Nicola Holden Designs – Contemporary Interior Designer, London.

Colour is a major element when it comes to designing our homes for well-being.  Colour imbues a space with energy, and the more energy we have, the more we are able to create, to be productive, and to engage with the world around us.  Think about the sort of things that make you smile.  That makes you pick up your camera and take a picture.  For me it is definitely brightly coloured objects – flowers, food, candy coloured houses and spectacular sunsets.  Colour literally pulls joy to the surface.

As Ingrid Lee Fettell says in her book Joyful, “Bright colour operates like a stimulant, a shot of caffeine for the eyes.  It stirs us out of complacency.”

According to Lee Fettell, in 1810 Johann Wolfgang von Goethe wrote that “savage nations, uneducated people, and children have a great predilection for vivid colours,” but that “people of refinement … seem inclined to banish them altogether from their presence.”  This mind-set has led us to believe that colour is a bad thing!  How sad is that?  When all around us, we’re surrounded by the vivid colours that nature paints, and yet too afraid to bring it into our homes.

I have previously blogged about getting colour inspirations from nature, and so this week I was delighted to receive Farrow & Ball’s new colour card – a collection of 16 colours in collaboration with the Natural History Museum.

Image © Farrow & Ball

Around 200 years ago, in the days before photography existed, Werner’s Nomenclature of Colours was published.  This book recorded in painstaking detail the exact hues and corresponding parts of animals, vegetables and minerals from across the natural world.  It became a treasured resource for scientists and artists alike, and was an indispensable tool for Charles Darwin, as he recorded his findings from the 1831–36 voyage of HMS Beagle.

Emerald Green

Working with the Natural History Museum, where a copy of this rare book sits, Farrow & Ball have developed their 16 new colours.

Broccoli Brown

For example, Broccoli Brown is the head of a Black-headed Gull and the mineral Zircon.  Ultramarine Blue is the upper side of the wings of the small blue Heath butterfly, the plant Borrage and the mineral Lapis Lazuli.  Emerald green is the beauty spot on the wing of a Teal Drake and also the colour of the mineral Emerald.

Ultramarine Blue

And of course, being a lover of nature, it’s good to know that all Farrow & Ball’s paints are eco-friendly water based paints, which was also a paramount factor for the Natural History museum entering into this collaboration

You can see the full collection of colours here.  Let me know what your favourite colour is from the collection?

“Colour is a power which directly influences the soul.”
Wassily Kandinsky



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Biophilic design is increasingly becoming the buzz word of the moment, but what exactly is it?  The term Biophilia refers to our innate biological connection with nature.  It helps explain why crackling fires and crashing waves captivate us; why a garden view can enhance our creativity; why shadows instil fascination and fear; and why animal companionship has restorative, healing effects.

But why is this important?  The answer to that question is because humans are now spending around 90% of our time indoors.  And as we become more urbanised and depend more on technology, we are becoming increasingly disconnected from nature.  We exist in highly controlled spaces, with even lighting, a constant temperature, and straight lines everywhere.  But if you think about it, this is not how nature operates.  In the natural world, the light levels change throughout the day.  Shadows move around.  There are breezes, and birdsong, and not a straight line in sight! 

Biophilic design has been scientifically proven to reduce stress, enhance creativity and clarity of thought, improve our well-being and speed up healing.  And it is essential for providing people with healthy places in which to live and work. 

So how can we bring nature into our spaces?  And is there more to biophilic design than simply adding pot plants to your home?

One of the strongest aspects of biophilic design is having a visual connection with nature.  And yes, pot plants or a green wall are a part of this, but so is a water feature / aquarium, artwork depicting nature scenes, and ensuring that your furniture is laid out so as not to impede visual access to nature through the window.

Two other important aspects of biophilic design are those of Prospect and Refuge.  Prospect ensures that we have an unimpeded view over a distance, for surveillance and planning, while Refuge gives us a place for withdrawal from the environmental conditions and offers us protection.  Think of a cave man standing at the entrance to his cave, or Refuge, and surveying the surrounding countryside, or Prospect.  Our homes should include open plan layouts, balconies and landings where we can stand and survey or using transparent materials so as not to close off our views.  But these should also be balanced with intimate refuge spaces – a snug, or a window seat – where we go to relax or meditate, to read or to think.

Other ways of bringing nature into our spaces include:

  • Air movements, nature sounds and scents;
  • A combination of highly textured, diffused and natural (leather, stone, bronze, wood, etc) materials;
  • Using lighting to create pools of light, shadows and dappled light all of which can be changed throughout the day;
  • Architectural, furniture and furnishings detailing with forms and patterns suggestive in shape of a living organism;
  • A combination of complexity and order to create spaces that are engaging and information-rich – a balance between boring and overwhelming;
  • Adding a sense of mystery that entices people into our spaces.

As our world becomes ever more urbanised, the need for our designs to reconnect people to an experience of nature becomes ever more important.  For our health and well-being, biophilic design is not a luxury, it is a necessity.  If we want to create homes that are inspirational, restorative and healthy, this needs to be considered during the planning stages of building or renovating our homes, not as an added after thought once everything is complete.

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