Designing for Health & Well-Being
The last two years have felt like a blur, with work being so busy and all the crazy travel restrictions, I suddenly realized one day just how long it had been since I slowed down and had some fun. So earlier this year I finally took a breath and said “enough!” and took my first trip in two years and headed to Hawaii for a much-needed vacation. My best friend from high school was there to marry her college sweetheart (finally!) There was no way I was going to miss that, but I also decided to take the opportunity for a little downtime on my own after the wedding to reevaluate my life, my work, and my priorities. It’s interesting how much more objective we can be with a little distance from our daily life but also how much more creative and inspired we feel when we have some time just to relax and breathe!
With all this downtime, my thoughts naturally turned to my passion for design and why we strive to make our homes feel beautiful and nurturing, a safe place to shelter from the world but also to connect with those we love, and a place to retreat and renew our spirits. When our homes can do all that for us, I see it as a form of self-care for ourselves and our families.
Early in the pandemic when we were all staring at the walls and wondering what would come next my inbox was flooded with webinars for industry related workshops. Only one really stood out for me. It was called Design Harmony and was all about how and why our brains respond to art, beauty, and elements of nature in our surroundings and how that positively impacts our health and well-being. This intrigued me, so I attended the webinar and was blown away by the concepts and the science that backed up the ideas I have always felt but have never been able to articulate.
Have you ever wondered why you are attracted to natural materials for floors and counters, indoor rooms that transition into outdoor living spaces or large windows that invite beautiful views in? Biophilic design draws on humans’ innate practice of seeking connections to nature. In the modern world, we spend the majority of our time in man-made spaces rather than natural ones, but that doesn’t stop us from trying to bring the outside in. The science behind biophilic design proves we are physically and mentally healthier when our surroundings are not only beautiful but also when they reflect colors, textures, patterns, and other visual cues from the natural world.
Natural analogues are becoming more common in building design, an outstanding example is Apple’s new headquarters in Cupertino. The ring-shaped building sports massive windows, a massive park, and many other biophilic design features that ultimately boost employee productivity and well-being. It turns out these design concepts have been used in commercial design for decades, but it’s only recently that these same concepts are being incorporated in to residential design with intent.
Apple headquarters, Cupertino, CA
In the past, I’ve joked with my clients about how their new draperies, pillows or wall coverings were not a luxury at all but an investment in their happiness. Now, I realize just how much truth there is in that statement. If businesses can use biophilic design to improve productivity and foster healthier, happier employees, shouldn’t we consider doing the same thing in our homes with intentionality?
In my own work, biophilic design is something I had been doing unconsciously, always seeking balance, pleasing shapes and color combinations. But nature itself is quite the impressive designer. When I study the succulents in my yard it’s fascinating to me that what at first glance can appear to be chaos, upon closer inspection is often an organized group of repeating shapes and color combinations. I love how succulents are perfectly imperfect reminding me of textile patterns that repeat over and over with loosely drawn lines. Below is a picture I took of a succulent beside one of the fabric samples from my library. The design draws on the same pleasing principles of repeating colors and patterns in a very natural yet organized manner.
Below is another example. On the left is a photo I took at the Blue Sky Ecological Reserve in Poway a few weeks ago. I love how the flowers are growing wild around the rail fence, it’s a great example of how two things can coexist harmoniously without being confined by the other. The end result appears balanced and companionable. Taking this example into our homes, you can see the same effect on the nightstand in the photo on the right. There is a feeling of balance without being too uniform and a connection between the natural elements of moss spheres and florals to the manufactured objects. The hammered metal on the mirror frame and the grass cloth fronted drawers all tie together with colors and textures from nature to create a pleasing effect.
I love discovering the “why” behind the reasons we are attracted to certain shapes, colors and textures and understanding how beneficial it is to do all we can to support ourselves in our homes through thoughtful design. I would encourage you to look around your own home and identify all the natural elements you have incorporated. Could you add more, or, maybe just consider focusing the flow and use of your rooms to embrace views, light, air flow and other natural elements to capture or enhance the healing power of nature.
If you have been considering a new project for your home, I’d love to help and explore these concepts with you. After all, it’s not a luxury any more, it’s important to your health! 🙂