4 Design Features to Bring Nature into the Home

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People are attracted to nature, and growing evidence suggests that interacting with nature makes people happier and healthier. But with an average of 90% of our time spent indoors, it is easy to feel disconnected. Bringing nature inside the home with specifically targeted design elements can resonate with and draw in potential home buyers and remodeling clients.

A sunroom is a traditional indoor space designed to make you feel like you are outdoors. Think about how you feel when you are in a home’s sunroom — do you feel calmer and happier? Studies have shown that views of nature trigger more pleasure receptors in our brains than non-nature scenes.

This positive experience can be carried throughout the home by incorporating aspects of nature in design strategies, and replicating natural patterns in a home’s finishes and design details. Four of these options are outlined below:

  1. Use natural materials. Materials including wood, stone and bamboo draw nature into the home. These materials can be incorporated into floors, walls, support beams and ceilings. How these materials are used can also impact the effect on the home owner. One study demonstrated that a difference in wood ratio on the walls of an interior space led to different physiological responses. Researchers found that a room with a moderate ratio of wood (i.e., 45% coverage) gave subjects a more "comfortable" feeling, exhibited significant decreases in diastolic blood pressure and significant increases in pulse rate.
  2. Maximize daylight. People tend to be more productive and happier when exposed to light. Design strategies include orienting the building to capture the light and air while minimizing heat absorption. Window-wall ratio (WWR) charts show the right WWR to achieve good daylighting, including a north-south orientation and 50% WWR. Windows and skylights also offer a view to the outdoors and a visual connection with nature.
  3. Add circadian lighting. Color, intensity and patterns of interior lighting can impact mood, alertness and sleep quality. Natural light patterns fluctuate between higher amounts of blue light during the day and lower amounts in the evening. Interior lighting can be designed to change to supplement available natural light during the day to optimize light levels. Other design strategies include programming the color of interior lighting during the day and evening, installing dimmable fixtures, using accent fixtures and incorporating diffused light.
  4. Incorporate nature-inspired finishes and details. Adding wallpapers or carpets that include natural patterns such as flowers, leaves, shells or birds can make home owners feel more connected with nature. Photos of landscapes, scenery, animals or flowers can also bring nature into the home. Finally, plants add a live nature element directly into the home. For more details about NAHB’s sustainable and green building initiatives, contact Sustainability and Green Building Program Manager Michelle Diller. To stay current on high-performance residential building, follow NAHB’s Sustainability and Green Building team on Twitter.

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