5 biophilic design ideas that can make your home a happier place to be

Expert ideas from Oliver Heath about how bringing the outside in can truly boost your mood

Interior designers favorite shade of green paint, retro living room
(Image credit: Future)

‘Think of a place where you feel most happy, calm and relaxed and picture it in your mind,’ instructs biophilic designer Oliver Heath. ‘The chances are you're envisaging somewhere that that has water – a stream, lake or sea view – and probably grass, trees, flowers, blue skies and sunshine. This is due to biophilia, the innate human attraction to nature, our desire to be in and around nature because it’s what make us feel good.’ 

‘For thousands of years we existed in very close connection to healthy forms of nature for our basic survival, so it was essential that we used our senses to recognize landscapes that could help us to thrive and flourish. We still have a genetic ability to identify a space that can support life, and when we’re in these settings we relax, are less stressed, sleep better and ultimately feel happier and more optimistic.’ 

‘Biophilic design brings the calming, natural visual cues that we know are able to support life into the spaces that are important to us through three core areas; by creating a direct connection to nature in the home, by evoking a feeling of nature in a built environment (using natural materials, colors, textures, patterns and even technology), and by creating spaces that support different physical and emotional states throughout the day.’ 

As one of the most uplifting principles of modern interior design, biophilic design can turn your home into a happy place. ‘Use design as a tool to make you feel as good and happy as possible – here are some key areas to focus on.’

Natural light

crittall kitchen

(Image credit: Michaelis Boyd)

‘Top of the list is natural light,' Oliver says. 'It dramatically improves the quality of space and is dynamic, changing throughout the day and connecting you to the time of day, the season and the weather. Natural light also governs our circadian rhythms – our body's reactions to light and dark across a 24-hour period – which affects our mood and sleep patterns. Enhance and bring in as much as possible.’ Many modern kitchen ideas focus around bringing extra light into the space.


bedside lighting

(Image credit: Christopher Horwood)

‘Design your bedroom to support sleep – there's no better way to regulate your health than a good night's sleep,' Oliver says. This is why so many modern bedroom ideas tend to focus on calming shades.  'Reduce visual clutter, use colors that compliment each other soothingly, don't use overstimulating patterns, minimise dust, making sure you've got clean, fresh air in the room and introduce plants as they can remove carbon dioxide and produce oxygen at night to help you to sleep better (mother-in-law's tongue and English ivy are good for this). 


Airbnb experiences, art in the corner of a in windmill in Kent

(Image credit: Airbnb)

It's no surprise that biophilic design tends to incorporate a lot of flowers and plants. 

‘Bringing in plants directly connects you to nature, adds of visual texture and also introduces gentle, subtle movement into the home stop rooms feeling static,' Oliver says. 'They can modify temperature and humidity, and remove small levels of toxins. It’s also therapeutic and satisfying looking after them and seeing them develop.’ 


Interior designers favorite shade of green paint, retro living room

(Image credit: Future)

There is plenty of theory behind which colors we respond positively to, and why. ‘We react well to tones we've had good experiences of and we have all had a positive experience in nature, so use colors that emulate nature to bring that happiness indoors,' Oliver says. 

'Blue reminds us of cool, calm pools of water (good for relaxing bedrooms and bathrooms), greens can be more energizing and remind us of the fresh shoots of spring (good for creative rooms) and yellow is a very positive and connecting color which makes us think of sunflowers and warmth (good for social spaces).’ 

Our edit of the best green paint is invaluable for decorating this way.

Nature outside the home 

House in Norway by Oliver Heath Design

House in Norway by Oliver Heath Design

(Image credit: Oliver Heath Design)

It helps to be able to see greenery, if you're lucky enough to live near any. 

‘Create places to sit that have a view of nature.' Oliver says. 'Position a desk or chair near a window overlooking greenery so you can see subtle movements from outside – random gentle movements (‘non rhythmic sensory stimuli’) such as leaves swaying in the breeze or rippling water are very relaxing and restorative, and are proven to reduce stress.’

Learn more about biophilia and how human-centered design can improve wellbeing in Heath’s new online course, Biophilic Design in the Home 

Amy Moorea Wong

Amy Moorea Wong is a freelance interior design journalist with a decade of experience in contemporary print and digital editorial, previously News Editor at Livingetc. She writes on a broad range of modern design topics from news and interior zeitgeist to houses, architecture, travel and wider culture. She has a penchant for natural materials, surprising pops of colour and pattern and design with an eco edge.