Nicola Holden Designs – Contemporary Interior Designer, London.

In my last blog post I talked about the importance of Biophilic Design – adding that connection to nature to our interior spaces.  But so often, when I see examples of biophilic spaces, it is a sea of natural wood and indoor plants.  What is missing for me is those elements of joy.

Biophilic design with natural wood and indoor plants
Image: Hirouyki Oki

When I think of the photographs of nature that I have taken, they are more likely to be photographs of spectacular sunsets, bright splashes of colourful flowers, or eye-catching creatures.  It is the COLOURS of nature that make my heart sing! 

Bright oranges scenes from nature - hornbill bird, berries, sunset, mushrooms and a butterfly.

And so it should be with our homes too.  Incorporating certain tangible things into our homes can create that intangible feeling of joy.  Here are some of the ways that you can start crafting more joy in your home:

INTRODUCE COLOUR

All over the world, bright vivid colours are associated with joyful occasions – from the Carnival in Brazil, to India’s Holi festival.  In Ingrid Fetell Lee’s book Joyful, she says “Bright colour operates like a stimulant, a shot of caffeine for the eyes.  It stirs us out of complacency.”  Lively colours radiate optimism and sunshine and help us to marshal the energy we need.

I’m not suggesting that we all need to paint every wall of our homes in a bright colour, but we do need those bursts of colour in our indoor spaces, like flowers in a garden.

A pink chair

LAYER TEXTURE AND PATTERN

Along with colour, the layering of texture and pattern provides a sensorial richness, and a sense of abundance that is not only pleasurable, but vital to healthy neural development.  An environment that is too minimalistic acts as an anaesthetic, numbing our senses and emotions. 

I don’t know about you, but when I visit places such as Morocco, India, Barcelona, Turkey and Thailand, as a tourist taking in the architecture around me, it is the buildings that are the most gaudily decorated that grab my attention and make me want to pick up my camera and capture that feeling to bring home with me.

Layers of pattern and texture in a bedroom

ARRANGE ITEMS SYMMETRICALLY

Symmetry brings a sense of order and feeling of ease to a space.  It is the tangible manifestation of harmony through balance, rhythm and repetition.  Repeating colours, shapes or textures in different parts of a room helps us to view the room as a whole and brings structure to the complexity.  If your environment makes you feel stable, balanced and grounded you’re more likely to reflect these behaviours too.

Bedside tables arranged symmetrically either side of the bed

INCORPORATE CURVED FORMS

Circles and spheres are subconsciously associated with safety and positivity as there are no sharp angles to risk injury.  Round shapes are found everywhere in nature too – think bubbles and berries, and instinctively open us up to our playful impulses.  Think pom-poms sewn along the edge of a cushion, round side tables, or the Ball chair.

A round dining table creates a much more social dining experience, allowing guests to come together in a single conversation, and interact in a much more personal way.  And a spiral staircase brings a powerful kind of dynamism into a space.

A circular dining table creates a more intimate dining experience.

CREATE NEGATIVE SPACE

Negative space is the space around and between objects.  Having more space allows for a greater freedom of movement.  It also reduces the visual weight of a space, so objects with perforations will appear lighter than solid ones.  Think slender legs on furniture and translucent materials.

DRAW THE EYE UP

Drawing the eye up by highlighting the vertical dimensions of a room will create a space that feels uplifting, like painted ceilings in churches and mosques.  Think of your ceiling as the fifth wall and pay as much attention to its decoration as you would your walls.  If you have the ceiling height, incorporate decorative light fittings.

The height of a room can also be accentuated by using tall plants / sculptures, built-in bookshelves, full-length curtains, and wallpaper with a vertical pattern.

Full length curtains make a room appear taller

ADD SOME MAGIC AND SENSE OF CELEBRATION

A mobile that sways gently on a breeze, prismatic glass that creates rainbow reflections, mirrors that create the illusion of a larger space, and mirror balls and surfaces that shimmer and sparkle all add a sense of magic to a space.

Shapes that burst out from the centre, like fireworks, have long been a part of celebrations around the world.  Think tassels and juju hats, a starburst mirror, or a chandelier that captures the bursting quality of light in static form.

Flowers are also a great of capturing so many of the elements listed above.  Flowers come in different colours, and their shapes vary too – from cups to cones, stars to clusters.  Floral forms are found on fabrics and wallpapers, and are also an important element of biophilic design, so tick both of these boxes!

A bright floral arrangement adds a sense of celebration to a space

Ingrid Fetell Lee sums it up so beautifully – “The problem is that without joy, we may be surviving, but we are not thriving.  If we rarely laugh or play, if we never have glimpses of magic … or bursts of celebration, then no matter how well fed and comfortable we are, we are not truly alive.”

And there has never been a more important time than now, with the uncertainty that lockdown and COVID-19 have brought, to ensure that our homes can inject joy into our lives!

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