Biophilia: Nature & Design

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You may have seen the terms "biophilia" or "biophilic design" brandished around the internet lately, posted between beautiful images of sprawling interior design and architecture filled with plants and nature-inspired sculpture installations. Biophilia isn't new–but it is a growing discipline in interior design. If you are interested in healthy living or are a  building owner, it's a subject worth learning.

Biophilia is our innate desire to be close to nature–and biophilic design aims to make healthy and comfortable interiors by meaningfully incorporating natural elements into our home and work environments. Los Angeles-based interior designer Sarah Barnard sat down with me to explain how she uses biophilic principles to create healthful, smart spaces for her clients. "It's intuitive when you think about it. Biophilia exists because we are comforted by nature, and we all understand that on some level. Nobody wants to live in a little grey box–we want to live in open spaces connected with the environment, plant-life, and the seasons."

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Biophilic design puts a few simple principles to use to create spaces that are both visually beautiful and spiritually healthful. As more and more of us make our careers our focus, calmness, serenity and healthy living can be challenging to achieve without the help of nature and smart design. There are years of study to support what we already know in our bones: spaces that have nature incorporated are more appealing to us, and they have marked health benefits.

Terrapin Bright Green is a consulting firm specializing in sustainability to create a healthy, prosperous, and regenerative future for all. They produce workshops, research, planning, guidelines, and product development. They have researched biophilia and organized their findings into 14 principles of biophilic design and have studied the effects of biophilia on our health and wellness. For the most part, many of the principles are simple and intuitive, such as ‘Visual Connection with Nature,’ which is just what it sounds like: adding natural elements or a view to nature into your space.However if you’d like to read an in-depth, thorough explanation of all 14 principles, you can see the results of Terrapin’s research here: https://www.terrapinbrightgreen.com/reports/14-patterns/ . For today, we need only to talk about the three subcategories of the design principles: Nature in the Space, Natural Analogies, and Nature of the Space.

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Nature in the space refers to the presence of natural elements in an interior. For example, that could mean having plants, shells, or water features. But it could also mean more abstract features, like natural light or light that changes throughout the day, air circulation, and a view to the outdoors. “What you exclude is as just important as what you include,” said Barnard. “I choose art made with natural materials or vintage art that has off-gassed to avoid putting noxious smells or chemicals into a space. Indoor air quality accounts for part of how we feel about our homes and how comfortable we are.” All of her designs include live plants, too, which contributes to air quality, a non-visual connection with nature.

Natural analogies refers to art and forms inspired by nature: a light fixture that looks like a plant or a sculpture that looks like an animal, for example. A good designer will find natural forms and art for you to choose from so you can have art that imitates nature. Barnard walked me through a project she made custom light fixtures for. “The home was beside the ocean, and I wanted to make something inspired by the beautiful surroundings of that space. I started by sketching forms inspired by coral reefs, and I made miniatures in clay by hand. When they were ready, I had them fabricated by a local craftsman. Having forms that imitated the shape and texture of coral and having light cast in beautiful organic patterns made the space feel natural and serene.”

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Nature of the space means making the space itself seem like nature. Having a large open space through which you can see an expanse of space, as well as an enclosed room that feels safe fulfills this need. When asked for an example of how Nature of the Space might be used, Barnard said “I finished a project recently where the space had floor-to-ceiling windows with a view to the ocean. I selected low profile furniture to preserve the open space of the room and the sightline to the sea.”

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Terrapin also explains that there are three basic types of “nature-health” relationships: cognitive functionality and performance, psychological health and well-being, and physiological health and well-being. Cognitive functionality and performance is our mental acuity and focus. Psychological health and well-being refers to our mood, perception, and emotional state. Physiological health and well-being is our bodily health and performance.

All three areas of well-being see improvement when the 14 principles of biophilic design are applied in a space. The benefits have been thoroughly studied: each principle has been individually tested and shown improvements such as concentration, stress hormone levels, overall happiness, and numerous other positive effects.

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In fact, research by other sources has yielded similar results. The Human Spaces Global Report also found greater levels of well being in subjects with a view of natural elements rather than urban settings, according to a recent article by Steelcase’s magazine 360.

Steelcase, the largest furniture manufacturer in the world, is dedicated to sustainability, innovation, and wellness. They too have invested into researching biophilia in order to produce furniture for healthy, sustainable spaces. They describe the human experience with nature in four categories:

Sensory richness: mixing colors, textures, sizes and shapes. Varied elements in a space mimics nature and puts us at ease.

Natural rhythms and signals: anything that reminds us of natural processes can help restore us. Natural lighting that allows real sunlight, or artificial light that changes to mimic natural light.

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Challenges in nature: the idea is that our challenging environment is what pushed humanity to grow into what we are today, so there should be encouragement towards effort.

