Biophilic Design : How to Harness the Power of Natural Light at Home

Biophilic Design : How to Harness the Power of Natural Light at Home

A dining nook flooded with natural light pouring in from flat roof lights.

Natural light floods a plywood dining nook from two roof windows in the Vault House by Bradley Van Der Straeten Architects

I was approached by Pinterest a few weeks ago asking me if I would like to host my own show on Pinterest TV. Um, yes! Yes I would! And then it became a whole series. It took me all of a micro second to work out what topic I wanted to share in my series. Biophilic design of course as it is something I am so passionate about.

In the first episode, I presented an overview of what biophilic design actually is, what the main principles of it are and what the benefits are for our mental and physical health and wellbeing. In the second episode I explore how we can harness the power of natural light in our homes.

Urbanisation & Spending More Time Indoors

Natural light floods a plywood dining nook and kitchen from two roof windows in the Vault House by Bradley Van Der Straeten Architects

Lighting is such an integral part of our interiors and it is not easy to get right. In the past few centuries, humans have become predominantly urban dwellers. This shift from countryside to city environment has caused a persistent disconnect from nature. It is projected that by 2050, 68% of the developed world will be urbanised, and increasingly distanced from nature and natural systems.

There is also a direct correlation between the increasing urbanisation of our society and rising stress rates. In fact, stress has been called the “health epidemic of the 21st century” by the World Health Organisation.

Studies have shown that in North America and Europe we are now spending 90% of our time indoors. For me as a 40 year old that means I have spent 36 years of my life indoors. That is mind-blowing and probably scarily accurate. Even more crazy is that some species of whales spend more time at the surface than humans spend outdoors.

The Harmful effects of Artificial Lighting

A dining room flooded with natural light pouring in from flat roof lights.

Velux flat roof windows

Spending 90% of our time indoors is a lot of time in artificial lighting which really isn’t good for our health. Artificial light has a very disruptive effect in our circadian rhythms. We need to spend time outside in natural light so that our bodies can function as they were intended to. Natural light helps to regulate our circadian rhythms and co-ordinate our mental and physical systems.

If our circadian rhythms are disrupted by too much exposure to artificial light, particularly at night time, it can lead to disregulated nervous systems and health issues such as increased stress, emotional distress, mood disorders, depression, memory problems, general poor performance, disrupted sleep patterns and even critical illnesses such as obesity, heart problems and breast cancer.

Allowing Nature to Inspire Lighting

A garden on a flat roof that contains a roof window

Velux flat roof windows

However, when it comes to lighting our homes, if we take our queue from nature, we can’t go far wrong.

Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you.

Frank Lloyd Wright, American architect, interior designer, writer, and educator

Lighting is an integral element of biophilic design and there are a number of ways that we can work with lighting to harness the powers of biophilic design. This is what is so wonderful about biophilic design, it is a really holistic approach to design and many of the associated principles overlap.

Bringing in More Natural Light

The most obvious way to bring nature indoors when it comes to lighting is to bring more natural light into your home. This is much easier said than done unless you are building your own home from scratch and you can design the home to really maximise the amount of natural light that comes in.

Add More Windows and Doors

A beautiful home with lots of windows and sliding doors

A home with KustomSlide Mono Aluminium Sliding Doors from Kloeber that maximise natural light

If you are designing your home from scratch you can make sure you plan in many more windows and doors. Flooding the space with natural light allows our bodies to work according to the natural rhythms of the day and night cycle.

Making windows and doors as large as possible and placing them strategically to ensure that light can enter the home at all times of day will bring maximum benefits. Having dual aspect rooms with windows on adjacent walls that provide views in more than one direction are better than having windows in just one wall.

It can also help to change out any solid internal doors for ones that are glazed instead. This will allow light to pass from one room to another. If privacy is a concern, for example bedroom and bathroom doors, you can get doors that have reeded or fluted glass.

A view of a kitchen through to a dining area and out to the garden

The view through glass doors to the kitchen, dining room and garden beyond in the refurbishment of a North London terraced house by Cairn Architects | Photography by Peter Landers and Anna Stathaki

Add External Glazed Walls

A light filled living room with a glazed wall separating it from the garden

Natural light floods this extension and refurbishment of a North London terraced house by Cairn Architects | Photography by Peter Landers and Anna Stathaki

If you are building from scratch, adding glazed external walls is a great way to ensure that natural light can enter your home more easily. But this can also apply to home renovations.

If you are planning an extension to your home, using glazed walls to create a glass box effect will allow the natural light to stream in unimpeded.

