One aspect of domestic garden design which is often overlooked, yet crucial to the style and ambiance of residential landscaping is the lighting. As technology constantly evolves and with landscaping generally becoming more innovative, lighting design and its importance has never been this flexible or prominent.
Logically, it appears that lighting isn’t always high on the agenda when designing or structuring your outdoor space. Not always in this order, but people usually prioritize their budget and attention with the hardscaping first, then the softscaping, then plants, flowers, the furniture as well as other furnishings and outdoor appliances. Ironically these aspects maybe considered more integral to the design because of their practicable nature plus the frequency at which they are being used. Understandably, it is because of this why lighting will be fairly low in the pecking order if viewed in this way, but if you look at it from a different angle you soon realize the significance of good effective lighting and the impact it can have on the garden space itself.
Lighting isn’t just applied so you can essentially, “see in the dark”, although let’s be honest, if there was ever a reason to utilize something as a necessity, that would be it. Of course it’s obviously very useful but aesthetically it can improve your garden profusely. Some lighting installations are incredible to look at and give the desired “WOW factor” everyone craves when revamping any part of their home and garden. It can completely transform the look of your garden in a dramatic way. Kheireddine Batech, Senior Electrical Engineer and Lighting Specialist at TerraVerde explains “a good lighting solution basically means you can enjoy your garden 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It doesn’t have to be limited to just when the sun is out. Lighting can transform your garden so radically of a night that with the contrasting looks between the daytime and the evening; it feels like you have two gardens”.
Lighting gives sustainability and longevity to your garden showing it can increase value significantly. There is so much choice when it comes to various styles, shapes and sizes and it’s hard to evaluate on average, how many lights could be used on a project as it differs depending on the size, theme and location. It’s very difficult to choose what’s right for you. I guess that’s why it’s beneficial to use an award winning Landscaping Company like TerraVerde, Kheireddine underpins one of his key responsibilities whilst working on a project, “the client can’t always envisage the end product, with my experience I know what the results will be so part of my role is to communicate the potential outcome to them”.
Kheireddine additionally describes the lighting design process, “selecting lighting for a development is a funnel process, filtering down the different options to the most effective and appropriate solution. The lighting is designed at the stage when the drawing for the hardscape and softscape has been produced. Obviously both these elements are taken into account with the specification, as well as the client’s budget, tastes and garden layout but we furthermore also seek inspiration from the interior design of the property. It’s maybe unorthodox but it ensures that the feeling and character of the property is consistent inside and out”.
LED lighting is still the number choice for designers and electrical engineers alike. There’s no direct electrical source, so they are clearly a safer option but they additionally use just 12w as appose to 220w, making them the more efficient, and energy saving choice. In terms of casing, spike lights are common because of their versatility and flexibility. Positioning is impetrative with lighting design and they ensure that all facets of the garden are under the spotlight, especially the softscaping, plant beds, flower pots and trees, showing off their wonderful shades and textures. Fiber optic lighting, a new technology, is becoming increasingly popular as its cabelling allows more creative freedom, as appose to installing a standard marker light
Kheireddine keeps things current by attending conferences, seminars, meeting suppliers to discuss new products and running experimental installations using new methods and techniques, “products are constantly getting released all of the time so you have to do everything you can to stay ahead, if you don’t actively seek new products and learn you will not develop”. Kheireddine is currently using Smart Lighting at TerraVerde. This allows clients to adjust and alter the colour, intensity and direction of the lighting using a mobile application on a smart phone. The popularity of home automation as a whole is increasing as it becomes more accessible and affordable, this trend will no doubt change in the future. Soon it may well be the norm to have more bespoke lighting which can modify the landscape with the touch of a button. You could change the light setting to suit your mood or the occasion, so the future indeed looks bright for outdoor lighting, or dimmed, or tinted or whichever way you want it to look.
Lighting gives versatility to the garden’s appearance, looks impressive on the eye, it’s innovative, creative and in most cases compulsory for safety. It has also been proven, which I have mentioned in a previous blog, that studies show that good lighting can reduce the risk of theft quite substantially, in turn reducing your insurance premium. In many ways lighting can save money and increase fulfillment so think twice, or at least just think, about the lighting on your next garden project.
