How to bring the healing qualities of nature into the home

After a difficult year of lockdown restrictions, it is reported that isolation, uncertainty and anxiety have escalated to critical levels, and now more than ever with more and more people working and living at home Kayleigh Jordan, interior specialist at Photo Frames and Art, explains how we can utilise the theme of nature to invite its healing qualities into the home through biophilic interior design.

For the last year, a leisurely walk into woodlands or a glacially paced stroll into vast, open fields has been something of a saviour. And local parks and greenery have, for many, offered a similar respite from stress born of pandemic constraints and uncertainty.

The curing and restorative virtues of nature are formidable. Those of us who have absorbed lush pink cherry blossoms or wandered idly through meadows awash with daffodils grasp at once these healing qualities.

But, when the weather will not permit us to go outdoors, or when we are not fortunate enough to do so, how can we still wield the restorative power of nature?

During this tumultuous period, I have become ever fonder of interior design inspired by the natural world. Through biophilia decor techniques, my time indoors is becoming as equally pleasing and beneficial as time spent outside, introducing décor such as natural photo frames and leafy green prints throughout the home.

What is biophilic design?

For those unaware of the term, it means, in short, integrating the natural world into our homes, and accumulating, room-by-room, natures gifts of mental equanimity.

The most important space we occupy are the rooms in which we mostly spend our lives – the home. Research from the US suggests we spend around 93% of our lives indoors. The health of our minds is the filter through which we experience these mostly indoor lives.

Biophilic design is an attempt to align the home and a healthy mind. To do so, it encourages us to perpetually connect with nature, through art, design and décor that uses or reflects elements of nature.

What are some simple biophilic design ideas?

I think it’s practical to consider biophilic design as an element to integrate into the home, rather than an absolute aesthetic.

Doing this will allow you to benefit quickly from introducing a few simple modifications and additions. Happily, you do not require elaborate glass ceilings or picture-postcard views of the Cotswolds.

One of the theories as to why nature provides mental relief is its flourishing of greens. This colour is cited for its deep psychological evocation of calm, excitement, energy and optimism.

And that, after a year of increased mental health difficulties, is a welcome remedy – and reminds us why nature is this year’s Mental Health Week theme.

Dedicating a room, ideally one with plenty of natural light, to this colour is my favourite way of introducing biophilia into the home. Think of this room as Shangri-la within your living space.

Start with clean, green painted walls augmented with Cascade and Parlour Palms and replace curtains with sheer roller blinds – I’ve found that this allows you to gaze, even when the light is harsh and the blinds need to be at half-mast. Watching the silhouettes of cumulus slowly sail by behind a sheer roller blind has become, for me, a cherished meditative moment.

You might also consider a ‘green wall’. By this, I do not mean a living plant wall – although they are welcome into any biophilic inspired room, they may not be practical or timely for our purposes.

Instead, use photo frames made from a natural material to encase items gathered from walks – dried flowers and leaves, for example – or inspiring photography and art of the natural world.

Finally, sounds of nature possess an often unacknowledged and under-used power to enhance interior spaces. Allow only natural sounds to fill the room, and where this is not beneficial, I recommend utilising technology for the artificial sounds of gently running water or birdsong.

These are simple changes that, after a year of complications, and in a critical period for many, can help lead us – and our minds – to a serener, calmer future.

How does biophilic design help mental health?

The scientific consensus is that the natural world emits tangible but incomprehensible benefits to the beholder.

A recent and intriguing report from Deakin University stated that even incidental contact with nature, such as glimpsing a garden from a kitchen window, can nurse and maintain good mental health.

Biophilic interior design is directly linked to a distinct reduction in stress and anxiety, particularly in recovery from the impact of those mental health conditions.

And improved mood, energy and cognitive functions are regularly cited and linked to the biophilia philosophy.

The question we cannot answer is why. It is perhaps worth reiterating here the central idea proposed by Wilson in his Biophilia: the desire for humans to connect with nature is innate and genetic.

Given that we now spend only around 7% of our lives outdoors, a figure diminished by lockdown restrictions, it is perhaps inevitable that some of us – as your Instagram feed will no doubt confirm – are increasingly taken by biophilic interior design, driven by this inherent longing.