­hou­ette, giv­ing it a won­der­ful air of mys­tery.


Deep Red­dish Brown and Crim­son Red col­ors by Far­row & Ball de­buted this fall in Colour by Na­ture, a col­lec­tion cre­ated in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Lon­don’s Nat­u­ral His­tory Mu­seum.


Other­land has sev­eral evoca­tive soy-based with scents of smoke, wood fires, grass and desert sand.

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