Inspired by Nature

By Briana Manfrass, Associate Principal and Interior Designer at Pinnacle Architecture, Inc.

What is Biophilic Design?

Early humans were nomadic hunter-gatherers spending most of their day and night outdoors among nature. Today, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the average American spends 93% of their life indoors. Our rates of reoccurring sickness and disease continue to increase, and mental health stability as a nation continues to decrease. Is there a connection? Several research sources cite the health benefits of bringing the outside in including improved moods, increased concentration, lower stress levels, reduced blood pressure, shorter recovery times, and happier people.

Wikipedia defines biophilic design as a concept used within the building industry to increase occupant connectivity to the natural environment using direct nature, indirect nature, and space and place conditions. Biophilic design is a revival of connecting humans to nature within the modern built environment. Adding a few houseplants, although beneficial, is not the definition of biophilic design. Looking holistically at an indoor space and creating sustained interaction with people and nature is biophilic design. It is accomplished through both direct and indirect experiences with nature.

Direct Experience with Nature

  • Natural lighting (skylights, windows, etc.)
  • Vegetation (planters)
  • Natural ventilation
  • Larger operable windows
  • Native stone used indoors
  • Water features (see, hear, and touch)
  • Outside views
  • Green walls
  • Aquariums
  • Simulate the light and shadows that occur naturally outdoors
  • Indoor weather (managing temperature, relative humidity, and airflow to mimic natural environments with digital technology)

Indirect Experience with Nature

  • Biomorphic art (abstract art that evokes living forms such as plants and the human body)
  • Natural colors
  • Photos of nature
  • Simulating natural light (circadian rhythm)
  • Wallcoverings with images of nature
  • Material patterns that simulate nature (e.g. flooring, upholstery, accents)
  • Open spaces and curves. Think nature: fields, meandering paths, and flowing rivers.

Bringing the outside in at Maple Brook Terrace Senior Independent Living

Maple Book Terrace is a 130-unit senior living community in the quaint city of Mauldin, South Carolina developed by Sunshine Retirement Living. The photos below show how biophilic design was integrated into the project.

Maple Brook Terrace Lobby

Biophilic design elements: Natural colors from the outdoors, curved stairways and walls, artwork along the stairs mimics a babbling brook, and flowers throughout.


Maple Brook Terrace Chapple

Biophilic design elements: Natural elements – stone accent wall, natural colors from the outdoors, nature artwork, and carpet with muted floral design.


Maple Brook Terrace Living Unit

Biophilic design elements: An abundance of natural light, wood-inspired flooring, and access to outdoor space.


Designing with nature in mind doesn’t have to add to your project’s budget. Talking about a biophilic approach at the onset of a project allows the design team to incorporate indirect and direct experiences in your space.

Briana Manfrass is an associate principal and interior designer with Pinnacle Architecture. Briana earned an Evidence-Based Design Accreditation and Certification (EDAC) from The Center for Health Design whose mission is to transform healthcare environments through design research, education, and advocacy. She’s successfully applied her knowledge to a variety of project types from healthcare to senior living facilities including her most recent project Lakeview Gardens, a unique assisted living community in Lakeview, OR. Briana has presented at Leading Age in Redmond, OR, and Environments for Aging in Austin, TX.

Briana can be reached at or 541.388.9897.