A glass extension to the rear of a Grade II listed property by London Contemporary | Photography by Paul Craig

Add Glass Partitions

Loft conversion - Living room dining room space featuring velux integra windows

Velux roof windows

You can also help the natural light to move through your home more easily by replacing internal walls with glass partitions. You will still get the same sense of zoning your home and break up the space, but you won’t prevent the light from moving through the space.

A kitchen partitioned off with glass doors. An internal window allows more natural light to circulate

Natural light floods the kitchen of a North London terraced house by Cairn Architects | Photography by Peter Landers and Anna Stathaki

Small internal windows can also help the natural light pass from one room to another and can help to illuminate any particularly dark rooms or spaces.

The internal window in the home office allows natural light to move through this North London terraced house by Cairn Architects | Photography by Peter Landers and Anna Stathaki

Add Roof Lights to Increase Natural Light

Natural light floods a plywood dining nook and kitchen from two roof windows in the Vault House by Bradley Van Der Straeten Architects

Roof lights are another great way to get extra daylight into your home. Whether you use them instead of adding extra doors and windows or as well as, you can really make the most of how much light is entering your home.

Velux flat roof windows

You can add roof lights if you have a pitched roof but you can also add them to flat roofs. There are plenty of companies now that also offer bespoke sizes so you can make them work in your home no matter what restrictions you are dealing with.

Dreamy loft conversion inspiration. Image by Velux featuring Cabrio Windows

Velux Cabrio balcony roof windows

Velux also do terrace windows and cabrio windows which allow you to create a small balcony on your roof. I discovered these while thinking about how I would like to convert my loft and maximise the natural light in the space.

Loft Conversion - Living Room - Velux Terrace interior

Velux roof terrace windows

Add Sun Tunnels into Space with Little Natural Light

More natural light flows into this living room from sun tunnels in the ceiling

Velux sun tunnels

Sun tunnels are another great solution for pitched or flat roofs as they allow you to experience the changing light of the seasons and times of day. They can be used to bring extra light into any room in the house as long as the ceiling of that room is not too far from the roof.

More natural light flows into this sunken dining room from sun tunnels in the ceiling

Velux sun tunnels

It’s not just sunlight that can be brought in with a sun tunnel either. They allow you to experience changes in weather, passing clouds and even moonlight.

Use Mirrors to Reflect Natural Light

A large window mirror bounces natural light around in this industrial boho hallway

A window mirror from Dunelm gives the illusion of an extra window in this hallway

If natural light isn’t abundant in your home, one thing you can do to multiply it is to add mirrors. Mirrors help to reflect the light that is coming in and bounce it around the room creating the illusion of more natural light. Place mirrors opposite and adjacent to any windows for maximum benefit.

If you can’t add more windows to your home, adding mirrors that look like windows is a good alternative, particularly if they can reflect views of outdoors.

Bring in Dynamic and Diffuse Light

The principle of biophilic design that refers to lighting is all about dynamic and diffuse light. This means that it is important to incorporate varying intensities of light and shadow that change over time and mimic the lighting conditions that we might experience out in nature.

A space that has good dynamic & diffuse light conditions allows us to experience the time and movement through the light. Think of the dappled light under a canopy of trees, or the reflections of rippling water on a wall. These patterns are what we call fractals, and our brain is programmed to look for these fractals so incorporatingthem into our homes is beneficial.

Add Soft, Flowy Curtains or Drapes to Soften Natural Light

Floor to ceiling floaty voile curtains cover the windows in this dining room

Somerton Linen Voile Curtains from Thomas Sanderson

Diffuse light is when light has been dispersed and scattered evenly across a surface and has been softened slightly to reduce the glare. This effect can be seen in nature when sun light is refracted by cloud cover, fog or a forest.

We can achieve this in our homes by using soft, flowy curtains or drapes to soften any harsh sunlight that comes into our homes. This is particularly useful if you do have large expanses of glazing that may cause stron direct light to enter your home.

Choose Lights That Create Shadows Inspired by Nature

Blue watery reflections from the WAW collection light play on the wall behind this double bed

BE Water Lamp from the WAW Collection designed by Fernando Correa

If you cannot create dynamic and diffuse light conditions naturally, you can always experiment with biomimicry and use lighting products that are modelled on this biological process. Lights that create shadows that look like a tree canopy or light relfected off water for example can add a sense of movement to the space which holds our attention and intrigue us.

Add Window Film that Creates Interesting Shadows

Window film by Hannah Nunn for The Window Film Company

Window film is a great way to create more shadows in your home and to mimic the effect of dappled light. When sunlight comes pouring in through the windows, doors or glazed walls, a window film can help to turn this light into something that more ressembles the light and shadows that we might experience outside.

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Opt for window films that depict nature for maximum effect. The shadows that the window film casts should move and change throughout the day as the sun moves through the sky and enters your home from different angles.

