Home & Commercial Expert

The Cowgirl Designer: You Will Be Hearing a Lot More About Biophilia

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By Marlene Holmquist

As humans, we have an evolutionary connection to nature, but we are now spending up to 90% of our lives inside buildings. Biophilia has been a wellness trend in the world of building and interior design for years, using the influence of nature in a big way. Although biophilic design uses natural materials, daylight, plants, views of trees and plants, water features and organic shapes, studies have found that even mere representations of these elements make a positive difference.

When it comes to our homes, biophilic design can boost mood, productivity, and overall health. It can be taken to another level by using organic shapes, fractal repeating elements, and eco-friendly technologies for the interior and exterior of buildings. And we should all be ecstatic to know that children learn 20-26% faster in biophilic environments, with more rapid brain development and expansion of social skills.

Serious bottom-line profits related to biophilic design have made health care, corporations and large retailers take note. Hospitals have studied the result of nature on patients in hospital rooms (with equal circumstances) by comparing and measuring the effect of a brick wall view and a view of a single tree. Those with the tree view had shorter hospital stays and required fewer medications. Bank of America’s 2009 Biophilic-designed skyscraper in midtown New York has reported worker productivity also accelerated; it has overshadowed its Platinum LEED Certification (Leadership in Energy Efficiency & Design) by delivering more profits to shareholders than the energy savings for which it was originally touted. Even trees located at the entry of retail stores have shown a dramatic improvement in sales due to the positive effects of nature. When biophilic design was implemented inside the store as well, the employee and customer well-being translated into additional substantial profits.

We all love nature and know that it is good for us, and the results above give you a glimpse at the possibilities of biophilic design to improve our lives. The effects of biophilia have been known to stay with you for weeks or months, depending upon the amount of exposure. I experienced this firsthand this April, after attending a four-day trail ride in the hills of Parkfield in Northern California, with the ladies of our local Las Vaqueras Women’s Riding Club. My annual medical exam was the day after I got back, and to my surprise, my blood pressure (measured right there in the doctor’s office after racing to my appointment), was better than it had been in two years … and it stayed that way for weeks!

The basics of beauty, comfort, and functionality are a standard goal for interior design. Adding nature to the recipe boosts our mood, productivity, and overall health. Relaxing ocean waves, colorful aquariums, the mesmerizing flames of a campfire, the fresh smell of a forest, the soothing sound of a waterfall, palm fronds blowing in the breeze, the view of a horse in pasture—they all contribute to our state of wellness, both physically and mentally. In a home environment, this translates to a happier and healthier life. In business, it is proven to increase profits.

Above is just a tip of the iceberg, but you get the idea. If you would like to explore the world of Biophilic Design, please see the resources I used listed below for more detailed information. If you would like a complimentary consultation for your home, office, or retail store, please contact [email protected]


The Biophilia Effect: A Scientific and Spiritual Exploration of the Healing Bond Between Humans and Nature by Arvay, Clemens G.; Nature by Design: The Practice of Biophilic Design by Kellert, Stephen R.; and The Economics of Biophilia: A extensive study and report by Terrapin Bright Green.

Marlene Holmquist, ASID, owns Luxury Ranch Interior Design, a full-service interior design company specializing in remodels for residences and small businesses. An avid equestrian known as “The Cowgirl Designer,” she is a member of the San Juan Capistrano Equestrian Coalition and Las Vaqueras Womens’ Riding Club. Luxury-Ranch.com or TheCowgirlDesigner.com.

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