Category Archives: Biophilic Design

Home Away From Home: Europe’s Charming Boutique Hotels

Cindy Kaufman

Travel, whether for business or pleasure, is a gift.

Travel removes you from what your muscle memory knows so well and forces your brain to make new calculations. All your senses go to work, bringing new information that changes what you think about, how you view the world, and who you might be tomorrow. You hear new languages, see new smiles, eat new food, and forge new relationships – particularly with yourself.

Port House Antwerp by Zaha Hadid

The Port House in Antwerp, Belgium by Zaha Hadid

I am especially grateful when I get to travel for pleasure; I don’t think there’s anything that compares. When I travel, my foremost intention is to see new cities, immerse myself in new cultures, and have new experiences. Yet while my excitement comes from those experiences, one of my true delights is the discovery of my temporary home while I’m away. Without a doubt, perhaps the moment I anticipate most is waving the card key over the door lock, and opening a hotel room door for the very first time. The discovery of a new hotel guest room – my home for the next 48 hours or so – never ceases to delight. I get giddy every single time.

Hotel Design Matters

A key reason for my delight is that moment of being enveloped by an unfamiliar design, because design matters. The smaller journey that I experience inside the confines of a hotel is just as important to me as the larger journey out in the world.

Design is important because it not only shapes how I move, live and sleep in that space, but it’s also the result of the ideas that some individual, or group of people, thoughtfully crafted in order for me to have just such an experience. They made it their life’s work to create a beautiful, comfortable, and thoughtful interior, and designed all the details so I would have that exact experience while I lay my head there. It’s such an intimate relationship that I have with that designer – who I’ll never even know – but it makes me feel connected to a place and a time in a way that causes the entire trip to feel that much stickier.

Moments of Biophilia

On a recent trip to Europe, each time I opened a new hotel door, I gasped.

A recurring theme from city to city included the conspicuous use of biophilic design elements. Specifically, a great deal of wood: wood that had grown refined and soft from years of human touch, and wood that was raw and roughhewn. There was sophistication in this raw wood – at once both historic and modern – which made me feel grounded and connected to that place. The authenticity was palpable.

Another thoughtful touch that surprised me? The inclusion of fresh flowers everywhere – not only in public spaces, but in guest rooms as well. I can’t recall a time where I found so many fresh flowers in my guest room. Little else feels that special and personal to me, and it created an intimate connection to the hotel and its staff. How often in my day-to-day life do strangers bring me flowers? Not frequently enough, I realized.

I’ll let these photos do the rest of the talking; they will say more than I possibly can. I hope they will create the real context around these memorable design experiences.

Swiss Night in Zurich, Switzerland

The first night we stayed at Swiss Night by Fassbind, in Zurich, Switzerland. This unique little find was tucked into a quiet residential neighborhood in Zurich, just off the beaten path. Quirky and whimsical, this charming boutique hotel greeted me with a smile on its face and a Swiss chocolate bar. It must have known I was coming.

Swiss Night, Zurich, Switzerland

Unique Post Hotel in Zermatt, Switzerland

My next stop was the Unique Post Hotel in Zermatt, Switzerland. The experience was exactly what I hoped for, and still managed to surpass all my expectations. This warm and cozy boutique hotel sat at the foot of the Matterhorn and felt like my own private cabin in the Alps.

Unique Post Hotel, Zermatt, Switzerland

After being greeted with champagne at the reception desk and warmly whisked up to my snug, understated room, I declared that I never wanted to leave. Raw wood and stone lined the walls, a cowhide covered the floor, and the windows were always open to the fresh Alpine air.

1898 The Post in Gent, Belgium

But leave Zermatt we did. Who knew my biggest thrill was next to come?

1898 The Post, in Gent, Belgium: Located in an historic post office on a main platz, converted into the loveliest and most painstakingly detailed boutique hotel, this was the favorite of all stops on my journey. The rooms were a spectacular dark teal the color of night, and I felt as though I had found a precious stone in a river.

1898 The Post, Gent, Belgium

Gent was also a jewel of a town, and this hotel could not have been a more perfect complement to our time there. The lobby lounge was inviting and warm and the cocktails were neat. This is a hotel I would visit again and again.