Local distinctiveness: having a feature that does not repeat anywhere else in the building can help large offices from becoming soulless or bleak. Reserving a certain material or color for one room can make it and the surrounding space more special and pleasant.

These four principles are a useful way to understand how we are affected by nature, and offer another way to begin tackling the design challenges you may be facing in your home or workspace. Whether you use these four facets or the 14 principles of biophilic design as a jumping off point to improve your space, a deeper connection with nature is healthy and beneficial.

“When you strip it down to basics, using biophilic design means including pieces of nature in the design, elements inspired by nature, and mimicking natural environments with layout, architecture and planning,” Barnard said. Homeowners and building owners especially might consider taking these premises into account in order to make their home or office a place that promotes their mental and physical wellbeing. Getting started can be as simple as purchasing a few plants. If you aren’t sure where to go from there, a designer can help you put all the principles into practice. Ideally, your space incorporates nature, smart design and healthy living.

by Kelsey Betancourt

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Sarah Barnard designs healthy, happy, personalized spaces that are deeply connected to nature and art.

To learn more about Sarah Barnard Design, please visit www.SarahBarnard.com.

References

Browning, W., Ryan, C., Clancy, J., 14 PATTERNS OF BIOPHILIC DESIGN. Retrieved from https://www.terrapinbrightgreen.com/reports/14-patterns/

Steelcase Corporation, Restoration Office. Retrieved from https://www.steelcase.com/research/articles/topics/wellbeing/restoration-office/

Photos by Chas Metivier, Steven Dewall

Award Winning Los Angeles Interior Designer Achieves WELL Accreditation

Interior designer and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Accredited Professional (LEED AP), Sarah Barnard of Sarah Barnard Design has recently achieved recognition from the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI) as a WELL® Accredited Professional. The WELL Building Standard® is the premier standard for buildings, interior spaces and communities seeking to implement, validate and measure features that support and advance human health and wellness.

WELL was developed by integrating scientific and medical research on environmental health, behavioral factors, health outcomes and demographic risk factors that affect health with leading practices in building design and management. WELL Certification and the WELL AP credentialing program are third-party administered through IWBI’s collaboration with Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI), which also administers LEED certification, the global green building program, and the LEED professional credentialing program. This relationship assures that WELL works seamlessly with LEED.

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Sarah Barnard Design was established in 2003 with a focus on creating spaces that are respectful of history, healthy, art-forward, and deeply connected to nature. Sarah was LEED accredited in 2007 and WELL accredited in 2017. Some of her notable projects include the National Immigration Law Center, Heritage Square Museum, National Geographic Entertainment, and numerous beautiful residences.

Barnard was recently recognized as an American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) National Ones to Watch Scholar, was featured in the July 2017 Issue of Metropolis Magazine and is scheduled to guest lecture at the 2018 ASID National Student Summit, SCALE in Los Angeles, CA. 

Sarah Barnard designs healthy, happy, personalized spaces that are deeply connected to nature and art.

To learn more about Sarah Barnard Design, please visit www.SarahBarnard.com.

For more information about WELL https://www.wellcertified.com/en 

Contemporary Luxe: Children's Rooms

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A pair of contemporary luxe children's rooms fit for a Manhattan Beach family home. A boy's bedroom is transformed into a 'little man's' room with the warmth of traditional design elements and cutting edge details to create a youthful, contemporary space. 

With a focus on personality and creativity, Sarah Barnard incorporated custom artwork based on conversations she had with each child. The boy's bedroom features a mural of a vintage Aston Martin inspired by the classic James Bond film 'Goldfinger.'

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A little girl's bedroom is full of warmth and whimsy. The smocked pink drapery and antique painted beds are a traditional foundation while the light fixture, custom polka-dot chairs, and bubble murals create a playful harmony.

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Above each girl's bed, a custom mural made from recycled art glass features imagery inspired by their favorite things. The hand-painted lettering adds a unique element of personalization distinguishing each girl's space.

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Sarah Barnard designs healthy, happy, personalized spaces that are deeply connected to nature and art.

To learn more about Sarah Barnard Design, please visit www.SarahBarnard.com.

Photos by Charlie Daniels

Contemporary Luxe: Indoor Outdoor Family Room

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This contemporary luxe Manhattan Beach family home has a cozy patio pairing luxurious outdoor textiles with Chinese artisan pottery to create a quiet retreat. The modern luxury of this patio level family room reflects the individuality and youth of the homeowners.

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With a focus on the homeowner's art collection, Sarah Barnard's design allows for plenty of display space featuring one of a kind pieces: an antique brass lamp, a vintage Japanese sculpture by Kent Artware and a hand carved mahogany conch shell from Negril.

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An innovative guest room features a custom bed with a metallic leather headboard and a claw foot base. Luxurious silk bedding and warming brass accents adorn this contemporary retro bedroom.