In some parts of the world hot weather is considered the norm. The experience of living, working and playing in the sun, isn’t just something which happens on the odd summer occasion, it is a lifestyle which occurs all year round. Where I come from in the UK, outdoor swimming pools are definitely considered a luxury. Now I that reside in Dubai and understanding what it’s like to be induced into the Middle Eastern climate, I’m starting to realize that outdoor swimming pools are not necessarily a luxury here, but rather more like a necessity. Therefore it is essential, (especially as a blistering hot season approaches us), to have your pool ready and full, in order to reap the rewards of having a well-designed, well-built swimming pool. Whether you’re someone who is looking to construct a new pool privately for a residential project, renovate an existing pool, or you’re an architect/contractor who is producing a public/communal pool for a commercial development, let’s dip our toe in the water and ride the wave of various options to choose from when configuring a swimming pool. People of the UK, this may or may not be for you.
So let’s start from top and go back to basics…………..
Firstly there are:
2 Core Types of Swimming Pools
An In-Ground swimming pool is the traditional type of pool which is permanently installed. One of the great things about In-Ground pools is that they can come in various different shapes, sizes and styles and in essence, are completely bespoke to your tastes and needs. As well as a great place for entertaining they can also compliment the design of your garden (or landscape) acting as a water feature (obviously the overall design of your pool and garden is a determining factor in this). Without doubt, the most popular type of swimming pool in this region (and other hot countries) mainly due to the warm temperature which, as mentioned already, is consistent all through the year. That way people get the most out of their money and in terms of satisfaction, see a clear return on investment.
There are 3 different forms of In-Ground swimming pools which are as follows:
Gunite pools can be extremely creative in design and it is in this form, which allows you to have that freedom of choice for In-Ground pools. Concrete pools offer the most design flexibility as they can be built in any shape and most importantly, from a designers perspective, are able to fit into irregular spaces which with some specifications, can be a key advantage. This in turn also doesn’t allow the main priority and objective of actually having a swimming pool, to compromise the rest of the designed landscape and general outdoor area.
Vinyl pools are in a nutshell, pre-made manufactured pools. Because vinyl pools are constructed from pre-fabricated materials and have a simpler construction process, vinyl pools can be completed in about 3 weeks. Vinyl pools are less labor intensive and for sure are your least expensive In-Ground pool option. However if you want high quality mixed with creativity, then this pool may not be for you.
Fiber Glass Pools
Fiberglass pools arrive in one pre-formed, pre-finished piece, so similar to vinyl pools, installation is fast. One of the biggest benefits of fiberglass pools is their surface. The smoothness makes it difficult for algae to cling to it — and that means easier maintenance and fewer chemicals.
If you you’re in a rush or on a tight budget, an Above-Ground pool can be viable option. The main benefit to these types of pools is that they can take as little as a few days to install. They are generally cheaper than In-Ground pools because the installation is quicker and easier (although qualified fitters are still required). That doesn’t mean to say they have to look or feel cheap. Many Above-Ground pools can include optional extras like decking and balustrading and they can also be heated to extend your swimming time if needs be.
Initially an Above-Ground pool sounds like a good choice however there are some disadvantages of this type of swimming pool. Unlike In-Ground pools which are a permanent fixture to your residential or commercial landscape, in monetary terms, they add no value to your property. In the same way that the main advantage of a concrete/gunite pool gives you that design flexibility, Above-Ground pool designs are already pre-established which limits your choice of shape, colour and finish. They also fundamentally, share the same problems as In-Ground pools. For example, water evaporation and maintenance issues. Usually they come either 48 inches deep or 52 inches deep, so if you had plans in the summer practicing to make the Olympic Diving Team at the 2016 Olympics in Rio………..…………..think again.
Styles of Pools
So after assessing the two core types of swimming pools I think it’s safe to say that if you want the best quality, in terms durability, innovative design, overall aesthetics/presentation, functionality and maintenance, with the exception of cost, In-Ground pools are (not so) arguably the supreme choice of pool, more specifically, concrete pools seem to well, blow the competition out of the water (the swimming pool puns are way too easy). At the end of the day you get what you pay for, so if you want the best you have to pay for it, although if you take into account the resell value of your property it kind of eradicates the only negative viewpoint on concrete or gunite pools.
So at this stage, if you have followed my recommendation, you’re at the point of now choosing your style of pool. I am not referring to the shape, colour or finish necessarily but the primary style, the overall look etc.
I have broken down below a selection of different types of styles for concrete pools.
