Biophilic Design, Patterns of Natural Analogues

Biophilic Design is based on research that identifies specific design patterns found in nature that have measurable, positive impacts on human health and well-being. Incorporating aspects of Biophilic Design into your home’s design will create a space that not only looks great, but feels right. Your experience of your home will be enhanced – your sense of comfort, joy and safety are sharpened. Productivity and creativity are improved, and an overall happiness and sense of contentment results.

Stacey Lapuk, ASID

There are 3 categories into which this new science finds itself. They are Nature In The SpaceNatural Analogues and Nature Of The Space. Each category is made up of a number of various Patterns. In this article we’ll explore how we can make use of the Patterns found in the second category, Natural Analogues.

In our article exploring the first category, Nature In The Space, we found the first seven, distinct patterns of Biophilic Design. The next three patterns are found in Natural Analogues. These incorporate objects, materials, colors, shapes and patterns that are found in nature. When used in a home as artwork, furniture, decor and textiles, they provide us the feeling of our connection to nature.

Pattern #8 is “Biomorphic Forms and Patterns”

These are allegorical references to the contours, patterns, textures or numerical arrangements that recur in nature. The feeling is comfortable, and interesting. When we have visual associations to organic forms, we experience reduced stress, and heightened concentration. This experience has also been proven to enhance cognitive performance. Decoration might include starfish printed on fabric, stone-shaped ottomans, fish, birds, plants and flowers painted on dishware. Floral wall coverings and paintings of landscapes would be included in this Pattern as well.

In design, organic abstractions are often more appropriate than literal representations of nature. Less obvious representations are typically even more effective in enhancing our experience of the space. The use of natural geometries, such as the Golden Angle (137 degrees), curves and angles of 120 degrees and Fibonnaci numerical sequences reflect biomorphic forms and patterns. Nature loathes right angles and straight lines.

Consider these geometries when designing staircases or window details, ceiling designs and the layout of wood flooring. The frequency of repeated patterns around the placement of furnishings, fence posts, or designs on a fabric can all enhance, or limit the effects of this pattern. Negative space – the space in between “things” – is just as important, consciously realized or not. Be aware.

“Material Connections with Nature” is Pattern #9.

What gives you a sense of place? What is it that reminds you that you are where you are? Elements of the local vegetation and topography – rocks and such – used in a space with minimal processing, will do just that. The resulting environment will feel warm and authentic. The use of this pattern has been shown to decrease diastolic blood pressure and increase creative performance. As human beings, our natural inclination is towards natural materials, rather than synthetic ones. Our brain receptors actually discern between real, and synthetic objects and materials, and react accordingly.

Rooms with a lower ratio of natural materials, for example 45% of wood coverage, will lead to an increase in diastolic blood pressure and increased pulse rates – actually better for most focused tasks. Increasing the ratio to 90% – think beautiful teak spas – decreases brain activity, supporting restorative calm. Layering these elements provides for spaces accommodating our changing functional requirements throughout our day.

Driftwood planks manufactured as a wall covering, stones used in a lamp base, starfish dried for decoration. These all provide material connections with nature and the landscape in which the home is built. Varying textures – smooth wood flooring and rough driftwood walls, varying color tones, integrating variety in accent details and utilizing a natural color scheme illustrate the use of minimally processed materials and elements of nature, in our built environments. Seagrass area rugs, wood furnishings, wicker chairs, and stone counters. Whether simulated or constructed, integrating the natural surroundings in your house design will result in an enhanced experience of home.

I had a project in Novato, CA featuring a center fireplace with flanking glass doors and windows. The view out the windows was of a gorgeous grove of majestic oak trees. When designing the fireplace we built up the overmantle to match the height of the windows. World-renowned sculptor Manuel Palos then created a solid marble surround with recessed limestone panels carved with reliefs of oak branches and leaves.

Pattern #10, “Complexity and Order”

This is the third Pattern of this Biophilic category, Natural Analogues. Proper use of this pattern will result in an environment rich in sensory information, but not overwhelming. Making use of fractal geometries and the spacial hierarchies found in nature, reduces overall stress levels leading to more joy and happiness!

Fractals are geometric pattern that is repeated at every level of magnification. In other words, if a geometric shape were to be broken up, each piece would reflect the original, whole pattern. Fractals are common in nature: snowflakes, nautilus shells, trees, and pineapples are examples.

Nested fractals with a scaling factor of 3, and geometries with a mid-range dimensional ratio of 1.3 – 1.75 are more likely to achieve a positive response.

Use these patterns in a variety of ways, from carved or built furniture, to prints; placement of elements – making use of negative space – to a design in a bowl of sand as decoration. Overuse and misuse however, can result in psychological stress and nausea, though if used sparingly (a super “busy” wallpaper for example), they can impart great design.

This national award-winning room created for a Decorator Showcase House is a good example of the use of repetitive geometries. Note the ridges, in the night table, the legs of the bed, the candlesticks, the table lamp, the vase, the ceiling pendant design, even the placement of the bolsters on the bed.

Coming soon, a breakdown of the third, and last Category of Biophilic Design, the 4 Patterns of Nature Of The Space.

Stacey Lapuk, ASID

Stacey Lapuk, ASID is celebrating her 30th year with her firm. Named “One of America’s Ten Designers To Watch” by Design Times Magazine, one of the “Top 100 Interior Designer in North America” by Blink Art Resources, and the winner of multiple national design awards.  Her goal is simple: To co-create with her clients the home of their dreams with responsive and comprehensive solutions, and timeless, beautiful results.

Her full service firm attracts clients desiring the finest workmanship, materials and custom design. Facets of work include partnering with architects on new construction, remodels, kitchen design and bath design, color consultation, custom furniture, flooring, area carpets, wall and window treatments, lighting design, art procurement and antique acquisition.  Service areas include but are not limited to Marin County, San Francisco, Napa, Sonoma, Ross, Kenfield, Belvedere, Tiburon, San Rafael, and Pacific Heights.