Large metal conference table with white office chairs and greenery wall with light hardwood floors.

Biophilic design: Bringing nature into the workplace

In the 1980s, NASA began studying the effects of houseplants on indoor air quality. Researchers were looking for ways to improve the air inside the closed environment of a space station. Results, published in 1989, said that “plants can play a major role in removal of organic chemicals,” including benzene, trichloroethylene and formaldehyde, from indoor air.

This means that in addition to extracting carbon dioxide from the air and releasing oxygen—as all plants do—some plants can pull more fumes and pollutants from the air. It’s an exciting promise that few companies are taking full advantage of.

Around the same time as the NASA study, a French botanist named Patrick Blanc began developing the concept of the “vertical garden”—a collection of green plants, artistically arranged on the face of a wall or other vertical structure. The vertical garden is also known as a green wall, ecowall, green façade or living wall.

A great example is the moss wall, pictured above, which is a primary feature of the Coalesse showroom in Chicago.

Benefits of biophilia for individuals

The recognition of our intrinsic human attraction to the natural world has spawned a field of study called biophilia or biophilic design—design inspired by nature. The principle of biophilia states that human beings are innately drawn to nature for their wellbeing, and researchers are discovering that myriad benefits follow when companies integrate natural elements in the workplace.

Beyond plant life, many biophilic elements bring physical and psychological benefits, including natural lighting, natural materials such as wood and stone, natural patterns and colors, and views of water and wildlife.

Benefits of biophilia for organizations

In addition to nature’s benefits for individual wellbeing, research shows that bringing natural elements into the office can have organizational benefits too.

Steelcase researchers have found that the presence of nature was a predominant advantage that could be used for healthier outcomes in the workplace. According to environmental psychologist Stephen Kaplan, nature engages the mind and helps to restore directed attention and focus. He even goes as far to say that people can concentrate better after spending time in outdoor spaces.

In the 2015 Human Spaces report The Global Impact of Biophilic Design in the Workplace, a growing body of research “has identified the positive benefits of biophilic design in supporting multiple organizational outcomes.” These include:

  • Greater ability to attract and retain employees
  • Increased output and productivity
  • Increased levels of creativity

Coalesse actively supports the notion that biophilia benefits both workers and their organizations. Scroll down for a few ideas for incorporating natural design elements in the workplace.

Close up of pattern and fabric used for designing biophilia furniture designs.

The principle of biophilia was the starting point for the Coalesse Design Group as they developed pattern and color palettes that would convey a sense of the natural world. Above, a fabric in the new Coalesse-Designtex collaboration features a pattern derived from natural inspiration. See more from the new collection in our NeoCon 2017 photo gallery on Pinterest.

Look down view of grew lounge chair with individual attached side table, round wooden coffee table and orange, patterned rug.

The natural tones of this sand-colored Progress Rug from the ARZU Modern Collection creates a calming effect when combined with the Carl Hansen Coffee Table CH008 in walnut and our Massaud Lounge Seating.

Woman using mister to water moss covered decorative wall.

While preparing the Coalesse showroom for NeoCon 2017, Abby waters the new moss wall. Green walls like this help purify and humidify the air. Watch the creation of the moss wall in this video.

Two high top round tables with orange bar style seating, two hanging bulb lights and floor to ceiling windows looking out at tree covered landscape.

Plentiful natural light and a wooded view combine to bring the outside in and create a peaceful atmosphere for socialization and collaboration. In this breakout space, Enea Bar Stools are paired with the Enea Café Table.

Dark grey lounge sofa with bird and flower designed custom fabric and cream and brown colored decorative pillow.

Custom fabrics with nature-inspired patterns are available on several of our upholstered pieces, including the Lagunitas Lounge System.

Looking for more inspiration? See our Office Greenery board on Pinterest. Learn more about the benefits of biophilia on

Published On: July 12, 2017
Filed under: Design Inspiration

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