Biophilic Design: 7 Essentials for Hoteliers

The motivation behind biophilic design is to strengthen the relationship between people and nature, reaping benefits such as environmental preservation, reduced stress, and increased productivity and overall well-being. This design philosophy is achieved by blurring the boundaries between outdoor and indoor areas to create a soothing, peaceful atmosphere that entices people to reconnect with their environment. Rather than removing elements of the surrounding landscape for human habitation, biophilic architects seek to integrate buildings into the natural landscape and leave the surrounding area untouched and wild.

Biophilic design is important for hotels because today’s market values wellness for people and the planet. Travelers prefer to spend their money on experiences and businesses that practice sustainability and provide healthy choices. Here are seven essential elements of biophilic design to incorporate into existing properties, or consider when building new ones.

Curved Structures & Open Concepts

There are no walls, doors, or sharp edges in nature; everything harmoniously blends and interacts. A hotel inspired by biophilic design will include features that mimic natural landscapes through soft edges and curved structures. An open-concept layout helps blend the interior of your property with its outdoor surroundings.

An indoor hotel conservatory garden creates a calming place for guests to sit and relax.
Bringing the outdoors in is easy using large potted plants to create an indoor garden.

Natural Materials

Natural materials are unique and full of life, creating an enhanced, one-of-a-kind guest experience. Wood, stone, living walls, live plants, water features, and vertical gardens play significant roles in nature-inspired design. Unlike artificial materials, which lack excitement as mass-produced copies of each other, natural materials make interesting design features because there are never two completely identical plants or pieces of wood or stone. 

Natural Scents

In a hotel inspired by biophilic design, guests won’t have to stop and smell the roses because the entire space holds opportunities to connect with nature. Relaxing and invigorating scents occur throughout the earth. It can be exciting and educational to emphasize products inspired by wildlife indigenous to your location. Some ideas to subtly yet effectively disperse these scents throughout your property are essential oil diffusers, locally made candles, simple and natural cleaning products, air purifiers, and indoor and outdoor herb and flower gardens.

Maximum Sunlight

As much as your location allows, use natural light to brighten your space rather than relying on artificial lighting. Embracing natural light provides atmospheric stress relief for your guests, especially in urban areas with increased light pollution and because most people interact with phones, tablets, laptops, and TV screens day and night. Natural light is relaxing, beneficial for overall mood and well-being, can make us feel more productive, and reconnects people with their natural circadian rhythms and sleep cycles. Windows, including window walls and skylights, offer rejuvenating opportunities for guests to soak in these benefits.

A hotel boardroom brings nature inside with a wooden table, vertical garden wall, and lots of natural light.
A vertical garden, beautiful wooden table, and lots of natural light make this boardroom a productive and inspiring space!

Natural Color Palette 

Using colors found in nature for interior decorating blurs the lines between indoors and outdoors, creating a soothing escape from the overstimulating visual distractions in screens and cities. For example, greens, blues, and grays are natural, neutral tones that bring the calmness and simplicity of forests, sea, and sky inside. Use nature-inspired colors on your walls, textiles, and furniture to create a relaxing stay experience.

Promote Healthy Habits

Interaction with nature has many established health benefits, such as increased overall well-being, mood, productivity, and sleep quality. With a nature-centered building and stay experience, your property will positively influence your guests’ lives by introducing them to healthy habits they can follow even after they check out. Biophilic settings that promote healthy habits indoors and outdoors include walking trails, therapeutic gardens, outdoor yoga, and kayaking and canoeing rentals for waterfront properties.

Outdoor Spaces

While biophilic design philosophy seeks to restore indoor spaces to their natural roots, caring for your surrounding outdoor environment is equally essential. Some ideas for a comfortable, beautiful outdoor space include gardens, courtyards, fire pits, and lounging areas with hammocks and reclining chairs. These spaces can encourage individual meditation or social community-building opportunities among your guests.

City hotels without a large natural surrounding area can use privacy screens, vertical gardens, hedges, and trees on patios and balconies to create an outdoor refuge. If you don’t have patios or balconies, you can bring outdoor spaces inside by building a koi pond in your lobby or using live plants throughout your property.

More than a superficial trend, biophilic design seeks to improve human life by reconnecting us with our wild, natural world amidst the ubiquity of industrialization and technology. Adopting biophilic design elements is possible for any property in any location and can significantly enhance the guest and staff experience and, subsequently, your bottom line.