Incorporating nature into your home

Melissa Stewart

CNA LUXURY – In the wake of a global pandemic, architecture and interior design have been permanently changed. Having been cooped up at home for several months on end, homeowners now have a renewed perspective on how they want their homes to look like.

Biophilic design – the practice of creating living environments that incorporate natural elements, including fresh air, natural light, plants and water features – is trending among homeowners these days. This design philosophy is based on the idea that humans derive positive health benefits from being in nature.

The term ‘biophilia’ was first popularised in the 1980s by biologist Edward O Wilson. In his book, Wilson proposed that humans have an innate love for nature – we were born into nature, thus it’s in our DNA to seek connections with various forms of life. But in today’s fast-paced world, we are losing our connection to the natural world. Biophilic design is a way to solve this disconnect, helping us thrive even in urban environments.

According to several design experts in Singapore that CNA Luxury spoke with, the recent popularity of biophilic design has been fuelled by the rise of troubling global issues.

“The rise in the yearning for a connection with nature may be a reflection of a deep-seated, and often subconscious, concern we have to the increasingly unstable and unpredictable social, cultural, and political climate we live in. It is especially so this year, living through numerous global social unrests and a global pandemic,” explained Park Associates Director Christina Thean.

Despite living in an urban city like Singapore, biophilic design can be incorporated into our homes in simple and subtle ways. As Archetype Studio founder Darren Yio expressed, “The natural environment is everywhere around us; it is a matter of us letting it in. Once we open ourselves to invite nature in, biophilic design will be easily present in our homes.”

The easiest way to incorporate biophilic design in the home is to start by introducing greenery into indoor spaces. Houseplants not only provide visual appeal, they also bring with them purifying health benefits.

“Look for areas in the house where there is natural lighting, such as a balcony, air well or skylight. The easiest way to introduce greenery in these spaces is by paying a visit to the local nursery and bringing home some potted plants,” advised Designworx Interior Consultant Design Director Terri Tan.

Such features, however, should be placed at the most frequented areas in the home, so that “connection with these features will be constant and enchanting throughout the day”, said Archetype Studio’s Yio.

If you’re fortunate enough to have your home facing sprawling views of nature, you might want to make the most of these views by changing the orientation of your rooms.

“Rearrange your dining and living areas to face a window, instead of a TV or computer,” shared WOW Architects Design Director Maria Warner Wong.

Don’t forget to open your windows often and let fresh air in. By opening the windows, you’ll also be more attuned to weather and light changes. As humans, we are naturally visual creatures. But this means that we tend to neglect our other senses. A useful tip to keep in mind is that beyond sight, biophilic design can be experienced through a variety of human senses.

“We should think about incorporating biophilic design in a holistic and sustained manner,” reminded Park Associate’s Thean. “Insertion of an indoor plant here and there helps with our wellbeing, but its effect would be transient.”

Instead, take things a step further and incorporate often neglected design elements that stimulate our other senses of sound, touch, smell and taste.

When choosing houseplants, pick those with fragrances that help with stress relief. While biophilic interiors are designed to help us reconnect with nature, beyond design, certain lifestyle changes will also help us feel more connected to nature within the four walls of our homes.

“Biophilia is not a style, a look or a fashion trend that can be achieved with botanical illustrations wallpapered onto a wall, it is a state of mind whose benefits include relaxation and calming effects, reduction of stress and a sense of wellbeing,” Wong believes.

“Grow some herbs, such as lemongrass or pandan, and brew them into your tea, or incorporate them into your desserts. Each time you eat at home, try to eat natural foods and take time to think about and appreciate their cultivation. Avoid processed and synthetic foods,” she advised.

“At a time like this, when we feel helpless to solve many of the great problems of the world, and feel deep concern for our planet, it really helps to connect with a small bit of nature and realise that we are part of a natural continuum. We are all natural beings and our love of the world and each other are one and the same.”