“Deep summer is when laziness finds respectability”. So said American author and philosopher Sam Keen and it’s an approach we should all apply to our lives at this time of year. During the summer the hard job of doing nothing is a perfectly acceptable way to pass the time. It’s also a much easier feat to pull off when temperatures reach their peak, doors are flung open and our interaction with the outside world becomes more immediate.
A connection to nature in whatever form improves our health and well-being, reducing stress and enhancing our mood.
The outside world engages our five senses, natural daylight regulates our circadian rhythm and green spaces stimulate creativity. For some time, countries such as Japan and Denmark have recognised the enormous benefits of human connectivity with the natural world. In the 1980s, the practice of Shinrin-yoku or ‘forest bathing’ was developed in Japan and has since become a cornerstone of preventative health care in the country. The process of engaging with nature, even for a relatively short time, has been proven amongst other benefits to significantly reduce the stress hormone. And in Denmark, children who attend outdoor nurseries have exhibited far greater creative skills than children whose educational environment isn’t so closely connected to nature.
This may all sound well and good but the problem is that most of us spend 80-90% of our time indoors. So the answer when we can’t get outside, is to create a happy home that brings the magic of the outside in. This is where biophilia comes in, a concept rapidly gaining ground in the design industry. Biophilic design is about incorporating nature into our built environment and designing inspirational, restorative spaces that connect us to our surroundings. Here are 7 ways to introduce biophilia to your home this summer.
Having fallen out of favour for many years, house plants are enjoying a renaissance. Not only do plants directly connect us to nature but they soften a space and species such as aloe vera, mother-in-law’s tongue, and spider plants are particularly effective air purifiers. It does though pay to remember that most house plants would prefer to be outside and some are toxic to pets, so choose wisely. An ever-increasing number of house plant specialists will be able to advise you on the perfect plant for every corner of your home. And don’t be tempted to go faux - human receptors can tell the difference between real and fake.
Our connection with the great outdoors is all the better if we can actually see it! Where possible, position furniture to make the most of the view. You’re likely to be more productive and creative sitting at a desk under a window than one against a wall so plan your home workspace accordingly. And if your view is of a car park rather than acres of greenery, a window box will have the desired effect.
Choose blinds and curtains that draw the eye to the windows and don’t obscure the view. Curtains with an eyelet or wave heading are particularly good at stacking back so views are uninterrupted and natural light is maximised.
Create interest through the use of different textures in a home and replicate those you find outside. Wood, cork and natural stone are perfect for floors and walls, softened with tactile rugs and fabrics on furniture and soft furnishings. At Stitched, we love all things natural and our fabrics are designed to be touched. Our sheers and linens are perfect for creating a breezy, summery look.
Greens and blues are an obvious choice when planning a space that connects with the outside world. Colour psychologists will advise that these colours have a calming effect and that blue is often used in hospitals because it engenders a sense of trust. But, think too about other colours you might encounter on a walk in the woods - earthy browns, yellows, turmeric, beetroot red for example. These warm, saturated colours can work beautifully indoors. Our recently launched Linton range of linens is full of earthy tones perfect for a biophilic home.
The outside world is full of contrast. Symmetry is balanced with asymmetry, light with dark, high with low. Use contrast as the inspiration for a home that is full of interest. Place round side tables next to a square sofa, arrange books and accessories at different heights on a shelf (think of a cityscape) and dot lamps of different heights around a room. Lamps are the most atmospheric way of lighting a space with the shadows they create offering a sense of mystery that replicates the natural world.
When we’re outside, our sense of smell, hearing and even taste are stimulated as much as our sight and touch. Continue this idea indoors to heighten your sense of well-being. Open windows, feel the breeze, light candles and choose flowers and foliage with a delicate scent. The effect will be energizing.
And finally, this design approach isn’t a summer trend but something to embrace all year round. In fact, it’s arguably more important to ensure a connection with nature in the depths of winter when it’s harder to step outside the door. So, once your core decorating scheme is complete, mix things up a bit; ensure flowers and foliage reflect the seasons, change the cushions on your sofa from silks and linens in summer to wools and velvets in winter. And dress windows for a change of seasons by adding curtains to blinds, choosing from our range of beautiful, natural fabrics.