Mother Knows Best: Home Design Inspired by Nature

We could learn a thing or two from Mother Nature when we feather our own nests.

| March/April 2008

The perfected systems of the natural world support life, nourish the soul and reuse everything in perpetual cycles. By mimicking nature in home design, we can create healthy, eco-friendly environments that reduce waste, soothe and energize.

Biomimicry (from  bios, meaning "life," and mimesis, "to imitate") is a design principle that seeks sustainable solutions to human problems by emulating nature’s time-tested patterns and strategies. Janine Benyus studied the concept in her book, Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature (William Morrow, 1997). Today, industrial engineers look at mussels that cling to ocean-pounded rocks to learn about water-resistant, nontoxic bonding agents; inventors base designs for fans and pumps on the spiral shape of the nautilus shell and the vortex of a tornado. Even an exterior paint, Lotusan, is designed to simulate the lotus flower’s water-shedding surface.

Biomimicry’s core idea is that nature, imaginative by necessity, has solved many of the problems we grapple with in modern design. Organizing our homes to reflect nature connects us with the wisdom of 3.8 billion years of what works. Biomimicry in interior design borrows not just nature’s look but the solutions embedded in its laws. Follow nature’s wisdom and try these seven design principles to make your home more vibrant and beautiful.

1. Follow the light. Nature gathers the sun’s energy efficiently, using only what it needs to support life. Through photosynthesis, plants convert light energy and carbon dioxide into oxygen, which can be used by other forms of life.

People can use radiant energy in their homes through passive-solar design. South-facing windows warm a room in winter by letting in the sun’s rays. In summer, you can position window shades to shut out hot sun; essentially, you’re mimicking the way leaves and flowers follow the sun’s movement.

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