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A second guest bedroom hosts twin beds with matching leather bolsters. The painstakingly veneered custom headboard features a floating desk drawer and a vintage 1930's office chair that melds Hollywood Glamour with Industrial Chic.

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Sarah Barnard designs healthy, happy, personalized spaces that are deeply connected to nature and art.

To learn more about Sarah Barnard Design, please visit www.SarahBarnard.com.

Photos by Charlie Daniels

Historic West Hollywood Bungalow: Dining Room

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A historic 1918 Craftsman Bungalow features a beautifully remodeled dining room with contemporary updates by Sarah Barnard Design. By utilizing and restoring pieces original to the property, Sarah preserves the home's traditional aesthetic while introducing modern elements to create something personalized and unique. The fresh blue wall color modernizes the otherwise traditional dining room complementing the deep redwoods of the vintage furniture. 

An original built-in cabinet, a collection of art objects, a vintage dining table, and a contemporary chandelier sing together in harmony. A ceramic bust by artist Deborah Cansler rests atop an original antique cabinet with plenty of display space for the homeowner's eclectic treasures. An arrangement of wild blue thistles in a ceramic vessel made by artist Nashua Alfaro creates the perfect centerpiece.

Sarah Barnard designs healthy, happy, personalized spaces that are deeply connected to nature and art.

To learn more about Sarah Barnard Design, please visit www.SarahBarnard.com.

Photos by Chas Metivier

Historic West Hollywood Bungalow: Living Room

A historic 1918 Craftsman Bungalow gets a fresh face! Utilizing the original Arts & Crafts woodwork design, Sarah Barnard adds a pop of contemporary color for an updated take on this traditional style. In keeping with the classic aesthetic, Sarah treats the interior with eclectic and vintage mid-century modern furnishings.

Saturated colors and modern patterns pair perfectly with wood and brass accents. At the heart of the living room is an original brick fireplace restored to its former glory. Items collected on the homeowner’s travels make fast friends on the mantle with abstract paintings by Los Angeles based artist, Lori Dorn.

Sarah Barnard designs healthy, happy, personalized spaces that are deeply connected to nature and art.

To learn more about Sarah Barnard Design, please visit www.SarahBarnard.com.

Photos by Chas Metivier

Historic West Hollywood Bungalow: Caribbean Blue Bathroom

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This historic West Hollywood bungalow is all about color! The newly remodeled bathroom features a custom tile design by Sarah Barnard. The rich browns and vibrant teal blue's inspire thoughts of the Caribbean Sea. The spacious walk-in shower features a limestone seat providing the perfect complement to the saturated chocolate wall tiles.

Subtle details and accessories counterbalance the bathroom's bold colors. Handmade art tile and a beautiful handmade vessel make this masculine space special. A rustic mirror frame made of recycled barn wood helps to keep the new space fun and funky.

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Sarah Barnard designs healthy, happy, personalized spaces that are deeply connected to nature and art.

To learn more about Sarah Barnard Design, please visit www.SarahBarnard.com.

Photos by Chas Metivier

Park View Pied-à-terre: Master Bedroom

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This master bedroom is perched high above Virginia Avenue Park in Santa Monica. Inspired by antique furnishings, most of the furniture in this home was custom made of sustainable materials by local craftsmen. Pairing contemporary elements, such as the geometric inlaid headboard with antique furnishings and fixtures creates a design both modern classic. Solid bronze drawer pulls made by French artisans compliment the locally made antique reproductions. The vintage Austrian wall sconces (c.1960) add a subtle warmth to the crisp white space.

The French Country stylings are balanced with both rustic and minimalist tendencies giving this master bedroom a cozy and contemporary feeling. A portrait painted by artist Brian Johnson sits atop a custom desk made in petite proportions. A Himalayan rock salt lamp adds warming illumination to the compact workspace. Elemental accents and organic materials are the basis for this environmentally conscious master bedroom renovation.

Sarah Barnard designs healthy, happy, personalized spaces that are deeply connected to nature and art.

To learn more about Sarah Barnard Design, please visit www.SarahBarnard.com.

Photos by Chas Metivier

Park View Pied-à-terre: Guest Bedroom

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Nestled above Santa Monica's Virgina Park, this Pied-à-terre is complete with a guest bedroom inspired by the French countryside. Locally made antique reproductions pair perfectly with organic linen textiles. The crisp whites complement the natural textures and vintage accoutrements. A painting by artist Renae Barnard sits atop the bespoke blue nightstand. The woven headboard provides a rustic backdrop to custom silk pillows.

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Merging historic and contemporary aesthetics, this renovated guest bedroom utilizes all natural, handmade and local materials. The antique reproduction dresser features artwork by Karrie Ross and is flanked by delicate beaded sconces and natural linen roman shades.