Choose Lights That Mimic the Changing Time of Day

Throughout the day, the colour of sunlight changes and our bodies respond to this. Light is yellow in the morning, blue at midday, and red in the afternoon and evening. Blue light causes our bodies to release serotonin which gives us more energy and helps us to feel alert. As blue light fades into the evening and we see more red light, our body produces melatonin insted which helps us to feel calmer and prepare for sleep.

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If we are spending a lot of time indoors it helps if we can mimic the changing colour of the light throughout the day. There are lamps and lights that you can buy that work on this principle such as wake-up light alarm clocks.

Choose Lighting in Organic Designs and Materials

Three wooden chandeliers in varying sizes hang from the ceiling

Flock Chandeliers by Tom Raffield

The final way that you can can harness the power of light in your home is less about the lighting system itself and more about the decorative appearance of the light fittings. Choosing lights that feature organic shapes and materials that can be found in nature has many benefits.

A plant grows inside a glass ceiling lamp

The Mygdal Plantlight by Nui Studio allows plants to grow even in windowless places

Look for lights and lamps that either incorporate foliage or are symbolic representations of life and make us think of living things. Choose products that are contoured, patterned, textured or feature the numerical arrangements that we can find in nature.

A selection of 11 Biophilic lights

SOURCE LIST

  1. Cara Pendant Light from Lights4Living (affiliate)
  2. Barnacle Hanging Lamp by Kenneth Cobonpue
  3. Nymph Scone by KOKET
  4. Poppy Hanging Lamp by Kenneth Cobonpue
  5. Kris Kros Hanging Lamp by Kenneth Cobonpue
  6. Willow Pendant by Laura Ashley from Lights 4 Living (affiliate)
  7. Tilow Wall Light by Tom Raffield
  8. Ursula Wall Lamp from Cult Furniture
  9. Foliage Wall Lamp by Eichholz from Sweetpea & Willow
  10. Palm Leaf Light by Cult Furniture
  11. Las Palmas Floor Lamp by Sweetpea & Willow

FURTHER READING

If you are interested in learning more about how to incorporate the principles of biophilic design into your own home, you may be interested in reading these posts.

five reasons to maximise natural light at home
Biophilia in Design: Bringing Nature into the Home
Biophilic Office Design: How to Create the Perfect Home Office
Biophilic Kitchen Designs: How to Get the Look
5 Exciting Ways to Invite Nature into Your Home with Textured Walls
How To Use Organic Shapes in Interiors

If you found this post useful, don’t forget to pin it for later. And if you have any tips to share, please leave them in the comments below.

Pinterest Pin. How to harness the power of natural light at home
10 Rattan Mirrors So Stunning You Won’t Even Notice Your Reflection

10 Rattan Mirrors So Stunning You Won’t Even Notice Your Reflection

Apartment Therapy received compensation for this post, which was written and edited independently by our editorial team.

In case you haven’t noticed, rattan is having a real renaissance (a rattanaissance, if you will). The woven look (also seen in cane and wicker) is quickly taking over our homes, whether it’s with a chic pendant light, a cozy chair to curl up in, or a chic headboard to help complete your bedding setup. We’ve noticed some gorgeous rattan mirrors lately and absolutely love the look — it’s the perfect way to incorporate rattan into your home without committing to a larger piece. And with the trend exploding, your picks (and places to source your mirrors) are bigger than you might have anticipated. To help make your hunt a little easier, we went ahead and rounded up some of our favorite finds that’ll instantly add some natural texture and bohemian flair to your space. Below, check out 10 of the best rattan mirrors around and pick one up today!

Sarah M. Vazquez also contributed to reporting. 

This Easy, Rental-Friendly Decorating Idea Can Make a Tiny Bedroom Look Palatial

This Easy, Rental-Friendly Decorating Idea Can Make a Tiny Bedroom Look Palatial

Mirrors are a key part of designing any room. There’s a mirror for a last look in the entryway, a full-length mirror near a closet, a stately mirror above a sink in the bathroom. What you may not have thought of is using mirrors over or near your nightstands. Bedside tables are typically bedroom dumping grounds — home to a reading lamp, a glass of water, whatever you’re reading at the time — so they’re often neglected in terms of thought-out design schemes, but that doesn’t have to be the case.

A single mirror (or a pair of mirrors) just might be the easiest way to create a dramatic (and practical!) focal point in the bedroom, as they can fill awkwardly blank wall space near your nightstands. You can easily incorporate tall mirrors with modern lines, ones with ornate gold frames, or add a much-needed circular motif to a room dominated by right angles. Read on for the biggest decorative benefits of using mirrors above your nightstands (or even just beside them, if you really want to go big!), plus some inspiration on how to find some for your own space. 

