Biophilic Materials for Interior Design: How to get it right

| Martina Pardo | Sustainability and Well-Being

Biophilic is the new frontier of interior design and it is a step forward compared to sustainability which is what our planet is asking to preserve the environment and stop climate change. I say it’s a step forward because, as we discussed previously in our Introduction to Biophilic Design, it has several proven beneficial effects on our mental health, wellbeing, and even daily performance for different tasks, whether it’s professional or personal.

While we talked about its basic principles and different methods of integration, this time I’d like to expand on our previous article by going a little bit deeper into it. Specifically, talking about materials simple to integrate and that you should definitely consider when designing a biophilic interior.

But first a premise to give us the right direction.

A Premise

We integrate nature in any space we live in, outdoors, and now more and more often, indoors too. However, some, such as natural parks or gardens, are characterised by strong biodiversity and can support long-term life. Others do not. Closely-controlled environments like golf courses, or private lawns, despite integrating nature, are not biodiverse nor sustainable as they are dependant on our intervention through the constant use of massive amounts of water and chemicals.

In this regard, we should always keep in mind that biophilic and natural design do not necessarily translate into greenery and verdant interiors. Every environment has its own characteristics and an interior should be developed around it. This means that an interior designed in a desert area would look extremely different from one, let’s say, in Northern Europe. But that doesn’t mean the first one won’t bring the mentioned benefits because ‘it’s less green’. The same goes for a place located on the coast, or up in the mountains.

To reconnect with what I said in the beginning, this attention to the right biophilic design, brings benefits to our daily life, but in turn, can also help to preserve an environment and its biodiversity.

different environments

According to Fuller et al., 2007, higher biodiversity is strictly connected with psychological benefits, this is true for any kind of well-designed space. These results are used to prove that important benefits can be achieved even in urban areas without direct contact with outdoor nature and in relatively small spaces.

Now that we have pointed out a few important ‘ground rules’ and the fact that biophilic design can be flexible and does not necessarily require huge open spaces and gardens connected with an interior, let’s proceed with a look at materials.

Biophilic Interior Design Materials

In the 14 Pattern of Biophilic Design document, when it comes to materials’ choice it is said to prioritise real natural materials over simulated ones, and simulated ones over those that don’t recall it at all. In general, sustainable and natural materials are the preferable choice. If you’d like to know more about sustainable materials and solutions, you can check some of our previous guides:

_6 Top Materials for a Sustainable Interior in 2021

_Solution for long-term Interior Sustainability from Denmark: Stykka

_Sustainable Interior Design: Energy Saving in 2021

_6 Best sustainable Materials for your Interior Design flooring

_5 Top Materials for a Sustainable Interior in 2020

But back to Biophilic Materials, let’s start from some innovative and simple to use ones that can convey an indirect connection with your natural surroundings:

Baux

This material is extremely innovative in its simplicity and can create a more indirect connection with nature, but it is a great choice to complement a biophilic interior. It is, in fact, the material of choice of many big companies too such as Microsoft, Hilton, Spotify, Twitch, Samsung, and others.

BAUX Acoustic wood wool Panels EventSpace scaled

BAUX Acoustic wood wool Panels OfficeDesk scaled

*Images from Baux

Baux produces sustainable acoustic solutions that can fit a variety of situations. Its fully recyclable Acoustic Wood Wool, is as the name suggests, made from wood wool with the addition of cement and water. Along with recyclability and low emissions, this material boasts noteworthy sound absorption, moisture-regulating, and heat-accumulating properties.

Its aesthetic choices are many, and there are many suitable for the addition in a biophilic interior.

Wallpapers/Murals

Another simple choice for indirect contact with nature are murals and wallpapers, provided that they integrate well with the rest of your space and the surrounding environment as specified in the beginning.

A product we featured many times is the one from Tektura. They offer a wide range of fabric-backed wallcoverings with varied patterns and colours. Something that not only can donate a good look & feel to a space but can also work in terms of psychological benefits when complemented by other elements in a biophilic interior. 

tektura green

tektura wallpaper

*Photos by Tektura

Now instead let’s have a look at some natural materials that create an even closer link with nature:

Moss

Preserved moss is a great way to introduce a low-maintenance green wall in an interior. Make sure to choose one that has not a flat bright green colour, there are a lot of more interesting ones available, with leaves and varied textures. They don’t need water or light. 

moss wall
*Photos by Companyinteriors

Water

There are countless ways to integrate water into an interior. From a simple window, if you’re lucky enough to live nearby a body of water, as visual connection is already a powerful tool to proper interior solutions. Here below you can see an example:

 

Naturally, from expensive and high-end features like the one shown above, there can be simpler ones that convey a similar feel but can be used in a reduced space. Mini water gardens and hydroponic plants are always a great option, that can create a small ecosystem thus being sustainable with minimum effort.

Finally, in truth, a connection with water can also be replicated in indirect ways with glossy, reflective tiles resembling water

 

Real Stone

Like water, the stone is a material that can be integrated in many different ways. From entire rooms, or walls, whether it’s already built like that (such as in traditional rural houses), or your own choice in a new development, to smaller elements that enrich your surroundings. The limits are only imagination and creativity.

A final Design Tip

Once the materials are chosen, always remember to aim at letting in as much natural light as possible and achieving a clean and airy interior that doesn’t feel cluttered. Below are some examples of extremely clean interiors featuring biophilic elements even when you don’t necessarily see greenery around.
 

I hope this was useful and you could find some good inspiration to take your interior game to the next level by properly integrating biophilic design. Both yourself and our planet will thank you for that!


Martina Pardo

Written by: Martina Pardo

I am Martina, an Italian designer based in London. I spend most of my time designing interiors or writing about it. I also love travelling. You may find me walking around the East End of London, drinking coffee and stopping at every single bookshop I bump into.

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