Biophilic design principles can be applied to a range of building settings from offices and retail to educational and healthcare. However the space that perhaps has most impact on our well-being is our living space whether that is our own home or rented, permanent or temporary. The place where we retreat from the world is somewhere that should restore us and enable us to function at our best.
Last year as part of a BBC DIY SOS television show I had the opportunity to introduce Biophilic principles into the design of a family home in Sunderland, UK. It is home to June Finlay whose family lives have been disrupted due to her developing Clipper disease. Her disability had restricted her to living in an area of the kitchen and my intention was to create opportunities for her to access nature despite her limited mobility within the 10 day time challenge of the programme.
By building an extension we were able to introduce the first Biophilic principle – creating a safe space to retreat into – this became a private bedroom for June. The second principle was maximising the amount of natural light entering the space and this was achieved by incorporating skylights, full length glass doors and a window. These also enabled the third principle – improving views out to nature. Beyond the window I built a shelving system for plant pots to create a vertical garden that can be seen from June’s bed. At the foot of the bed the French doors afford views of a fountain (and the sound of trickling water) and planting around wooden decking on the same level (to improve access), whilst situating the skylight above the bed enables June to see the sky.
The fourth principle – using natural textures, patterns and materials – was considered throughout the internal furnishings. In the bedroom Interface carpeting was used to emulate grass underfoot and wallpaper with motifs of nature lines the walls. In the lounge wooden flooring and panelling has created natural textures and a small office space seems to expand into the forest featured in the large scale digital print that covers the wall. In the remodelled kitchen, wooden cabinets add texture and frame the glass splash back which has been digitally printed with verdant leaves. Woolly Pocket planters were filled with plants and hung on the wall. Whilst a second hand kitchen table was scorched and wire brushed to emphasise the texture of the wood grain.
When June re-entered her home after 10 days there was a lot to take in but the first thing she did was to run her hands across the kitchen table taking in the tactile sensory stimulation as she looked around her new living space. Some months later Junes daughter e mailed me to tell me:
“She (June) loves her bedroom and it gives her a lovely escape and the peace and quiet she needs. The summer is great as we open the doors and let all the natural light and air come in. She loves planting in the garden too. It’s been a huge benefit and I really do agree your biophillic design works”.
Most of us are fortunate enough to be mobile but our health and wellbeing are still affected by our immediate built environments. Research demonstrates that introducing biophilic design elements can reduce stress, blood pressure and heart rates; creating more calming and restorative spaces for us to live in.
Are there Biophilic elements you want to introduce into your home? Have you already done some of these things and what difference do they make to your living space?