Spending time outdoors and immersed in nature has been shown to significantly improve creativity, productivity and learning, help speed up recovery from illness, and positively impact our overall wellbeing.
Whilst there continue to be restrictions on our enjoyment of the actual outdoors, it makes sense to incorporate natural elements into our homes to continue to reap all the benefits that nature has to offer.
Catharina says: “We live in increasingly urban environments which, through no fault of our own, can limit our exposure and connection to the natural world. Winter can also make outdoor escapades quite unappealing, whilst lockdowns limit outdoor time even more. As such, we should all focus on ways we can embrace nature indoors, creating our own natural oases at home.
“Interior design focused on bringing the outdoors in considers elements such as natural light, greenery and plants, natural materials, and colour; all areas we can easily and affordably address in our homes. These are all things that can provide a real or imagined (but nonetheless vital) connection to nature.”
Read on for Catharina’s guide to embracing nature indoors.
Ensure spaces are light and bright
The importance of natural light for health and wellbeing is not to be underestimated, so aside from making sure you spend some time outside enjoying the sunshine and fresh air every day, it is a vital consideration when it comes to the home too.
Firstly, make sure that windows aren’t blocked by furniture such as bookcases, wardrobes, or even high-backed chairs or sofas. If space is limited, try separating furniture from the window by half a metre or so to make it easily accessible. The window should be the focal point of every room. It’s literally a window to the outside world, reinforcing and increasing our connection to nature – whether that’s a view of a window box, tree-lined street, park or countryside. It’s also worth regularly cleaning windows thoroughly inside and out you’ll be amazed at the difference this can make to the level of daylight flooding your rooms.
It’s tempting to shut out the outside world if the weather’s bad – closing all of the curtains and switching interior lights on full – but this creates a very stark, unnatural environment. Rarely is a natural space completely light or completely dark; natural light has depth and texture. Re-create this in your home by incorporating a range of feature lighting options – picture lights, pendants and dimmer switches for example, as well as functional free-standing and table lamps, fairy lights and candles – to light different areas of your home.
Ideally, make sure any sofas or chairs are positioned such that you can easily view green space outside. However, if this isn’t possible, you can place window boxes or hang planters outside the window. These will still allow natural light into the room whilst also enhancing your view.
Opt for abundant, trailing plants, such as the pretty but hardy Bacopa. Variants include the Snowtopia, with white flowers and Blutopia, with mixed white and blue flowers, and comfortably trail over 45cm’s. The un-fussy and easy to maintain Spider Plant is also a great window plant.
There’s no such thing as too many houseplants indoors, so invest in plants that not only serve as a visual connection to nature but also have air-purifying properties
Pothos, or Devil’s Ivy as it’s also known, is easy to grow and fights off common household toxins, as does the trusty Aloe Vera plant. Growing herbs indoors is another great option – rosemary and basil will add a lovely subtle scent to your home and will undoubtedly also prove useful when cooking.
Earthy tones add depth and a natural, rustic feel to any home. Think warming muted blush tones, relaxing hazy greens and soothing sandy greys. These earth-centric tones bring a calming, serene feel to space. You can choose to paint an entire room or add splashes of earthy colours through textiles, furniture and soft furnishings.
In Feng Shui, green is used as a restorative colour within the home and, far from needing to re-paint your living room, remember that plants, prints or rugs with green tones are an easy way to incorporate this colour.
Incorporate natural materials
Not only do natural materials in the home help reinforce our connection with nature, typically they last much longer and hold up better to everyday wear and tear than synthetic materials and need not be expensive either. Instead of buying a new mass-produced MDF or gloss finish flat-packed kitchen table, consider a second-hand wooden dining table; the visual wear and tear, only adding to its charm and beauty. Replacing plastic cupboard handles with wooden or metal alternatives is another inexpensive way to incorporate accents of natural materials into your home.
Woven reed or rattan baskets add natural texture to space as well as being useful storage solutions for toys, shoes, or cosy wool blankets – anything you want to be able to pack away but keep within easy reach. They also make for quirky planters.
Artwork that depicts or alludes to nature or uses natural colours also helps to increase our connection to the natural world and create a positive home environment. And it doesn’t need to be an original artwork; you can buy a vast range of beautiful prints online, which you can then have framed locally.
You can also get creative with your home décor. Try collecting natural items such as fir cones, feathers and leaves from your garden, local woodland or park, and creating your own natural artwork to display. Pressed flowers are another lovely way to increase your connection with nature and can be easily displayed in a frame; just ensure that you only take flowers from your own garden or get permission from a friend or neighbour to take cuttings from theirs.
So, however, you choose to incorporate biophilic design into your home, just remember that our overall wellbeing is impacted by our connection to nature and the stronger the connection, the better we feel.