Vibing nature? Here’s how to get the look in your home
For those who like to live on the live edge.
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Spending time outdoors can improve our mood and health, while also providing a sense of greater connection to the world around us. It’s no surprise, then, that people often want to incorporate a bit of the great outdoors into their homes. If you’re looking to breathe some life into your own home décor, there are plenty of ways to create harmonious, organic-feeling spaces, no matter the budget.
Nature-inspired interior design is nothing new–architects and designers have been finding ways of blurring indoor and outdoor spaces for millennia, whether through gardens, breezeways, windows, or courtyards. When done well, the effect can be transformative.
Jennifer Gregoire, Associate and Senior Interior Designer at SGA architecture and design firm, says, “Being in nature is an experience that enhances our day, while spending the majority of our days indoors can have the inverse effect of being draining. When an interior design includes biophilic or nature-inspired designs it can improve that experience and act as a bridge from the outdoor experience to the indoor.”
Homeowners can certainly go to extremes to bridge that gap. Frank Lloyd Wright, the father of organic architecture in the United States, went so far as to build a house atop a waterfall: Step out of the dining room and you can put your feet in a stream. In the living room, you can stand on a rock that hasn’t budged for millennia.
Let nature inspire you
However, you don’t need to move mountains and rivers to make your home feel more connected to the outside world.
“Think of the materials found in nature, the plant life, the wood tones, the soft edges, even the way light filters through the tree canopy,” says Gregoire. “Taking inspiration from these elements can have a big impact on one’s home, be it from the inclusion of more plants, nature-inspired artwork or prints, or even the simple act of opening the windows and letting more light in. Additionally, you can select furniture and finishes that align with a more natural palette.”
This approach doesn’t require you redesign your entire home to fit a rigid aesthetic. Rather, a natural style can be adaptive, a way of enhancing what’s already there.
Kate Maloney Albiani, Principal and Lead Designer of Kate Maloney Interior Design, says, “It’s a strong basis of my design. I like to incorporate [natural elements] regardless of the client. It’s a great way to add another layer.”
As she puts it, this can provide a “grounded, soulful quality” to a space.
Start with natural wood and/or stone
A good way to start is to focus on embracing natural materials, such as wood. Since wood is such a common building material, you may already have wood floors or wood beams in your home. If this is the case, these elements should be embraced and highlighted.
“Wood tones just have these warm tones that can’t be replicated,” says Maloney Albiani.
You can also incorporate wood into the furniture you buy, whether it’s via dining tables, coffee tables, credenzas, or chairs. The color that wood can add, as well as the pretty and varied figuring of the wood grain, can make for exceptional focal points in a room.
Wood furniture comes in a limitless variety of styles, many of which will work for this aesthetic, but it’s often good to opt for items that look more handcrafted or rustic. The star of the show is the look and feel of the wood itself—these coffee tables from Pottery Barn or Burke Decor adhere more to this craft, rustic style.
You can opt for even more roughly crafted pieces: A popular trend right now is live edge furniture, wherein wood tops or shelves are made from slices of trees: The edges are left uncut, leaving the natural shape of the tree intact.
Stone is another great material to employ. Slabs of natural stones such as granite and marble are often visually striking due to their veining, especially so when kept intact as large pieces: A common way of incorporating stone is via kitchen counters or backsplashes, which requires a custom fabricator to make.
Use natural fabrics to bring texture
Fabric plays an interesting role in shaping the look and feel of your space.
“Textiles are a great way to bridge the gap between natural elements,” says Maloney Albiani.
Think rugs, couches, cushions, or curtains. These items can help define the boundaries of a space, as well as accent them. Natural fabrics such as cotton, hemp, and jute can provide interesting texture in calming earth tones that don’t overpower other elements in a space.
This jute rug, for example, has a notable texture that can tie together the various furnishings around it, thanks to its neutral light-brown tone.
By contrast, you can have your fabrics provide a pop of color that accents your woods and stones. Sectionals or sofas from Sabai are interesting in that they utilizes sustainable materials, including recycled and upcycled natural fabrics.
Let paint be your neutral base
Another important consideration is paint color. Often, it’s best to provide a neutral backdrop in your space to let the patterns, colors, and textures of your material furnishings really stand out.
Going with a lighter paint color on your walls also can also have the added effect of brightening up a room, especially if you get a lot of natural light. Look for zero or low-VOC paints if you’re looking for products with non-toxic ingredients.
Buy what you like, whether it’s local or from a major retailer
Gregoire says, “When it comes to nature-inspired design, the look and curation of items is more important than the price tag associated with each piece. Success comes from focusing more on the materials and color palette and less on the specific brand.”
But, you can also turn to local craftspeople for a more personal, custom touch, which may be easier if you want to have a conversation about where they source their wood, and what kinds of finishes they use.
Etsy, which provides a global network of craftspeople, is a great resource. Maloney Albiani says, “I’ve had fantastic luck there.” She continues that often, you can find local builders in your area through Etsy. “You can take a ride maybe half an hour, an hour, and meet the person who’s making your table. It’s a great connection tool.”
Keep your vibe light and uncluttered
No matter your preference or interest, if your goal is nature-inspired design, the best thing you can do is keep things light. Take stock of what you have and add items to your space thoughtfully and carefully.
Gregoire advises, “The more you have, the heavier your space will feel. The lightness that you experience in nature can be replicated if you are mindful of your choices and edit appropriately.”
Sometimes all a space needs is some houseplants and an open window to let the light in.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.