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natural wonder

From habitat magazine - issue 37, nature-inspired design

Create good-natured spaces by following the principles of biophilic design.

Ever questioned why you relax when you sit beside the sea or how the sound of rain helps you drift off? Do you wonder why you still feel great after a tiring hike in the forest or a backbreaking day in the garden?

Biophilic design and mental wellness

Studies have linked plants – and the colour green – to mental alertness and wellness.

Front wall, shelves and desk painted in Resene Ravine. Back wall and monstera plant pot painted with Resene Sandtex Mediterranean finish textured paint tinted to Resene Concrete. Textured walls highlight the shadows cast by plant foliage. Floor finished in Resene Colorwood Whitewash, big plant pot in Resene Half Tasman and other vases in Resene Ravine, Resene Sea Fog and Resene Olive Green. Lampshade and chair from Città.

A dusty-grey blue bedroom inspired by the sea and sky

Try combining dusty grey-blues for a calming look inspired by the sea and sky.

The top half of the wall and skirting are painted in Resene Breathless, a blend of blue, lilac and grey. Below the tide line is all-time favourite – Resene Duck Egg Blue. Bedside table and bench painted in Resene Half Duck Egg Blue. Introduce bolder blues with Resene Teal Blue on the planter and Resene Undercurrent on the vase, paired with dusty whites such as Resene Colorwood Breathe Easy on flooring and Resene Colorwood Whitewash on the pendant light. Bedlinen and throw from Small Acorns, cream cushion from Danske Møbler.

The idea that being close to nature makes us feel better is nothing new, but psychologist Erich Fromm first gave it a name in 1973. Fromm's term 'biophilia' is the theory that humans need a connection to their natural environment to feel happy and content. In a nutshell, biophilia is the idea that increasing exposure to nature is good for your mind and body.

Numerous psychological and physiological studies have tested this hypothesis over the years. In one, American hospital patients exposed to views of nature healed faster and needed less pain relief than those without a connection to greenery. In another study, Canadian researchers found the presence of wood in interior spaces, such as exposed beams, timber flooring or timber furniture, to be stress-relieving, lowering participants’ blood pressure. Due to these positive results, it’s not surprising the architecture and design world has readily adopted biophilic design principles. With a palette of Resene paints and wood stains, you can infuse your indoor and outdoor spaces with calm.


Take inspo from biophilic design

  • Emphasise your view – use Resene Lustacryl on windowsills and trims to frame the vista.

  • Play with the light – use sheer curtains or rattan pendant lights to cast dappled light in a room. Paint your lampshade in a complementary Resene colour to suit your interior. Use gloss Resene Enamacryl, semi-gloss Resene Lustacryl and textured paints such as Resene Sandtex to create different levels of visual or textured interest in a room.

  • Opt for eco materials. Resene SpaceCote Flat, Resene Lustacryl and Resene Zylone Sheen Zero are all waterborne plant-based Environmental Choice-approved products with low odour, low VOCs (volatile organic compounds) and easy water wash-up.

Window to the soul

Look out the window, says interior designer Megan Harrison-Turner. It is an excellent place to start when introducing nature-inspired design. “In New Zealand, our vegetation is often a lush green, while in Australia, the greyed-off colour of eucalyptus is quite dominant. Look at what’s in your backyard. Say there’s a Japanese maple outside, maybe there’s a way to incorporate some of its elements with a Resene paint colour – there’s even a wood stain called Resene Japanese Maple,” says Megan.

Colours of nature

Blue, white, green and brown are the most dominant colours on planet Earth. But the ocean is never one tone of blue. “Consider thinking beyond a solid colour,” says Lisa Day of Day Architects. “The natural world very rarely has one solid colour in any one place. Any landscape painter can tell you just how many hues are involved in the colours of a lake or forest.” Resene FX Paint Effects Medium is a way to create a multi-tone or limewashed look when painting a room. For example, to recreate the colour variation in mudbrick or limestone, start by applying a basecoat of a darker colour such as Resene Biscotti. Then paint a topcoat of Resene FX Paint Effects Medium mixed with Resene Quarter Thorndon Cream.

An interior with warm earthy tones

Use Resene FX Paint Effects Medium to create warm earthy tones seen in natural building materials, such as mudbrick and cob.

First, paint the base wall colour in Resene Biscotti and then give it a second coat with Resene FX Paint Effects Medium mixed with Resene Quarter Thorndon Cream. Floor in Resene Biscotti, console table in Resene Quarter Doeskin, large vase in Resene Thorndon Cream, basket in Resene Cement, bowl and small vases in Resene Colins Wicket, Resene Quarter Doeskin and Resene Biscotti and coat rack stained in Resene Colorwood Ironbark. River stones glued to the coat rack clear finished in Resene Concrete Clear.

A blue bedroom with a nature inspired wall mural

Let nature inspire your creativity with a 'tattoo outline'-style meadow mural.

Wall painted in Resene Half Escape with plant outlines in Resene Tangaroa and Resene Cello and gold details in Resene Gold Dust metallic. Floor in Resene Tangaroa, bedside table and tray in Resene Escape, vases in Resene Gold Dust and bench in Resene Cello. Bedding from Wallace Cotton, candle from Miller Road.

