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9 Biophilic Design Ideas to Bring the Outdoors In

Find peace and serenity through biophilic design.

There’s something undeniably soothing about being surrounded by natural materials such as wood and stone, or the vibrant greens of a well-placed houseplant. In fact, studies suggest that biophilic design—incorporating nods to nature into built spaces—can have a wide range of health benefits, including stress reduction, better sleep and improved mood. “It all boils down to humans’ inherent urge to relate to nature,” says landscape architect Sherilyn Ocampo-Palisoc. “Even a simple bouquet of flowers is enough to uplift a person’s mood. It’s one of our evolutionary traits to be able to commune with our surroundings. We lived outside before houses or shelters had even been discovered.” Whether it’s a floral print, an earthy color palette or a profusion of greenery, here are ways to integrate these principles into your own sanctuary.

Brew With a View

Public spaces can also benefit from integrating  nature. For their new location in Uptown Phoenix, PROVISION owners Daniel Suh and Lawrence Jarvey recruited award-winning biophilia expert Joe Zazzera to bring their interiors to life—literally. “Coffee shops gather people together,” Zazzera says. “We wanted a space that was welcoming and warm, creating a meeting environment that made you forget you were indoors.” To achieve this, his team built living walls, one of which towers over the three-story office building lobby the shop occupies. “It’s science,” the designer adds. “Humans are hardwired to connect with other living things. When we’re connected to nature, we feel more productive, satisfied and alive.”

Joshua Caldwell

Playing With Fire

Patios in Arizona are essentially extended living rooms. In this Valley home, landscape designer Ocampo-Palisoc gave the en-plein-air fireplace vignette an artistic twist with a circular hearth and green wall. “We aimed to bring some softness into the whole fire lounge area by making sure that flowers and greens are integrated into the wall, providing that lush look.” It also allowed a peekaboo view of the desert beyond. “The amalgamation of nature in an otherwise urban, manmade setting inherently increases the livable spaces, enabling homeowners to live in and move around more than just the four walls of the house.”

Grow With the Flow
Recyclable and made from 65% recycled material, the Silo Planter makes a sleek, contemporary container for showcasing houseplants. Three sizes: 25″H by 22″D; 33″H by 22″D; and 41″H by 22″D. from $1,398 (

Loose Leaf
The new Forest Bathing collection of paper tiles by Weitzner capture the many dimensions of the forest and its restorative beauty. Sustainable abaca pulp is molded by hand-carved blocks, slowly dried and die-cut. The finished 16″L by 16″W tiles are unbacked, paintable and easy to install. To the trade. (

Rendering by Tridi-Cat

Blurred Lines

Every aspect of this Prescott home is meant to feel like living outside. Ample windows and skylights bathe the interiors in ethereal sunshine, while greenery indoors and out envelops the living spaces in organic elements. “The design attempts to make the entire house and garden feel like one space that combines interior and exterior,” says architect Matt Salenger. It is not only steeped in principles of biophilic design but also sustainable. “The ultimate goal was to be as off-the-grid as possible,” Salenger explains. A south-facing roof slope powers the house through solar panels and also creates an efficient way to collect and recycle rainwater. The use of straw bale in a single wall is intended to absorb carbon dioxide emissions, reducing the dwelling’s overall impact on the atmosphere.

Serene Soak
The Avalon 72 concrete bathtub in the Earth tone not only introduces warming terra cotta hues to the bathroom but also features a deep interior and thick walls that keep the water hotter for longer. 72″L by 36″W by 23″ in outside diameter. From $10,590 ( 

Dan Ryan Studio

Natural Instinct

“In Arizona, biophilic design can be incorporated into the home in ways that can’t be done elsewhere,” says interior designer Jillian Bader. “Our sunshine and warm weather make for a seamless indoor/outdoor living experience that is so desired here.” Bader applied these principles to The Tulum House, a spec home in Scottsdale, by using floor-to-ceiling windows that open up to exterior landscaping and natural wood and stone features. “These materials aren’t altered by extreme weather conditions in this climate, so using those design elements is a beautiful way to bring nature in.”

Branching Out
Crafted by a family of Mexican artisans using salvaged native ash trees, the new Polanco Sideboard is a study in rustic beauty. Fragments of the recovered wood, as well as pieces of European ash burl, are cut and arranged by hand, creating unique textures from the natural scorch marks, water stains and graining. 79″W by 20″H by 20″D. $3,999 (

Nicole Marnati

Stem Wear
This custom Bisazza floral glass mosaic pattern is made using mixed digital and artistic techniques with hand-cut and hand-layered tiles. Designed by Dutch designer Marcel Wanders for a private residence in Amsterdam, this blossoming tulip wall is a stunning interplay of art and nature. Price upon request (

Bird’s Eye
Offered in several colorways and substrates, including a brushed silklike option, the Paradis wallpaper is a fresh twist on chinoiserie and makes a spectacular statement in spaces small and large. 8’L by 53″W. $478 (

Tips from the Pros

Bring in the sun “It has so much to do with natural lighting,” says Zazzera, who boasts 42 years of experience with biophilic design. “The more daylight you can bring inside the home, the more satisfied, healthy and productive you will be.”

Maximize your views Salenger says one of the most powerful ways to create a calming respite is to situate your home around natural vistas. “Consider a courtyard with generous glass facing toward the walled refuge.” If possible, he says, orient views toward mountains and valleys.

Use natural materials and colors “These could be real implements of nature, such as a rock garden or a live-edge wood table,” Zazzera explains. “The same result is achieved through visual interpretations of the same thing, such as a painting or artwork.”

Take it outside “Creating enticing outdoor spaces where people can enjoy, gather or even just meditate will have lasting effects on quality of life,” Ocampo-Palisoc notes. “As outdoor designers, we could also easily situate ‘natural focal points’ that can be viewed from the house interior, which extends the outdoor space inward to the house.” 

Punch up your Greenery The easiest and most affordable way to bring the outdoors in? Visit your local nursery and adopt some indoor plants. It’s a literal breath of fresh air—studies show that certain types of houseplants are effective at removing toxins and can generate enough oxygen to meet a person’s needs for the day.

“BREW WITH A VIEW”—Biophilia and biomimicry expert: Joe Zazzera, Plant Solutions, Scottsdale,
“PLAYING WITH FIRE”—Landscape designer: Sherilyn Ocampo-Palisoc, ASLA, FALA, Creative Environments, Tempe,
“BLURRED LINES”—Architect: Matt Salenger, AIA, coLAB studio, Tempe,
”NATURAL INSTINCT”—Interior designer: Jillian Bader, Modern Nest, Scottsdale,


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