We are in unprecedented times. Food delivery, video conferences, and home offices have become the new normal. Whether remote work was a part of your routine previously or is completely uncharted territory for you, we’re all adjusting to an unfamiliar work environment. In our quest for acclimation, we’ve found that a connection to nature can make things just a little more manageable. In this article, we apply the eight key elements of biophilic design to a new domain…the home office.
1. Scattered & clustered plants
Incorporating plants into your home workspace, or even just throughout your house or apartment, is a great way to encourage wellness and positivity. Indoor plants can remove up to 87% of toxins in the air in just 24 hours, and in a time of heightened sensitivity to germs and bacteria, this is a welcome benefit.
How to do it: Select plants of varying heights, forms, and colors and place them throughout your home (especially in your office or workspace). You can experiment by switching up plant placement every few days. With a diverse selection of houseplants, you can easily create interesting interior landscapes within your own home.
2. Refuge & shelter
Unless you happen to live alone, you’re likely fighting family members, significant others, or roommates for valuable real estate. These days the possibility of an “escape” is a distant memory, but sometimes we just need to be alone to get some work done. Plants and trees can be quite useful in creating at least a semblance of privacy. In a shared environment, it can be difficult to get some peace and quiet. Luckily, plants can help with that too.
How to do it: Place tall plants or small trees around the perimeter of your workspace. Not only do these green “borders” provide a physical barrier to separate sections within a space, but plants also help to reduce noise levels by absorbing or deflecting sound.
3. Blur boundaries
The key to blurring the boundaries between the indoors and outdoors is creating visual and spatial continuity from your home office to the world beyond your walls. Without a stark divide between outdoor and indoor environments, it is easy to imagine that you’re working underneath the shade of a willow tree, surrounded by the sights and sounds of the natural world.
How to do it: One of the most basic ways to blur the boundaries is to open your windows and let fresh air flow through your home. Even if there is a screen, allowing the air to penetrate the barrier that physically separates your space from the outdoors begins to erase the disjunction. Integrating green tones and other natural shades into your decor can also help bring the outdoors inside.
4. Overlooking landscapes
Exposure to natural sunlight is incredibly important for our overall well-being. When we’re stuck inside, our bodies miss out on the invaluable resource that is natural light. The health benefits of moderate sunlight exposure are plentiful:
- Boosts serotonin levels, helping to elevate mood
- Improves sleep by helping the body produce more melatonin at night
- Activates Vitamin D in the body to promote calcium absorption and strengthen immune systems
- Lowers blood pressure
Now, more than ever, it is crucial that we make a concentrated effort to expose ourselves to natural light.
How to do it: Set up your workspace near a window and, when possible, use natural light to illuminate the room. Consider facing the window while you work so that you can maintain a view of nature.
5. Natural materials
Incorporating natural materials into your space can be done in a myriad of ways. The idea behind this is to create natural analogs with indirect representations of nature. Whether it is through a tree stump transformed into a side table, a jute area rug, or a lamp base made of stone, this biophilic element can easily be brought to life in whatever way best fits your space.
How to do it: An easy way to showcase natural patterns and textures is through a terrarium. You can buy pre-built terrariums, but if you’re looking for a new project, you can also make your own. From a recycled soda bottle to an old lightbulb, you likely already have the materials to begin your terrarium inside your home. Once you have the container, you can fill it however you’d like, creating a mini landscape that mirrors something you’d see in nature. Visit our Ultimate Guide to Terrariums for some additional tips and tricks.
We know that it is important to get a healthy dose of natural light, but sometimes you need to do more than just open a window. In order to further foster the connection to nature, it is important to mimic the natural lighting conditions you’d find outdoors.
How to do it: Sunlight in the natural world is not always direct. Trees and plants diffuse the sunlight, creating areas of dappled shade. Adding lattice is an easy way to replicate this effect on porches or balconies. Indoors, you can use lightweight curtains that allow partial sun to shine through. Combining sources of natural light with those of artificial light will also help to produce areas of diffuse light and variegated shade.
Much of biophilic design has to do with visual elements, but there are other important components — chief among them, scent. We process scents with our olfactory bulb which is directly connected to the amygdala and hippocampus in our brain. These two areas are instrumental in emotion and memory. Therefore, it stands to reason that smell would be closely associated with emotion and memory as well. Since our sense of smell is the strongest of our five senses, it can play a starring role in cultivating a connection to nature.
How to do it: Some fresh plants will have a natural fragrance. You can also utilize a diffuser to pervade the air with essential oils. Rose oils have anxiety-reducing properties. Others such as chamomile, basil, and grapefruit have shown to support immunity.
8. Water proximity
In addition to sight and smell, we can also use sound to help build a sensory tie to nature. There are plenty of sounds in the natural world to choose from, but one of the most calming is the sound of water. Water sounds can also facilitate focus, which might be just what your home office needs right about now.
How to do it: Incorporate a small indoor fountain to your decor. Its subtle babbling will be reminiscent of a natural brook. In the absence of a fountain, you can use a sound machine to replicate similar soothing sounds or even stream a playlist of nature sounds.
Check out our full infographic for a visual representation of these biophilic elements.
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