The easiest way to explain skimmer pools is to think of a pool skimmer in a residential pool, like you would a gutter in a larger public swimming pool. It doesn’t sound as pretty or as nice as it should to be honest (and straight away you think of “that” pool you went to as a kid at your local sports center), but basically that is what a skimmer is (and does). It’s a pool with a sewerage type system running along the cusp of the pool and it assists in pool cleaning by skimming water and capturing floating debris such as leaves, flower petals, dirt, twigs, dead insects and oils (or sun lotion), before it can sink to the pool’s bottom. Most skimmers on In-Ground pools are built into its upper side, but don’t always have to be. This where the suction draws debris, collects it and traps it into a separate tank allowing you to clean your pool in an effective, easy way. Probably the most traditional pool style there is.
Overflow Swimming Pools
Most likely you will have seen this style before, probably passing a modern villa, hotel pool, spa or gym. Today it is quite common and it’s mainly a reflecting pool style that gives quite a mouth-watering effect. The water’s surface looks like a giant mirror or sheet of glass as it appears to be perfectly contained without any walls or barriers.
This effect is generated via a perimeter overflow, a style used in many modern swimming pool designs in which the water overflows its edges and is guided into a hidden slot or catch basin, where it is then recycled back into the pool. The hidden slot can be tiles, pebbles or a grid arrangement. This makes a great collaboration with contemporary architecture (residential or commercial) for example, styles minimalism and art deco.
This function is very similar to an overflow swimming pool, but the perimeter overflow doesn’t overflow on all four sides, but just overflows on one side in a very dramatic and eye-catching way.
An infinity edge pool (also referred to as a negative edge or vanishing edge pool) is a swimming pool which produces a visual effect of water extending to the horizon, vanishing, or extending to “infinity“. The illusion is most effective whenever there is a significant change in elevation, though having a natural body of water on the horizon is not a limiting factor. In my opinion infinity pools look best with an inspiring view like a cityscape skyline, sea view, beaches or mountains/desert esq scenes so the water appears to fall into an ocean, lake, bay, metropolis or another body of water/landscape. This is a fairly recent phenomena only occurring over the past 5 years or so. You may not have seen this type of pool in reality just yet, although if you are an avid partaker in social media, I’m sure you will have seen some of the countless #infinitypool selfies on Instagram.
If you are up to date with swimming pool trends then you may have heard about bio design swimming pools. To describe what a bio design swimming pool is, it’s best to let the company who make them explain it in their way, what they are and what they do.
“Imagine being in a pool with a beach, shore and underwater sitting areas, whilst being massaged and refreshed by an outpouring of air bubbles rising from the pool bed. Imagine a swimming pool perfectly integrated into the surrounding landscape. A natural pool, with crystal clear water, that enhances your garden in all seasons”.
Still not clear on what a bio design pool is? In layman’s terms it’s a pool which looks like it’s not man-made but natural, even though it is actually man-made. Slightly hypocritical maybe, but the end result with these types of pools can look incredible and they are very new so still very much in vogue right now. But they are somewhat of an acquired taste and not always practical, personally I think these look best with a contrasting landscape, perhaps somewhere which is quite urban or industrial chic. If you live in a more rural area you’re already surrounded by nature so you don’t have to make a real effort to go searching for bio design. They will cost you a pretty penny too! On average, per square meter, due mainly again to the installation process, they are perhaps the most expensive type of pool you can buy. So if they are your pool choice make sure you have your credit card active.
Zero Entry Pools
In a slightly different context it’s worth mentioning zero-entry swimming pools. Sometimes called a beach entry swimming pool, and can be an add-on to the above styles, it’s a pool which has an edge or entry that gradually slopes from the deck into the water, becoming deeper with each step, in the manner of a natural beach. Other than the standard option of stairs or ladders to navigate you into the pool, this has a more subtle entrance with more convenience. They are fantastic for assisting older people, young children and people with accessibility problems but you would need extra space to account for the slope so domestically, may not be valid.
Following your choice of pool style your final decision (or at least second to last decision as the last step would revolve around selecting the finish – but we can go through that another time as that’s a whole different kettle of fish) would be orientated around the shape of the pool. Usually influenced by the position, location and permitting pool style, because of the design flexibility you could in theory brand your pool any which way you want. The top 10 of shapes to choose from is outlined below. This is a diverse range and is debatable, its purely based on the most popular shapes utilized today.
