Three tips to creating a calming and pure space by enriching your home with natural elements
Interaction with nature, whether through indirect or direct sources, has proven to improve mood, lessen anxiety and depression, decrease recovery time from injury and disease, and increase productivity. Filling a home’s interior with imagery and materials from the natural world is essential to so many philosophies of design, from Feng Shui to Biophilia. Natural materials both calm and enliven inhabitants of a home because they ground visitors and residents to the earth, reminding them of the freshness and vitality of their surroundings. Follow below for three tips in creating the ultimate organic oasis within your own home.
1. Decide If You Want a Theme
Would you prefer a subtle, relaxing environment more akin to a Zen garden than a living room, or are you searching for a way to turn your dining room into a tropical paradise popping with colour and pattern? The first step in bringing the outdoors in is deciding how much and what kind of the outdoors you are looking for.
For a sparse space intended for meditation, keep decor to a minimum. Choose natural materials that calm you -- like an unfussy teak daybed paired with stylish but understated cushions. Stay away from glossed, coated, or painted furniture in order to maintain an organic atmosphere. Keep the walls white or another neutral shade, absent of too many wall-hangings or framed photos, and make sure to store distracting items out of sight with closed cabinets rather than open shelves. Add more elements of the outdoors to the space by including plants indigenous to the area around your home as these will likely help you resonate with a sense of place and make you feel more grounded.
If you are looking to create a paradise theme in your New York apartment or London flat, go all out with colour, print, and pattern, maximalism is in this year! According to Diana Budds in her article “Inside the powerfully expressive world of maximalism: More is more” for LA Curbed, “Maximalism embraces decoration, pattern, colour—all sorts of things that are vibrant, fun, expressive, and pleasurable.” Budds explains that maximalism is not about hoarding hundreds of disparate home decor objects within the walls of your home. According to Budds, maximalism is about “the power and necessity of plurality and tapping into what makes us human...being omnivorous, about seeing the world with open eyes, and about expressing who you are and what you love.”
As such, if you have always loved the vibrant colours and bold patterns of the tropics, consider this your year to dress up your house as you wish. Choose primary colours as much as possible, but try not to shy away from pseudo-neutrals like black or brown as these colours will help anchor the decor, providing a touchstone for what could easily become too cacophonous.
If you find yourself longing for the snow-covered peaks of the Alps or the deer-grazing meadows of Yosemite, consider transforming a room of your home, or your entire house, into a mountain hideaway. Choose a modern rustic ethos, which translates best to all the comfort, cosiness, and charm of a cabin in the woods without any of the off-putting kitsch. If your home lacks the unfinished wood interior of a ski lodge, fake it with textured or faux-wood wallpaper.
Pepper the room with colours of late Fall and early Winter but avoid traditional prints if you want to maintain an overall modern aesthetic. Choose warm-coloured light bulbs rather than those emanating a fluorescent or bright white tone to mimic firelight and fill the space with subtly reflective surfaces like dark glass or antiqued brass. Pick furniture upholstered in more luxurious fabrics that still nod back to nature, such as dark brown leather, organic ochre-hued suede, or burgundy velvet. Consider flannel or flax linen for the fabric of your curtains to maintain a natural feel without sacrificing comfort and warmth.
2. Include “Views to Nature”
While you might not expect it, viewing nature is effective in encouraging productivity, calming anxieties, and boosting overall mood, even though there is no direct access of the viewer to actual nature. One should never underestimate the effects images of nature have on human brains, emotional states, and psychologies, explain Katherine R. Gamble, MS, James H. Howard, Jr., Ph D, and Darlene V. Howard, Ph D in their published study “Not just scenery: Viewing nature pictures improves executive attention in older adults.” Viewing images of nature -- paintings, photographs, etc. -- improve memory, concentration, and many other aspects of daily human behavioral activity. Studies conducted prior to that completed by the researchers listed above proved that even brief exposure to or “time in nature has psychological benefits, too, such as increasing people’s positive outlook and psychological energy.”
However, the study published by Dr’s Howard and Howard, and researcher Gamble was “the first study to show that viewing nature pictures improves attention in older adults, and to show that it is executive attention, specifically, that is improved,” which is significant because “nature exposure offers a quick, inexpensive, and enjoyable means to provide a temporary boost in executive attention.” Viewing images of nature has also been proven to quicken recovery time from both physical and mental illnesses (if the episodes were acute), to enhance worker productivity in an office environment, and to lessen the anxieties associated with poor performance. According to Chris Mooney in an article for The Washington Post, no matter what your age, “just looking at nature can help your brain work better.” As such, consider placing framed photos of your travels to natural wonders (national parks, beaches, etc.) or adding paintings that evoke the beauty of the natural world.
3. Work with the Materials of Feng Shui
Any biophilic interior requires nature’s touch in every corner of the home -- from the organic materials of the house’s structure to the growing potted houseplants on each sill. However, you should be conscious not to restrict yourself to traditional references to nature -- e.g. tall grass, rustling leaves, or gerber daisies. Instead, consider the elements (and materials) of nature that are essential to ancient philosophies like Feng Shui. According to the article “What is Feng Shui? | An Interior Decorating Guide” from Invaluable -- a collectors’ site -- the five most important elements harnessed through Feng Shui in order to create balance and harmony within a home (and thereby, within its residents and visitors) are “wood, metal, earth, water and fire.”
According to the article, each element represents a different emotion, state, or goal, with wood symbolizing “growth and vitality,” metal symbolizing “logic and intelligence,” earth symbolizing “stability and balance,” water symbolizing “clarity and relaxation,” and fire symbolizes “passion and energy.” Choose pieces for your home that correspond to these elements and the effect or atmosphere you are hoping to create in each room. For instance, consider “plants and wooden furniture” to encourage growth in a creative space like a craft room or artist’s studio. Consider placing mirrors around a space intended for reflection -- no pun intended -- and serenity.
By following the three tips listed above, you will be well on your way to creating the perfect indoor sanctuary or entertainment space infused with calming and revitalizing elements from the natural world.