Biophilic Seat

Biophilic Design for Seating

Biophilic design is often discussed in terms of whole spaces, buildings or even cities – Singapore for example.

But it should also be a consideration when designing individual items that will inhabit those spaces.

For humans, seating is a fundamental need in most internal environments. There is no reason that a chair, bench, sofa or any other surface or item on which to place your derriere, should not be designed with nature – and hence, wellbeing - in mind.

Biophilic by Nature

It can be said that good seating design should, by its nature, be biophilic, as it needs to support the very natural human form. But that mostly comes from the functional part of the design process, which, although certainly important and on view, doesn’t always form the entire aesthetic. Indeed it sometimes doesn’t eventuate in a biophilic form at all. The iconic Wassily Chair is possibly the antithesis of biophilic design being a reduction to elemental lines and planes of a classic club chair.

Biophilic Principles

The fourteen principles or patterns of biophilic design (as defined by Terrapin Bright Green – an eminent sustainability consulting firm) are broken down into three main strategies.

  • Nature in the Space – access to light, air, water and natural views etc.
  • Natural Analogues – replicating patterns or textures of nature
  • Nature of the Space – perceived characteristics of the natural world, such as refuge or mystery, prospect or risk

For a single element, such as a seat, it’s difficult but still certainly possible to deliver on the first strategy, Nature in the Space.

This is about direct or sensory access to nature or natural elements such as planting, light, water, temperature and airflow etc. It would be feasible to include heat or airflow into the build of a seating solution and planters are often built into the backs of multi-seat units too, providing an immediate connection to a natural element.

It could also be argued that the design of substantial elements in any space, will affect the way light and airflow interact with the surfaces of the piece and people within the space it occupies. The use of acoustic materials and acoustic design principles too fits into this category.

The obvious strategy for seating design is to follow the Natural Analogues approach, where a seating unit uses natural materials such as wood or wool. But it’s also perfectly possible to introduce biophilic design touches through an implied natural form (curves), colour and pattern.

Crafting a product by hand will automatically deliver a finished form that is as beautifully imperfect as nature itself.

The Sol Stool - Handcrafted for perfect natural imperfection


A more holistic approach to furnishing a space can also produce aspects of the natural world from the Nature of Space strategy. A high-backed seating unit with hidden patterns only visible from one side for mystery, the wrap-around seating pod offering refuge from a busy or stress-laden workplace.

This Colosseum unit delivers on natural analogues with its curves and leafy fabric - but also provides a refuge, so sits nicely in the nature of space approach.


Or simply a curving bench seat, encouraging and directing people to take non-linear routes through the space.

The Shoreline seating unit designed as a flexible arrangement and with obvious flowing connections to the natural world
The Scrum Isolate - a semi-private space to focus or quietly reflect in open areas - wraps its user in a biophilic refuge.


Why you would want to follow any of these principles though is simple.

Because exposure to nature, natural elements or forms can and will help with stress reduction, cognitive performance and improve metal health for user of these pieces. As part of a wider biophilic approach to your space or as standalone pieces, the benefits are all there.

A Rounded Designer

It’s said that it takes both hemispheres of the brain to design truly great pieces of furniture.

The left brained person will excel at the planning, scheduling and fabrication of furniture – but it’s the right-brained designer who will inject the big-picture thinking, the aesthetic and the sensory into a chair or sofa.

It will also be the right-brained designer (or the right-brain of the designer) who brings biophilia into a design, with consideration for those natural connections, colours, textures, forms and even the play of light into a design.

The Sugar Chair - designed by PLN

Using Design Principles

Key principles of design include space, line, form, light, colour, texture and pattern along with balance, emphasis, rhythm and proportion.

Arguably, all of these need to be considered when designing biophilically – but form or pattern alone, for example, can inject the natural world into a chair.

Materials also need to be carefully considered and one more aspect: placement. Although the natural world is apparently random, it’s easy to spot something out of place, like a tropical flower in an English garden.

Soft Ruth Rocker - Simple Biophilic Curves, Colour and Movement

Furniture as Part of Space Design

Designing or choosing furniture for an interior should be a forethought, not an afterthought. Where will the pieces sit in the space, what light is available, natural and artificial? Are there drafts, what will be the natural traffic flow through the space – or what will the desired flow look like?

If the piece is designed for task focus, where is the optimum position for it for maximum separation from the rest of the team? If for collaboration, how does it need to interact with the team?

Placing a seating unit that has acoustic properties with an acoustic lighting solution above, for example, can only help enhance the overall effect of the noise reduction that is required.

For an interior that aims for the Nature of Space, considered placement of larger pieces will only help enhance those aspects such as mystery or refuge.

The Hush light is the perfect biophilic and acoustic accompaniement to a biophilic seating arrangement

Complete Design

Biophilic design is as important in the moveable pieces that make up the final interior as are the fixed items, such as architecture and décor. The full benefits of a biophilic interior design will only be realised if all aspects of that project are considered in advance and as an holistic approach.

The furniture, lighting and accessories designer creating natural analogues should work in collaboration with interior designers and architects - arguably responsible for nature in space – to fully realise the nature of spaces.

Give us a call if you'd like to find out more about our approach to biophilic design: Call us on+64 (0)9 828 4274 - or email [email protected]

Words by Paul Bondsfield