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Sarah Barnard designs healthy, happy, personalized spaces that are deeply connected to nature and art.

To learn more about Sarah Barnard Design, please visit www.SarahBarnard.com.

Photos by Chas Metivier

Park View Pied-à-Terre: Master Bathroom

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This Pied-à-Terre has a small master bathroom with a modernist feel. Utilizing reclaimed materials this bathroom is brought to life with natural, handmade and local materials. Recycled vanities make fast friends with wall mounted mirrors made from salvaged barn wood. The vintage Danish pendant light (c.1950-1959) made of brass and glass is a functional piece of art for this functional room. A fiber sculpture by artist Renae Barnard hangs just to the left of a recessed wall niche that provides a perfect space for integrating live plants.

Bold minimalism is balanced with rustic details to create this contemporary vintage design. Stainless steel faucets, integral towel bars and coordinating bathroom accessories meld effortlessly with the deep tones of the ebonized vanity. Fresh cut branches add visual interest to the porcelain sinks and bring the outdoors in.

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Sarah Barnard designs healthy, happy, personalized spaces that are deeply connected to nature and art.

To learn more about Sarah Barnard Design, please visit www.SarahBarnard.com.

Photos by Chas Metivier

Ocean Avenue Penthouse: Contemporary Guest Room

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This Ocean Avenue penthouse would not be complete without a custom designed guest bedroom retreat. Vintage rattan coffee table ottomans pair perfectly with a sleeper sofa and lightweight linen sheer drapery. The sleeper sofa is not only compact but comfortable and versatile. An organic wool toss blanket adds warmth and visual interest. Handcrafted paper wings by fine artist Susan Hannon complete the space.

Active design elements like natural woods, raw textiles and plant life are incorporated throughout the space. Salvaged "live edge" wood was used to fabricate custom bookshelves displaying a collection of the homeowners' favorite books, fossil and mineral specimens. A handmade wooden bowl in the shape of a seashell is the perfect home to a potted plant adding life to the entertainment center.

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Sarah Barnard designs healthy, happy, personalized spaces that are deeply connected to nature and art.

To learn more about Sarah Barnard Design, please visit www.SarahBarnard.com.

Photos by Brad Nicol

Ocean Avenue Penthouse: Contemporary Master Bedroom

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The calming blue views of the ocean and sky were the inspiration for this Ocean Avenue master bedroom retreat. By outfitting with eco-friendly finishes in leather, rattan, maple, and wool, the biophilic impact of every detail was considered to optimize health and well-being.

Matching low-profile bedside tables in dark walnut topped with orchids and the homeowner's favorite books flank the master bed. The accompanying wall mounted swing arm lamps are perfect for reading. The custom commissioned artwork is reminiscent of an underwater world and adds peaceful minimalism and balance as a design element.

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A custom wall-hung console tucks away electronics and compliments the deep wood bed frame. Antique stone pottery and a dollop of moss are the perfect home to this indoor bromeliad; touches of nature are everywhere throughout this environmentally conscious design. Pottery and other artisan elements were handmade by local craftspeople and paired with indigenous plant life.

Sarah Barnard designs healthy, happy, personalized spaces that are deeply connected to nature and art.

To learn more about Sarah Barnard Design, please visit www.SarahBarnard.com.

Photos by Brad Nicol

Ocean Avenue Penthouse: Contemporary Living Room

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An Ocean Avenue penthouse with a bird's eye view of Santa Monica's coastline is outfitted with eco-friendly furnishings, natural textiles and organic rugs to create a perfect Zen retreat. White fabric poufs provide extra seating for guests and are low enough to preserve the ocean view. A natural driftwood sculpture compliments a collection of organic objects as the centerpiece to this biophilic design.

Fine art can become a unique design element within a room. This one of a kind artwork fashioned from hand-thrown clay disks explicitly created for the living room captures the calming energy of the ocean air. The installation's delicate minimalism and organic formations add dimension and complement the room's natural textures.

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Sustainably sourced organic textiles and fabrics adorn this custom sectional with natural latex cushions, a perfect companion to the organic wool rug and toss blanket. A modern white metal side table with a fun organic shape adds interest.

This modern design preserves the expansive coastline view while utilizing a wall of mirrors to extend the entertaining area visually. The integrated dining area features a custom table of chrome and maple perfectly sized for this compact space.

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A collection of eco-friendly materials, organic textiles, and vintage accoutrements make this Ocean Avenue penthouse the ultimate beach retreat. The delicate chandelier made up of tiny light bulbs, and wire reminds us of stars strung together in the sky. Tillandsia plants make a perfect centerpiece for beachfront dining. 

Sarah Barnard designs healthy, happy, personalized spaces that are deeply connected to nature and art.

To learn more about Sarah Barnard Design, please visit www.SarahBarnard.com.

Photos by Brad Nicol