Biophilia and Minimalism: How To Create Wellness Through Design
If I were a hotel, I would want to be the The Greenwich Hotel in Manhattan - specifically the Tribeca penthouse, which is probably the most peaceful place in the city. Opened in 2008, the hotel penthouse is a pure and symphonious culmination of minimalism, the Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi, Artempo, and sustainable design. It was created by designer Axel Vervoordt and architect Tatsuro Miki in close collaboration with the hotel’s partners Ira Drukier and Robert De Niro.
My personal design style, and also where I feel the highest sense of wellness, is in minimal yet lived-in spaces that incorporate biophilic design - such as natural light, greenery, raw materials, textured walls, natural fibers, and objects with history or energy that speak to my soul. Add family and friends, my rescue dog She-Ra, music, delicious organic food and wine, a body of water outside, and I’m perfectly blissed.
My attraction to biophilic design started early. I grew up in southern Virginia surrounded by the most beautiful emerald green landscapes. My mother was a firm believer in Feng Shui and loved her plants and bonsai trees. Thanks to these influences, the seeds of harmonizing the energy in one’s home as a way to improve wellness was only natural for me to incorporate into my own life.
The design philosophy essentially recognizes our innate need to connect to nature for our well-being, productivity, and creativity. Studies have shown that incorporating biophilic design in hospitals and offices has yielded amazing results which makes it just as necessary, if not more, to incorporate inside of our homes.
Because of this, I am a huge advocate for incorporating some form of biophilia into built urban spaces, whether as a quick addition of plants or a larger project such as adding a living green wall or vertical garden.
So how to do you noticeably increase wellness through design? Try including a lot of natural light whenever possible. Adding mirrors recirculates energy and enhances natural light if you live in a space with limited sunlight. Natural wood flooring and textured rugs, as well as furniture and objects made of raw elements such as stone or aged/reclaimed wood, also help maintain a connection to Earth’s natural energy while indoors. Try choosing sofas, pillows, and cozy throws made of natural fabrics such as cotton, linen, or soft wool and housewares made of tactile textures such as porcelain or earthenware.
Architect Luis Barragán was entirely convinced that a house should not be "a machine for living" and strove for “emotional architecture” as opposed to functionalism, claiming that "any work of architecture which does not express serenity is a mistake." He always used raw materials such as stone or wood and combined them with original and dramatic use of light, both natural and artificial. His preference for hidden light sources gave his interiors a particularly subtle and lyrical atmosphere.
Living minimally and clutter-free, with no unneeded or unwanted things, is not a new concept - but its health benefits have become increasingly recognized. Benefits include less stress and anxiety, more inner peace and self-confidence, and improved health habits such as better sleep. A clutter-free space also contributes to your well-being, because you subconsciously feel like you are providing yourself with a stronger level of self-care. Minimalism can also help you tackle deeper problems that cluttering could potentially be covering up.
My style of minimalism was developed through a series of consistent and disciplined exercises in refusal -combined with thoughtful acquisitions of what I absolutely love. It’s embracing the white/negative space and rejecting the need to constantly place objects on empty surfaces. And instead of making frequent, impulsive purchases from the local home decor retail store, it’s practicing restraint, patiently waiting to find objects I really love. Then, being conscious and intentional to only bring those objects into the home.
I still remember when I first became more satisfied with going inside of a home decor store and leaving empty-handed than I did from purchasing something I quasi-liked. I felt more accomplished after resisting purchases and critically editing my shopping, and in many ways, even felt like I was operating from a higher level of consciousness.
Mastering this practice not only helps hone a personal home design style, but will even carry over into other aspects of life. You become more thoughtful, controlled, and intentional, as well as a stronger decision-maker. There is a shift to being more meditative and less impulsive. Couple this practice of minimalism with biophilia, and you have one powerful pathway to wellness.
About The Writer:
Jill Smith Handy is a contemporary art consultant based in New York City. She advises private collectors, public arts organizations, corporations, and local municipalities. Having worked in the art world for over a decade, Jill has held positions at leading post-war and contemporary art organizations such as David Zwirner Gallery and Kim Heirston Art Advisory. She believes that contemporary art can create powerful experiences from improving wellness to driving social change and is passionate about supporting emerging artists.