Modernism and Its Embracing of Biophilic Design in Home Decor


Getting back to nature doesn't mean you have to build a cabin in the woods. You can enjoy a modernistic home and take advantage of the benefits of biophilic design. It's an approach that favors buildings with lots of natural light, an easy flow between indoors and out, and innovations such as green walls and vertical gardens.

What is Biophilic Design?

Modernism and Its Embracing of Biophilic Design in Home Decor

Most popular in modern office buildings, biophilic is a way to bring the outdoors inside. It embraces the modern understanding that 90% of our habitat is the built environment. But throughout human history, we evolved in response to the natural world. 

"What's needed," says Yale University's Stephen Kellert, one of the chief proponents of the design style, "is a response that brings more of the natural into our daily experience. The result is more than aesthetically pleasing." It can increase well-being, health, and efficiency.

Biophilic Materials

Modernism and Its Embracing of Biophilic Design in Home Decor

Corallo House by Alejandro Paz

It begins with materials. Natural wood is best, with natural stone another good option, particularly for bathrooms and kitchens. But biophilic design also embraces man-made materials such as old bricks and antiques that show the tarnish of time.

The emphasis on natural materials extends to decor. You want to use colors that are soothing, reflective of the earth or the sea. Furniture should echo the curves of naturalist forms, so the best accessories are things like fine shells or beautiful stones. You also want to appeal to our sense of touch by choosing natural fibers. Framed images of nature or wallpaper with natural designs provide an indirect experience of the great outdoors. 

Window to the World

Modernism and Its Embracing of Biophilic Design in Home Decor

Silvertop Residence by John Lautner and Bestor Architecture

Glass, the most contemporary of construction materials, plays a critical role in creating a biophilic environment. Big windows are best — and the more, the better. No matter how many windows or glass doors are possible, maximize natural lighting by using fewer drapes and blinds.

Windows that open are of course best - to let in the breeze and the scents of the outdoors.

Liven Things Up

Modernism and Its Embracing of Biophilic Design in Home Decor

Where there's glass, there's light and a world beyond the windowpane. Connect the built and natural environment with greenery. Plants belong in every room of a biophilic structure. Even dark spots can benefit from a plant suited to thrive in minimal light. House plants green the air, too, with the oxygen they release and by absorbing indoor air pollutants.

Plants can maximize the views in two ways. Great greenery outside critical windows is fabulous. But you can also up the natural feel inside a house by placing a plant in front of a window with a less than optimal view.

Grow Up

Modernism and Its Embracing of Biophilic Design in Home Decor

Few plantings are as effective as a vertical garden. As the name implies, this contemporary take on container planting creates rows that go up, rather than extend horizontally. Indoor vertical gardens are a wonder, turning a blank wall into a space of living beauty. But vertical gardens for your balcony or deck - that's where these plantings can reach their full potential in a small space such as an apartment. 

Constructed outdoor spaces were invented to provide an easy connection to the natural world. Vertical gardens can take this experience to another level by turning a platform into a green oasis. The gardens can be as simple as a few containers trained on a railing with baskets hanging above or as complex as a planting wall built expressly for that purpose. They can be planted with fruits and vegetables or simply to delight the eye with flowers and greenery.

Besides being beautiful, a vertical planting can solve design challenges. A living wall of green can create a screen between neighbors or from an unsightly view. It can provide a windbreak or a leafy filter for the sun. The key is to create space that allows people to enjoy the outdoors without having to work at it. Modernist/biophilic gardening values ease over effort without sacrificing pleasure and beauty. 

Erin Langford is a home stager and landscape design writer. She loves entertaining and playing in her backyard, but she hates yard work. She recently expanded her patio and living room into one seamless area. 

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