From plant-filled New York City shoebox-apartments to sprawling junglelike South Asian properties, biophilic design has become one of the most popular global interior design trends in recent years. Between 2019 and 2021, Pinterest Business recorded a 100% increase in the search for “biophilic design bedroom.” The term biophilia—defined as “an innate and genetically determined affinity of human beings with the natural world”—first appeared in a 1984 book by biologist E.O. Wilson, titled after the term. Yet almost four decades later, the practical design applications of this philosophy is at a fever pitch.
Research shows that biophilic design is more than an aesthetic choice—it can impact productivity and well-being. A study by global flooring company Interface found that people spent 11% more time in biophilic-inspired hotel lobbies as compared to less nature-forward lobbies. Green building consulting firm Paladino & Company also estimated a 5% increase in student test scores and a 15% reduction in absenteeism when schools in Washington State switched to a biophilic design approach.
While COVID-19 played a role in a resurgence of all things natural and an appreciation for bringing the outdoors in, the desire for biophilic design and the want to incorporate flora into the interiors is emphasized by experts like the Plant Kween and plant stylist Hilton Carter, who is publishing his fourth book, Living Wild: How to Plant Style Your Home and Cultivate Happiness, this month.
In a way people are seeking to create a home that is “like a living, breathing ecosystem,” Nick Cutsumpas, author of Plant Coach: The Beginner’s Guide to Caring for Plants and the Planet, points out. To help with this, Cutsumpas [known as Farmer Nick] advises clients to find their “greenprint,” or a way to map the interiors in a way that optimizes plant growth by flagging spots where the natural light hits, or minimizing drafts that could prevent plants from thriving.
A designer and self-described DIY’er, California-based Jessica Preteroti brings this creative spirit to all of her biophilia-inspired design choices. She says that “just because we build a box in nature to protect ourselves from the elements, doesn’t mean that that box shouldn’t feel as alive as the environment surrounding its walls. Through biophilic design, your home breathes life into you, just as you bring life to it. That connection with nature grounds you—it’s comforting and cozy—yet it’s magical and whimsical, all at the same time,” she says. “It makes home my favorite place to be.”
Adding plants to your space is a great first step, but there’s much more to biophilia than just greenery—natural shapes, soft tones, and green building material choices are all ways to honor mother nature while reaping your own benefits from a closeness to the natural world. And, it doesn’t have to break the bank. Carter says DIY and biophilia are perfect partners because they both privilege recycling and repurposing materials or plants. It just takes a bit of creativity: “A great way to bring in biophilic design on a budget is to create a living wall and place cuttings from the plants you currently have, from your friends or family, or by foraging, as propagations,” Carter says.