Biophilic Design, Patterns of Nature of The Space

As biological organisms, we have an innate desire to connect with nature. And we’re genetically predisposed to prefer certain types of nature and scenery over others. Universally it seems, we all like a view from a bit up on a hill overlooking a savanna. There’s a lake down there, and groups of trees providing shade. A small rock overhang might be seen descending the hill, from which comes a little stream meandering into the distance underneath a blue sky with a few light clouds floating by.

Stacey Lapuk, ASID Incorporating biophilic design patterns and principles into the built environment will feed that connection we all want and in which we all feel our best. The concepts behind this scene from a hill show us how to create these feelings in our homes. We’ve explored the first and second categories, Nature In The Space and Natural Analogues in earlier articles, Specifically addressing the third category of Biophilic Design here, Nature of the Space, helps us recognize and implement the last patterns of this science. Pattern #11 is called Prospect, referring to an unimpeded view, is ideally greater than 100 feet and full of interesting elements, forms, textures and colors. It feels open and alive, yet controlled. Using glass, sheer fabrics and open-weave metals are examples of ways to provide depth of views. Open floor plans are another example. Imagine you’re back on the hill, overlooking the savanna. Having the ability to see what might be coming is safe, and a place to see into the distance to contemplate increases one’s creativity. Balconies and staircase landings are opportunities to enhance the Prospect of a place. Areas from which to see out a window, particularly to a body of water, or through to a focal point such as a fireplace or kitchen cooktop and hood feel wonderful. High ceilings (or the illusion of one) and openness create a sense of happiness. High-back wing chairs, canopy beds and trellises all impart an impression of our Pattern #12, Refuge. Just as the shade of the trees, or a spot under the rock ledge provides a feeling of safety, so too do these design elements in your home. The ability to raise and lower window shades, reading nooks (perhaps at a draped window seat), even a part of a room where the ceiling drops create senses of refuge, of security. Consider a warm, sunny spot in the corner where everything beyond your area of sunlight is “out there”, and of no concern. I was just visiting family, and the four and five year olds were building forts under the table. My cousin hung sheer fabric for walls. Refuge, from us adults I might think? Mystery is Pattern #13. Where does the stream of our savanna end, as it meanders into the distance? When our curiosity is heightened, so is our pleasure. Though fear can be the result of a shortened depth of field, perhaps less than 20 feet, we become curious looking farther into a view, beyond a hundred feet. Mystery around a curve feels better than around a corner – think a winding path versus the sharp corner of a building. A pleasant scent can create mystery as can translucent materials. The sound of an unseen fountain out in a garden and dramatic light and shadow play, as long as it’s not too high-contrast, can create happy excitement. Our last pattern in this biophilic design category of “Nature of the Space”, is Pattern #14, Risk/Peril. I love infinity edged pools, and the reason can be traced to this pattern. There is an identifiable risk, that one can swim off the edge. But there is likewise a reliable safe-guard. We know the design is such to prevent such a peril. This sense of exhilaration is intriguing. We want to explore even though something might seem a bit dangerous. Short doses of this release of dopamine in adults supports motivation, memory and problem solving. Though long-term exposure to intense risk and peril conditions can lead to the release of too much dopamine, potentially leading to depression and other mood disorders, incorporating elements of identifiable threats with reliable safeguards enhances our enjoyment of a space. We can use spatial attributes for example, to highlight the feeling of falling in the guise of transparent floors over an atrium, or transparent railings. Viewing tubes through an aquarium allows us to pass through water without actually getting wet, and realistic photos of predatory animals, such as a close up shot of a lion, permit us to sense the danger, without actually being there. A few years ago I had the amazing experience of being in a hot-air balloon over the Masai Mara during the migration of Wildebeest and Zebra. Reproducing that feeling in short doses within our environments makes us happy and energized. When designing an environment with biophilic principles, always first consider the design intent. What age group, culture and demographic will be experiencing the space? How long will that experience last? To create the most restorative environments, integrating a combination of strategies and patterns will increase the potential for health benefits. Designing rooms that set the stage for a variety of emotions will last longer than designing for a specific feeling. We thrive in diversity – a long, narrow dining room that opens up to a large sunroom, shadow play in a hallway leading to a beautiful garden. Interesting and thoughtful artwork and rugs. We are at our best when we can experience the breadth of our humanity by surrounding ourselves with design elements meant to elicit the wide range of emotions of which we’re made. For more information about Biophilic Design, please visit Terrapin Bright Green (  a sustainability consulting and strategic planning firm; “Forging connections with nature to improve health and wellbeing in the built environment.” For interior design services properly utilizing elements of Biophilia, please call Stacey Lapuk, ASID, at 415-493-6469, email to, or visit us at
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, Kentfield, Belvedere, Tiburon, San Rafael, and Pacific Heights.