The majority of these shapes are pretty self-explanatory, such as L-shaped, Figure 8 and Kidney shaped pools. But to assist below is a few images of the more obscure forms highlighted above.
Ultimately by selecting an In-Ground concrete pool you are giving yourself the best opportunity for success. By success, I mean having a swimming pool with a good balance between the practical aspect; longevity, durability and optimum layout, but also being innovative with its design; shape, style and finish. I guess that if this is something you are seriously planning to do, then you probably already have an idea about the costs involved, or at have least budgeted for it. If so then the only hard part is actually taking the time to choose the pool that matches your taste and garden. The rest takes care of itself, or in other words, the landscaper contractor takes care of it for you!
There is literally that many different styles and shapes to choose from, if its bespoke the sky’s the limit. Remember the choices outlined in this blog are only really the beginning and highlights a selection of just some of the ideas available. There’s also the finish and the final particulars to think about such as the tiling, colours/themes, cladding, whether to use stairs or a ladder, include any shading, plantation around the edges, the material used for the border???? Its like there’s a huge smorgasbord of pool treats to try and digest but we can cover some of these topics in another blog! For now start with the basics and and make the right choice of type and style, that will then influence your final choices and like the future water feature in your garden, it will flow naturally. If you don’t make the right choice, you may find yourself swimming up stream! 😛
To follow on from a blog I posted a couple of weeks ago, essentially explaining the various different options on which pool types to choose from, I wanted to continue with that theme, but not necessarily in the same vein! What I mean is I just wanted to discuss a potential option to run parallel with those ideas. It isn’t as important as a conversation revolved around the structure or installation method of your swimming pool. At the end of the day those aspects are vital to having a good outdoor pool and without them, you wouldn’t have one. This is just something I personally came across which really took my breath away. I was having dinner recently at a fairly up market hotel near the World Trade Center on Sheikh Zayed Road and when I arrived; I saw one of the most beautifully eye catching swimming pools I have come across to date.
OK I am not saying that this is the greatest pool in the world! There’s no infinity edge, inserted sun beds, Jacuzzi or even a slide. I just think the artist in me is impressed by the visual effect this imagery creates. The picture may not do it justice but when I first laid eyes on this pool I actually thought it was a giant fish tank with exotic fish swimming in it. I realised upon closer inspection that it was just my eyes deceiving me. It was in fact a well-crafted mural painted on the surface of the pool tiles. I can’t actually be certain whether there was pool tiles used or whether it was directly painted onto concrete or another substrate but you have to admit it is impressive! I have seen embedded images and pictures in swimming pools before so I know this isn’t a new thing as such. Obviously not executed in the same way but the times I have previously seen them, were usually in public swimming pools or water parks probably because an element of fun and quirkiness had to be branded. Clearly though pixelated swimming pool art, encompassing sharks and pirates (etc.) are thing of the past and can now be more detailed, creative and remarkably, aesthetically stunning.
So let’s not get our paint brushes out and start wearing berets just yet. There may be more to it that just the image itself. Lighting plays a key role in conveying the desired effect across. It can add or alter the contrast of the picture and colouring, also making sure the image is brightened of a night. Otherwise what’s the point if you can’t see it? As always the surrounding landscape needs to be taken into account as well as the shape and style of the pool which in an artistic sense is the canvas for our masterpiece and lastly the clientele! You don’t always have to go with fish, fish and more fish, we have established the connection between fish and water………they live in it. But why not have a personal influence on the design element yourself? Inject some of your own personality. It is bespoke so use your imagination, the sky’s the limit. Make the pattern more unique and particular to your tastes, give it more meaning. Think of it like you would if you were getting a tattoo.
What I don’t get is that buyer behaviour today shows that the option of having a product custom made over an “off the shelf” solution is preferred. So why is this not utilised more often? It appears to be a rarity from my perspective. Are people not bold enough to take a risk on a bespoke design? Are people generally too indecisive? Will they change their mind in a couple of years? After all a pool is something which should be built to last so maybe they want something they won’t grow out of or after a year go out of style.