Mirrors contribute height to a bedroom that doesn’t have soaring ceilings.

If you’re struggling to add height to your bedroom — say, wall-mounted sconces and a low bed frame keep the space feeling too close to the floor — large mirrors above or beside your nightstands will draw the eye up, creating the illusion of a taller ceiling. It might seem like an unconventional choice to place full-length mirrors above nightstands, but it actually feels surprisingly chic, leaving room above your headboard for a statement piece (or pieces!) of art. You can also go the route you see in this bedroom above, with a full-length mirror just beside your nightstand.

Mirrors throw artificial light around a room.

Unlike dining rooms, hallways, and bathrooms, bedrooms are often short on overhead lighting, which presents the challenge of fully filling the room with light. Mirrors above one or both of the nightstands in a bedroom not only can provide reflective backdrops for your table lamps, but they’ll also help throw artificial light around the room by projecting the usually-concentrated beams from table lamps into the rest of the space. 

Mirrors can brighten up a smaller, darker room in the daytime.

Similar to throwing light from a table lamp, mirrors can also help spread daylight around a room on sunny days. Even on overcast days when natural light is at a premium, mirrors can also help disperse the little light that is coming in. White paint, bedding, and accessories, as all seen above, will certainly make that effect more pronounced, too.

Mirrors can add calming symmetry to a sleep space.

The collective inspiration behind bedroom design is typically “quiet sanctuary.” Sure, that effect is achieved with soothing color palettes and fluffy bedding, but a sense of symmetry can be visually calming to the eye and contribute to a peaceful end goal, too. What better way to build upon the sameness of a nightstand set than matching mirrors and lamps above? Adding the same mirror on both sides of the bed allows for more decorative wiggle room with books, knickknacks, and personal items while still keeping the room feeling balanced. You can really double down here, too, just as the dwellers above did, choosing to add a pair of large mirrors in lieu of a headboard, which makes maybe the ultimate symmetry statement.

Here’s How to Style All Those Vintage Mirrors You Keep Thrifting

Here’s How to Style All Those Vintage Mirrors You Keep Thrifting

If you’ve ever been thrifting, then you’ve probably felt the urge to buy some items that you had zero space for in your home. Vintage mirrors are definitely one of those things. While these mirrors are unique in shape and style, once you have them on all of your open wall space, it can get trickier to find a place for them. The good news is, there’s actually a pretty simple way for you to display all the mirrors you want to take home — without even having to hang them.

Frances Berry Moreno is an artist who lives in a fun and colorful 985-square-foot apartment in Memphis with her husband. Moreno considers the style of their home to be “bright, eclectic, unpretentious, unexpected, and playful.” It’s filled with art, collectables, and unique prints all over the walls — and every horizontal surface too!

“Most of the art on the walls is mine,” Moreno says. As an added bonus, her husband is a commercial diver so he’s always finding cool things underwater to add to their home. “Scattered throughout the house are a number of collections including dozens of ceramic hands and rocks and other treasures my husband brings back from the bottom of whatever body of water he dives in,” she adds.

Moreno has embraced a maximalist design style and finds all sorts of unique places to display her decor and collectables around the house. The landing of her staircase is a perfect example.

If you look closely at the ledge beneath the window, you’ll see at least three different mirrors layered on top of each other, leaning against the wall. A lot of times, when people buy mirrors the go-to move is to find a wall to hang it on. Moreno didn’t go the traditional route, and it created a space for her to display not one, but three mirrors that she loves. If you find yourself with mirrors you can’t live without but don’t know where to put them, this might be your solution.

Moreno’s biggest piece of advice on creating a home that you love is not to worry about what other people do or have in their spaces. “Your home is for you, not other people,” she says. So buy as many vintage mirrors or fun thrifted finds as you like. There’s always a way to style them later.

Savannah West

Home Assistant Editor

Savannah is Assistant Editor for the Home Team at Apartment Therapy. When she’s not writing about style tips, product launches, or interviewing designers, you can catch her re-watching Gossip Girl or on Facetime with her grandma. Savannah is a proud HBCU graduate and Clark Atlanta University alumna who believes there’s nothing good food can’t fix.

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IKEA Now Sells A Dupe of Anthro’s Gleaming Primrose Mirror for Less than $200

IKEA Now Sells A Dupe of Anthro’s Gleaming Primrose Mirror for Less than $200

Terri Pous

Managing Editor

Terri is an editor and writer who loves historical homes, bathrooms, and storage hacks for her tiny studio apartment. Her work has appeared in BuzzFeed, the New York Times, Vox, Brides, and Time magazine, among others. She has a degree in Magazine Journalism from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism and is a two-time Jeopardy champion.

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