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

  • Rely on natural light to enhance the beauty and health of your home.
  • Bringing images and shapes from nature into your home helps nourish the soul.
  • The combination of geometric patterns with natural materials makes this room modern and comforting.
  • Select items with more than one use: This coffee table offers an additional storage area for books or magazines, and the ottomon doubles as a second table.
  • Patterns and repetition can help achieve balance in room design.
  • Choose houseplants that mimic the plants in your region.
  • An interesting mix of graphic, modern pieces and textured walls brings a polished and tactile look to this room.
  • Mother Nature makes bold design statements.
  • Earthy colors and textures and solid, classic furniture will ensure a room stands the test of time.
  • Pull inspiration for texture and forms from the landscape in your area.
  • Striking shapes are easy to find in nature.
  • Nature offers ready-made color palettes you can borrow.
  • Find design inspiration in nature, and select functional, high-quality furniture and decorative items that mimic the colors and patterns of your region.

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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