I don’t honestly think it’s the above reasons which reveal the true answer into why pool murals are not as popular as they should be. I think it is mainly down to, not only the cost, but the time this takes to accomplish. I imagine (as I have never attempted this personally) that it is a very intricate process. Time always equals money and in order to design a concept and then carry this out into action would require a specialist. Perhaps an artist of some kind with a proven track record of painting murals to this scale. They are few and far between and will no doubt charge on a project by project basis so it’s impossible to estimate a rough price. I do know of another possible route to success, if you are looking for custom designs that is. There are companies worldwide who can produce printed porcelain and ceramic tiles which piece together to make up an image. I have seen this performed and it is decent. You would be looking at about 200 AED (about $80) per pack of printed tiles, 6 tiles per pack each at standard tile size of 148mm x 148mm which is less than 1m2. Still pricey, but arguably cheaper and easier than hiring a skilled artist. Obviously this price doesn’t include installation and delivery so be aware of hidden extras before making any orders. This is just an innovative idea and won’t be relevant for all people and projects. Ultimately, if you are daring and have creativity in abundance and you’re obviously in the process of fitting a new swimming pool (or revamping an existing one), then maybe look into it. It’s worth a look. See if anyone in your area has a kiln to produce some bespoke tiles? Visit your local art centre and see if any creatives are up to the task. Get a few quotes and explore the option. At the end of the day you could end up being the taking point of the estate and not just the meal. Let us know what you think. Do you have any good ideas for a pool mural? Have you seen one recently? Feel free to leave a comment.
As a British expat currently residing in Dubai, I am getting completely engrossed by the culture, atmosphere and climate of this fascinating part of the world. Adjusting to the Dubai lifestyle I notice there are plenty of differences between the UAE and the UK, the weather certainly being one of them. With these differences, in contrast come plenty of similarities. I can still run to Marks and Spencer’s to do my weekly shop and of course, if I want a taste of home, Fish and Chips is widely and readily available. The most noticeable similarity between Dubai and more specifically London is the extortionate prices for properties.
Rent and house prices are very expensive in Dubai but it was highlighted in local news recently that you could buy property in Dubai for as cheap as you could back in 2008!!! It appears now is the time to get on the property ladder and grab yourself in some way, a bargain. This got me thinking. Putting myself in the shoes of a seller in a market were house prices are dipping as low as 7%, how can you make up for lost ground in real estate? Well one avenue to explore is the influence your garden has on the value of your home.
This isn’t just an issue in the Middle East, these price dips occur all over the world and there are constant peaks and troughs. It’s a universal issue which is forever changing and by making a few changes to the outdoor landscape of your home, you could make some profit in the process. Let’s take a look at a few points or alterations you can make to your garden in order to increase the selling price of your property.
Yes they may be difficult to get hold of, not that easy to install (unless you get a good landscaper that is), if you have one already, whatever you do don’t chop it down. They don’t just look natural and add “rustic charm”; they also have numerous unseen benefits which can make a positive impact! For one, they suck up water running off your property preventing pollutants entering community walk ways as well as dampness. Obviously, like all tress and plant life, it’s well known they reduce levels of carbon dioxide which contributes to climate change, but there have also been numerous scientific studies to show that they can relieve stress and anxiety, proving to add further health benefits.
Most importantly and this is where monetary value comes in, they act as a wind break, provide shading in the summer and insulation in the winter. It’s suggested by the U.S. Department of Energy that they can reduce winter heating bills by 15% as well as air conditioning needs by 75%. That’s some saving for just a couple of trees! Did I also mention they look pretty?
2. Plants and Flowers
Whether you’re a keen gardener or not, there’s no question that plants and flowers add a nice variety of colours, shapes and textures to your home’s exterior. It’s imperative that both the front and back garden (if you have two that is) are clean, fresh and well kept. I used to work in real estate as a sales and lettings negotiator and I have also rented countless properties so I speak from experience, although this is a bit of a cliché, I understand that first impressions DO certainly last the longest. In fact it’s the only impression so it’s important this is taken into account when taking your garden into consideration. Fill your front garden with bright coloured flowers. Wherever you are in the world make sure that the plants are native. Indigenous plants do not require as much attention or TLC.
In the back garden take a slightly different approach, you need to emphasize space. Don’t over fill with plants, flowers, shrubs, ground covers or trees. Obviously have a few for aesthetics, but don’t compromise the space that’s available. People want the back garden to be a bit of a blank canvas. The back garden is always the “private area” and is scalable to the individual. You couldn’t possibly take into account the tastes of the potential buyer, or know whether they; have kids, have a disability, have pets, want a Jacuzzi, require a shed, like eating outdoors, or other aspects which could influence how they would want the mould their back garden. The one thing everyone wants is space. Space to make their own statement. The more available (or seemingly available) square meters, the bigger the increase in value.