It’s easy being green

Humans are one of the few species with trichromatic vision – the ability to distinguish blues, greens and reds. One theory is that it’s an adaptation that helped our ancestors gather ripe fruit and palatable vegetation. In daylight, human eyes detect the colour green more than any other, and perhaps this is why studies have shown the human nervous system feels calmer in the presence of green. There are many Resene greens to choose from – including deep greens such as Resene Jurassic and Resene Karaka emulating ancient forests to cloudy greens such as Resene Ravine.

Rebecca Long, Resene Senior Architectural Representative, suggests looking for greens in places other than tree foliage. “Resene Tarzan is a gold-edged khaki that celebrates nature’s radiant, mossy depths. Tint it into Resene SpaceCote Low Sheen for a smooth, natural finish,” she says. To create the colour variation seen in nature, use a few different greens – painting plant pots and furniture – but choose the primary wall colour wisely.

“It is surprising how greyed-off a colour needs to be before it’s considered restful,” says Megan. “Dirtier grey-greens are the best colour for the walls of a biophilic space. For instance, sage greens such as Resene Tasman are more muted and serene than cuisine greens, such as Resene Parsley, which has yellow tones to make it energising. A related colour scheme or tonal colours will be more restful.” Other restful greens include Resene Paddock, Resene Rivergum, Resene Yucca and Resene Spanish Green.

If you are an asthma or allergy sufferer, choose a Sensitive Choice-approved paint, like Resene Zylone Sheen Zero with no added VOCs, low odour and easy water wash-up. Remember to open windows and doors and consider using a fan when you are painting to help the air circulate and the paint to dry.

Try texture

Nobody’s perfect, even Mother Nature. A key element of biophilic design is texture since irregularity and imperfections make the look more realistic. Create texture through flooring, textured Resene wall paints, Resene wallpapers, or even net curtains, which dapple the light, emulating sunlight through foliage. “It is essential to think about the texture of surfaces that stimulate your senses and catch the light,” says Lisa.

Texture can affect the way we move through a space, she explains. “Our bodies have a kinaesthetic response to texture, moving slowly past rough surfaces and quickly past smooth surfaces – this, too, is an intuitive human response to our environment.” Resene Sandtex Mediterranean effect is a textured paint that can be tinted to a wide range of paint colours to create a dynamic, textured surface, great for highlighting shadows on the wall. Shadows reflected on texture are often far more interesting than those on a flat surface. Panelling and battens are other ways to create shadows and depth.

A word on wood

Timber is popular in biophilic design thanks to its multi-sensory appeal. Wood has a distinctive smell, texture and visible grain, which is comforting on many levels. “It is a great way to bring the outdoors in, providing comfort, warmth and a connection to the outside world,” says Rebecca. Resene Colorwood interior wood stains and Resene Woodsman wood stains for exteriors highlight the natural beauty of timber by allowing the grain to show through. “There are many different types of wood, which can affect the appearance of your desired stain.

“Pine, for example, is generally quite light, whereas cedar can take on a variety of red tones. I suggest trying a Resene testpot or a small pot first to ensure you achieve your desired look.”

Use Resene Colorwood protected with Resene Qristal ClearFloor on flooring. For exteriors, choose from the wide range of colours available in the Resene Woodsman range, and for decking, use Resene Woodsman Decking Oil Stain.

Remember to relax and go with the flow when creating a nature-inspired room. You can’t control the weather, but sometimes the stormiest days make the most inspiring landscape artworks. Embrace nature’s beautiful imperfections and feel the benefits.

Using houseplants to enhance mental wellness

A textured paint such as Resene Sandtex emphasises shadows cast by foliage, beautifying your walls and making them feel more ‘alive’.

Back wall painted in Resene Sandtex tinted to Resene Concrete. Large plant pot with olive tree in Resene Concrete, small pot with pony palm in Resene Travertine and medium pot in Resene Sea Fog.


Houseplant 101

Introducing houseplants is an easy way to bring nature indoors – but many plants suffer stress when used in interiors because they are kept in the wrong conditions. Two main reasons indoor plants run into health problems are lack of light and overzealous watering. To test if your plant needs watering, touch the soil with a finger. If the earth clings to it, there’s likely enough water.

To test the light, see if there’s enough light at different times of the day to cast a shadow – if not, your room might be too dark. A simple rule for beginners is to pick plants with thick glossy leaves such as the ZZ plant (Zamioculcas zamiifolia), monstera, phalaenopsis orchid, mother-in-law’s tongue, dracaena or even a pony palm.

Terracotta pots are ideal for cacti or ZZ plants, which don’t need much watering. Seal terracotta pots in Resene Aquapel & Terracotta Sealer inside and out before painting in your favourite Resene colours.

Resene Breathe Easy

Resene Tarzan

Projects: Kate Alexander, Megan Harrison-Turner, Annick Larkin, Vanessa Nouwens
Words: Emma Rawson
Images: Bryce Carleton


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Printed copies of habitat highlights are available from late March 2024 at Resene ColorShops and resellers, while stocks last. You can view back issues of habitat magazine online.

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