Nicola Holden Designs – Contemporary Interior Designer, London.

Since the beginning of human evolution, we have been connected to the natural world, observing the changing seasons, learning what foods grow when, and when we can celebrate earth’s bounty, or when we need to build up reserves for the leaner seasons.

The term Biophilia refers to our innate biological connection with nature.  It helps explain why crackling fires and crashing waves captivate us; why forest bathing is such a powerful antidote to the pressures of the modern world; and why animal companionship has restorative, healing effects.

The start of the industrial revolution in the late 1700s and into the early 1800s saw people moving to working in factories rather than outside, in the fields.  Industrialists, engineers and designers worked to make products as efficiently as possible and to get the greatest volume of goods to the largest number of people.  The result was huge economic growth and the growth of commerce, drawing people into office jobs, and into human created, artificial environments.

These days, we humans are increasingly spending up to 90% of our lives indoors – often highly controlled spaces, with even lighting, a constant temperature, and straight lines everywhere.  Add to this our growing addiction to our screens, and we are now very disconnected from the nature that used to be part of our everyday lives.  Stress, anxiety and depression are very real, modern day afflictions.

However, there is a growing body of scientific evidence showing that how we design our indoor spaces has a direct impact on us psychologically and physically, and therefore on our overall health, happiness and well-being.  The use of biophilic design in our spaces has been proven to reduce stress hormone production, improve feelings of happiness and stimulate creativity, as well as lower heart rate and blood pressure, boost the immune system and accelerate recovery from illness.  Even as little as 5 to 20 minutes of immersion in nature can lead to positive emotions, mental restoration and other health benefits.

1. Reduces your stress
A professor at Chiba University in Japan, Yoshifumi Miyazaki, has found that forest walks yield a 12.4 per cent decrease in the stress hormone, cortisol, compared with urban walks.

2. Improves your mood
Academics at Derby University have conducted a meta study of existing research which concludes that connecting to nature can be linked to happiness and mental well-being. Spending time in nature releases hormones that relate to the pursuit of joy.

3. Frees up your creativity
In one study by David Strayer, a psychology professor at the University of Utah, participants saw a 50% improvement in creative problem solving after three days immersed in nature with all access to modern technology removed.

4. Reduces high blood pressure
A recent meta study in Japan reviewed 20 trials, involving 732 participants, which demonstrated that blood pressure levels in a forest environment were significantly lower than those in a non-forest environment.

Providing people with healthy places in which to live and work is vital if we want to maximise our well-being and improve our lifestyle.  Of course, it’s important to try and increase the amount of time that we do actually spend outdoors, but by incorporating biophilic design into our homes, we can increase our exposure to nature without actually leaving the house.  Do get in touch if your home could do with some biophilic help?



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Homes that layer in pieces from different eras or cultures are dynamic and interesting. However, it’s important to follow a few simple rules to ensure you end up with a cohesive scheme, and not something where your eye doesn’t know where to land, and winds up confused and unhappy. Here are seven ways to successfully mix aesthetics:

COLOUR

Whether your scheme is monochrome or multi-coloured, using a consistent colour scheme will help your scheme hang together cohesively.  This doesn’t mean that every piece of furniture needs to be exactly the same colour though.  In fact I’d encourage you to mix and match colours, using accessories to pull all the colours together.

Image – Sophie Robinson

THINK SCALE

Don’t forget to consider the scale of your furniture in mind.  You don’t want a huge overstuffed chair sitting next to your grandmother’s dainty wooden carved loveseat.  And if you’re buying pieces whilst on your travels, then resist the temptation to buy something because it will fit in your luggage to get it home because the chances are it will be too small, and get lost in your scheme.

CREATE BALANCE THROUGH SYMMETRY

If you have totally different objects on either side of a bed, for example, they can create a balanced whole due to their symmetry within the space. However, it’s best to choose items with an equal visual weight to achieve this balance.

Image – Studio Ashby

DISTRIBUTE EQUALLY

Try to avoid having a confusing mix of solitary objects. When mixing in different styles, give each piece at least one ‘companion’ who shares the same characteristics (colour, era, culture, etc), and then distribute these items equally through the space.  This makes it easier for the eye to accept whilst adding interest to the scheme.

Image – Clarkson Potter

SHAPE

Choose pieces with complimentary lines and shapes. I find this easiest to do by creating a moodboard with all of the items together.  You should be able to quite easily tell if one item sticks out like a sore thumb this way.

ONE PIECE, TWO STYLES

Another way to unite a scheme is to have two contrasting styles in one object, for example an antique chair reupholstered in a modern fabric or pattern, or a traditional piece of brown furniture painted in a bright colour.

Image – Studio Ashby

MATCH MOODS

It’s important to think about how you want you space to feel.  If your living room is a place to kick back and relax, don’t layer in overly formal furniture. Make all your choices equally informal, and your space will feel right.

Using these simple rules, you will be able to create a successful space, where everything finds a way to get along.  Having said that, I couldn’t agree more with Dorothy Draper  who says, “I always put in one controversial item. It makes people talk.”   After all, rules are there to be broken!

“For a house to be successful, the objects in it must communicate with one another, respond and balance one another.”
Andrée Putman

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