3. Hardscaping and Fencing
It may sound slightly primitive but one thing that is neglected quite often when selling properties is the fencing. Fencing isn’t just neglected when selling a property but also whilst it’s being lived in. I speak from experience as it took years for my Dad to finally get the motivation to varnish the back fence! It’s just not a top priority. It may not be as important as the garden itself or the interior (like the kitchen and bathroom which are maybe the biggest selling points) but it does have underlining qualities. As mentioned earlier your back garden is your “private area”, fencing keeps it private. It keeps pets in, nosey neighbours out, or worse, burglars. I don’t think there is an obvious or direct link between the types of fencing you use to the overall house price. Don’t go crazy, I’m not asking for the Great Wall of China, just a nice newish fence that’s not chipped or falling down, that should do the trick and it will fulfill its duty.
If there are inconsistencies with the levelness of the exterior landscape, retaining walls and terracing help restore balance for sections that are only good for grass or ground covers both of which are hard to maintain. If there’s a steep gradient, additionally they can control erosion and surface runoff by slowing the flow of water running down the slope. Like softscaping, they also add colour and texture to wide stretches of green, which would otherwise be flat.
Walkways and footpaths welcome guests (or buyers in our case) to your home. There’s nothing worse than putting on your new crisp white trainers or a pair of expensive suede shoes only to get them covered in dirt walking along wet grass or even worse, mud! So frustrating and it wouldn’t be a good start to an open house or viewing. I’m sure that if you asked most people would you rather walk along a nice pathway or trail through wet grass to your front door, I guarantee they wouldn’t go with the latter. Give them an option to walk on grass, don’t force them.
4. Presentation and Tidiness
In my opinion another essential feature of the outdoor area is the lighting. This isn’t just a practical requirement that ticks a box on a list of health and safety checks. Of a night this helps steer visitors to the focal point which in most cases is the front door. It gives the property a classy style that most homes don’t employ and can highlight key features which would otherwise be unknown during the day and definitely unseen of a night. When you bare in mind that private viewings don’t always take place in daytime, as most potential buyers will be working, it’s key to make the house look as vibrant as possible in the dark, particularly the garden areas. In the same way that fencing helps prevent unwanted intruders, so does lighting. It’s well-known that effective lighting can reduce burglaries. For most families, safety sells.
These are all essentially just some suggestions. Some fairly easy and straight forward to implement, others a little more costly and time consuming. All will add value and will assist in giving you an attractive garden, in turn giving you that wow factor, which will ultimately increase the chances of a sale. These ideas however, whether you implement them or not will be totally eradicated if you don’t keep your garden well tidied and well maintained. You can have all the best lighting installed, new fencing, colourful plants, trees and nice marble footpath, but if you don’t clean it or at least look after it, then it renders all this hard work pointless. Leaves and litter put in the bin, a quick dust pan and brush will solve that problem. Do not leave the kids garden toys lying around as that is an accident waiting to happen and if you don’t have green fingers yourself, get a cheap local landscaper to trim the place making sure it’s well kept. Job done!
When thinking about the interior design concept of “bringing the outdoors in” I immediately think of it as a fairly recent (or at least postmodern) trend of designing interiors for the home and workplace, which brings together a variety of acquainted, dappled colours and a mixture of natural textures but yet running parallel alongside contrasting, current furnishings. Sound familiar? The landscape of this design philosophy is forever changing (pardon the pun) and whether a sub-style of this standpoint may still be “in vogue right now”, the idea behind this as a whole has lasted for generations and even stretches even further than this.
It was as far back as the very 1st Century when the Romans started using domestic fish tanks for aesthetical purposes and in the 18th Century, (after tanning and hiding was pretty much the norm); animal skin rugs were widely used, bringing nature and wildlife into the home environment. You could in fact stretch back even further to approx. 9000 BC and a little closer to home in the Middle East when domesticated plants where first used (I use the term domesticated loosely knowing full well that a home may not exactly be considered a home by todays standards).
Still however, I use these historical references to make my point in that this is not a new technique, nor will it ever will be. This concept is timeless and is clearly deep routed within the human psyche. But what are the next steps for this method of interior design? Is it not just a case of utilising a polystyrene dear head mounted onto a wall covered in Sanderson leaf pattern wallpaper? Or perhaps upholstering floral cushion covers and a tribal Ikea vase filled with bamboo branches wrapped in fairy lights?……………………………………the answer is NO. It isn’t. What the future holds is far more interesting and complex and personally could revolutionise both interior design and gardening together.
