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Color and It’s Visual Connection with Nature

“One of the great challenges of our time is to bring the beneficial experience of nature into the design of contemporary buildings, landscapes, communities, and cities”.

– Stephen R. Kellert, Nature by Design: The Practice of Biophilic Design

Biophilic design is an innovative way of connecting nature to the interiors of the places where we live, work, learn and heal. Considering that the average person spends 90 percent of their time indoors, we as design professionals need to consciously embrace the principles of biophilic design for multi-family condominiums and apartment buildings to ensure that in this stressful world, people feel that their home offers the ultimate health and wellness benefits. These benefits include reduced stress, enhanced creativity, clarity of thought and overall improved wellbeing.

In this first installment of a three-part post, we focus on the use of color as a visual connection to nature—one of 14 biophilic design patterns.

Photos, clockwise from left, by Kris Atomic, Thom Masat, Carlos Domínguez and Chris Lawton via Unsplash


Color is more than eye candy. Hue, saturation, tone and brightness define the ambiance of a space and impact our mood, motivation, productivity, creativity, and enthusiasm. When selecting a palette for a project, we closely consider the feeling that each room needs to evoke, and select color combinations that will help to express it.

Consider the emotions aroused by these colors of nature:

Blues and Cyans are colors that call to mind a bright blue sky or clean, cerulean water. Through this fellowship with nature, blues create a calming experience and reduce tension.

Shades of green are associated with health. Textures and tones of green in fabrics and other surface materials put us in touch with vegetation.  Effective ways to bring the outdoors inside include green walls, moss art, reclaimed wood, and other materials that mimic the natural world. Greens are proven to lower both your blood pressure and heart rate.

Reds are the color of fruits such as apples and berries. Their range paints a summer sunset and sprinkles the autumn leaves. Like a cluster of berries on a holly tree, red delights us when used in small bursts. Too much red, and its intensity invades our senses.

Yellow is the brightest color; used in the right intensity, hue, and saturation, it reminds us of the sun’s warmth, arouses feelings of happiness, and improves creativity and optimism. Yet, if overused, it can have an unpleasant or even disturbing effect.


Biophilic Case Study: Signature at Reston Town Center

Boston Properties and Bozzuto

The award-winning Signature at Reston Town Center, located in Reston, Virginia, features broad outdoor vistas that echo nature’s colors throughout its public spaces. In this sunlit corner, a grouping of comfy blue chairs looks out toward a courtyard animated with a waterfall and reflecting pond. We commissioned abstract artwork in shades of blue, green, brown and white; the colors channel shades that could be found in a forest, while the texture and movement of the patterns echo the rippling waters outside the floor-to-ceiling windows.


Case Study: The Haven at National Harbor

The Peterson Companies, McWilliams Ballard

From the Potomac River on one side to the surrounding treetops on the other, nature flows in and out through The Haven’s expansive windows. Our eyes connect to the blue water in the pool and the river, and also to the greenspace surrounding this award-winning multi-family condominium building. The warm wood ceiling and the milky stone indoor/outdoor fireplace monolith are natural materials that further ground the design in its organic environment.


For more information on Biophilic Design:

“With biophilia comes a restless curiosity, an urge to investigate and discover the elusive places where we meet nature, where she plays on our senses with colours and forms, perfumes and smells”.

Sir David Attenborough


Header Photo by Jeremy Thomas on Unsplash