Culture + Nature = blankblank

Don’t just take our word for it, natural design is good for you.

Excerpted from Evidence-Based Residential Design by Sally Augustin, Ph.D. and Barbara B. Miller, ASID:

Finding Comfort
For humans to successfully live in their world, they need to be physically and psychologically comfortable.
• Physical comfort is the absence of pain and stress as people live in their bodily world.
• Psychological comfort is the experience of mental well-being. It is curtailed by things such as invasions of personal space and enhanced by being able to look at nature scenes that are welcoming and intriguing. Psychological
comfort influences mood (Russell and Snodgrass, 1987).
• Physical and psychological comforts are closely related. Physical stress on the body alters the mood and psychological state of a person (Evans and Cohen, 1987). Psychological discomfort can influence our physical state (Evans and Cohen, 1987), and mood even affects how physically healthy we are (Salovey, Rothman, Steward, 2000).
• Elements of the physical environment have repeatedly been linked to the mood of the people experiencing them (Mehrabian and Russell, 1974). The body of sensory research has found that information from our physical world that we see, hear, smell, taste and touch can influence psychological experience.
• Stress induced by the physical environment can be particularly important from a psychological perspective because it eats up the mental processing power at our disposal (Kaplan, 2001).
Comforting with Nature
We are more comfortable psychologically and in positive moods when we’re in a space that’s biophilically designed (Kellert, Heerwagen and Mador, 2008). Biophilic design uses the same “design principles” found in natural spaces where we thrived in our prehistory (Kellert, 2008). At some fundamental level, deep in our core, we seem to remember the places that nurtured us when we were a young species. Heerwagen and Gregory clearly describe the major aspects of biophilic design (2008); they are core concepts in evidence-based residential design.

• Nature provides us with multisensory experiences. In Western culture we tend to focus on vision to the exclusion of other senses, but to create spaces where people will thrive, we need to also consider sound, smell and touch.
• Not only are all our senses engaged when we’re in natural spaces, but what we experience changes from time to time, for example, in the course of a day or a season. Biophilically designed spaces also change over time; lights dim in the evenings, temperatures vary, surfaces patina.
• In desirable natural spaces, there’s gentle, pleasant movement: wind through the trees, waves upon the shore. Think of adding movement as you design, perhaps a mobile gently undulating in a current of air.
• Sight-lines are important in nature; we feel comfortable when we have long sight-lines within interior spaces as well as views to the exterior.
• It’s great if those internal and external views are altered as we move through spaces and provide options we value—from comfortable floor space for interacting with children to a retreat to enjoy a cherished book.
•Shelter is comforting in nature; people will feel more relaxed if you provide them with a refuge. It should have a slightly lower ceiling and look out over an area that’s more brightly lit.
• Unexpected and pleasant things happen in biophilically-designed spaces: Shadows from the tree outside a window falling on a wall, for example. Observation and documentation will be critical in order to understand how the space changes during a day. Biophilic design is a conceptual way to design with nature, but sometimes it’s a good idea to be more direct. Indoor plants have been shown to put people in a good mood as well, for example (Dravigne, Waliczek, Lineberger and Zajicek, 2008; Park and Mattson, 2008).
Texture has as many varieties and almost as much sensory impact as color. Iridescent finishes, metals, stone, textiles, woods and much more are all part of the kaleidoscope of sensory input experienced in a space.
• What we touch influences us on at a basic, psychological level (Hall, 1966).
• When we feel warm or cold, this induces feelings of social warmth or coldness (Bargh and Shalev, 2012).
• Rough matte surfaces can be interesting, both to the touch as well as visually (think of the shadows) (Kaplan and Kaplan, 1982; Kaplan and Kaplan, 1989; Malnar and Vodvarka, 2004); balance rough textures in a space because too much can be over-stimulating.
• Soft textures relax; this may be linked to early childhood sensory memories (Gordon, 2011).
• Shiny surfaces are energizing to view (Breedlove, Rosenzweig and Watson, 2007); they reflect light and can make a space seem larger since they make the walls appear brighter.
• We can find comfort in areas that do not have much textural variety, but we must maintain balance because a space without any textural variety can be under-stimulating.
• Houses have traditionally been built of wood. Visible wood grain reassures us of the strength of the material and quality of the home.
• Recent research has shown that seeing unpainted furniture produces stress-reducing effects similar to a nature view (Fell, 2010).
Natural Light
Windows have been called the eyes of a home, and just like our eyes, they have a very important influence on our experience of a space.

• Daylight is the original wonder drug. Being in daylit spaces has many positive effects; for example, kids learn better in them (Nair, Fielding and Lackney, 2009), and our psychological well-being is enhanced (Kellert, 2008).
• When a space has more sunlight, it seems more spacious (Gifford, 2007). Covering or uncovering the windows will change your perception of the space. Sometimes you may be trying to create a really cozy space, and, therefore, want to minimize the presence of daylight using heavy curtains. Homeowners may want a space that can seem spacious or cozy, at different times.
• If we can see something natural or a functioning fountain out of nearby windows, our stress levels decrease and our levels of mental energy are restocked (White, Smith, Humphryes, Pal, Snelling and Depledge, 2010). Those views help us replenish our mental energy, which is depleted when we do work that requires concentration and focus.
• Maintaining views to sunlight and outdoors while controlling light also boosts well-being by keeping us tied to natural cyclical, circadian rhythms (Ulrich, 2008).
Artificial Light
Lighting has a big influence on the psychological experience of a space; light
color, intensity, type and distribution all affect the user.
• The type of light lamp specified will impact our performance and mood.
• When we are under warm light, we feel more relaxed [research by Martine Knoop (Phillips Lighting and University of Technology, Eindhoven), reported by Barrett and Barrett, 2007], get along better with others (Baron, Rea and Daniels, 1992), and since we are in a better mood
(Baron, 1990), we also think more broadly and more creatively. Coolercolored lights are more energizing.
• In brightly lit areas we are more cheerful and active, particularly when they include warm, luminous colors (Mahnke, 1996).
• In dimly lit areas, we tend to have more relaxed conversations with the people around us, while more brightly lit spaces have the reverse effect on us (Mahnke and Mahnke, 1987). In darker spaces we also speak more quietly (Mahnke, 1996).
• More brightly lit areas also seem larger and more spacious than spaces of exactly the same size that are not as well lit (Stamps, 2010).


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