Following a recent lecture by Oliver Heath at Eco Build in London, where he explained the advantages of Biophilic Design and the impact this could have on architecture, interior fit outs and landscaping, we at TerraVerde will explore this future ideal, why its imperative for sustainability (in more ways than one) and our fascination of surrounding ourselves with nature.
So put down the pasting brush and instead pick up the garden sheers! Lets start bringing the outdoors in, LITERALLY.
– What is Biophilic Design?
As a textbook definition Biophilic Design is “an innovative way of designing the places where we live, work, and learn. We need nature in a deep and fundamental fashion, but we have often designed our cities and suburbs in ways that both degrade the environment and alienate us from nature”. (http://www.biophilicdesign.net/).
Essentially it is a way of bringing the natural landscape into the design process, which was, and still is, usually ignored. I think this is probably as a result of urbanisation which although has peaked and troughed since the industrial revolution, it has always remained consistent in that inner city areas and the wider suburban areas are continuously building structures which replaces the natural landscape rather than integrating with it. Now architects, landscapers, interior designers and the general public have a social and economical responsibility to change this tendency.
– Why adopt Biophilic design?
Well apart from the fact that the entire population of this planet has an ethical responsibility to help preserve (or at least re-erect) the natural environment as well as a moral obligation to provide sustainability for future generations to come. There are a lot of key benefits to the implementation of combining nature with all aspects of design. Ones that have a huge positive influence on how we learn, think and develop.
For example, Biophilic Design:
Increases productivity – Directors and Managers will be very pleased to hear that various scientific studies have shown that having a direct access to nature, improves productivity in many ways and can even reduce absenteeism.
Decreases levels of stress – According to Stephen Kellert (author of several books on this subject) biophilia displays that in our ability to connect to nature, it can dramatically alleviate feelings If you think about your “happy place” it’s more than likely always a naturalistic environment, like a white sandy beach on a desert island somewhere.
3. Is aesthetically pleasing – This is pretty self-explanatory but due the fluctuating colours, numerous textures, shapes and sizes, plant life and nature can’t really be beaten it for its beauty. Pleasing the eyes profusely. (And all of the senses for that matter!).
Improves health and well being – Greener environments improve air quality and raises the oxygen levels in the atmosphere (Which comes as standard with photosynthesis!). It has now actually been proven that in hospitals it can reduce average stay times and assist with recovery.
Encourages biodiversity – Occasionally depending the plant and the location it can provide a habitat for creatures and animals. It’s just like having your own live discovery channel.
Agricultural benefits – Of course this too depends on many manipulating factors but it does give people the opportunity to grow their own herbs, crops and vegetables. No need to make a journey to your local store when you have fresh ingredients to make tomato and basil soup growing in your garden.
There are many more advantages, which can be shared on this subject, and why having more nature in your life can be so beneficial (For more information please get in touch via our Twitter page @TerraVerdeUAE, we can have further discussions and we can direct you to further materials and sources). However these 6 points alone highlight the wonders of operating in greener more sustainable ways.
Biophilic design doesn’t just come in the form of architectural design, landscaping or gardening. But as we have found out more recently it can be commissioned through interior design similarly. Not done by just gathering a bunch of flowers and house plants to help bring a certain element of natural flush and feeling to the room, but by orientating and encompassing the whole design process around how nature can be embraced into the specification. Green walls, specialist irrigation systems, plant pots, decking, lighting, softscaping and hardscaping (traditionally terms used in landscaping and landscape design) are all new facets to be pondered for Biophilic interior design.
The effective of this is inspirational and certainly gives that “wow factor” professionals and clients a like search for. People have, and always will have, an attraction to biophilia and nature in all aspects of life, whether it be professionally, socially, biologically or principally in an historical or evolutionary sort of way. Global warming is always raising key questions and debates on a worldwide scale, as well as deforestation, globalisation and the future condition of the earth. Nature and wildlife will forever be a key topic of interest for most groups and societies across the globe and sooner rather than later, being environmentally friendly will no longer be a choice but a necessity. Biophilic design overall will eventually be standard practice throughout all categories of designing and creating, especially within the architectural, construction, interior design and landscaping sectors. I guess the next question to ask soon will be where does landscaping stop, and interior design begin?