The Pand Hotel in Bruges, Belgium

Our final stop was Bruges, Belgium, where we spent a few wonderful nights at The Pand Hotel. Sweet and more delicate than the 1898, this tiny boutique hotel had guest rooms that felt familiar (like your grandmother’s house) and a breakfast room that included a warm kitchen wall where our eggs were cooked at the hot stove. Every day, all the spaces were filled with fresh flowers, roaring fire, and friendly smiling faces.

The Pand Hotel, Bruges, Belgium

I’m not always this lucky when traveling. Trust me when I tell you that I’ve had experiences that I’d not care to repeat. But, you can’t deny the wondrous transformation that happens when you open your eyes, your mind and your heart to so many new experiences. We build human connections one moment at a time, and that’s why I leave home in the first place.

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Better Habitats for Humans – Part 1

David Gerson

The Living Future unConference in Seattle celebrated its 11th anniversary this May. The enthusiasm for creating buildings and interiors that support positive, healthy and equitable environments for all was palpable.

The kick off to three days of learning, sharing and festivities was the 2nd annual Biophilic Design Summit. The goal for this year’s program was to provide a day of learning and interactive experiences that took attendees beyond the more familiar aspects of biophilic design and explore lesser practiced patterns, such as non-rhythmic sensory stimulation.

Biophilic Design Advisory_blog_575x350

Members of the Biophilic Design Advisory board who helped to shape and facilitate the event. From left to right: Richard Placenti, Sonja Bochart, Vivian Loftness, Amanda Sturgeon, Julia Africa, Bill Browning, David Gerson, Nicole Isle and Judi Heerwagen (Not pictured: Edna Catumbela and Denise DeLuca)

The day began with the renowned author, speaker and practitioner of biophilic design, Judi Heerwagen of the US General Services Administration. Her presentation centered on how we could create better “Habitats for Humans.” She challenged us to consider our built spaces from an evolutionary psychology and biology perspective and incorporate the aspects of our ancient habitats that made us feel safe and connected to our tribe. In short, a green wall or windows alone cannot create a “habitat.” It must be holistic and integrated.

She also provided striking examples of modern habitats that are drastically different. Some incorporated our innate needs as living beings and others discounted them in favor of convenient, yet draining environments.

Better Habitats_575x350

Although Judi showed numerous examples of good human habitat design, she focused in on six key points:

  • Focus on indoor geography – prospect, refuge, pathways
  • Create an indoor atmosphere with daylight, sky and operable windows
  • Provide sensory change and variability
  • Support social engagement
  • Use natural patterns
  • Enable ongoing connection to nature


Buildings can do more than simply house people. They can create habitats that fulfill our needs to connect with the earth, nature and each other.

For more information on the effects of biophilic design in the workplace, check out the Human Spaces research report.

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Biophilic Design: A Pathway to WELL Certification at ASID Headquarters

David Gerson

I had the pleasure to visit ASID’s new HQ, the first space to receive both the WELL Platinum and LEED Platinum certifications. Becoming the first space to receive both the WELL Platinum and LEED Platinum certifications makes it truly one of a kind. ASID and Perkins+Will partnered to create an exceptional space that speaks to who they are and what they value. They wanted to be on the cutting edge of modern workspace design, but also create a space that was restorative to their people with minimal negative impact to the environment.

From the moment you walk in and are greeted by the virtual assistant at the front door, you know you are walking into the future. The new ASID National Headquarters is a living lab dedicated to creating a premier workspace for its employees. It’s also built to study the effects of some of the key elements of that space that address human health and well-being.


ASID applied evidence-based design strategies to create a space that is pleasing to the human eye, but also scientifically proven to address a wide range of issues, from cardiovascular health to sustainable agriculture.

Biophilic Design and WELL

One of the requirements for achieving WELL certification for building interiors is the incorporation of biophilic design. The WELL Building Standard aspires to “create an interior environment that nurtures the human-nature connection.”

WELL’s Biophilia Precondition (#88) deals with “Nature Incorporation.” The first major infusion of biophilic design is present even before you enter the glass front doors. The striking Net Effect carpet has a color and pattern that resembles the ocean. Beyond the aesthetics, the carpet contains 100% recycled nylon, which is partially made from fishing nets recovered from environmentally-sensitive coastal communities in Asia and Africa through the Net-Works program.


Natural Elements

The vegetated plant ledge, which extends throughout the space, simply and efficiently brings greenery through almost every workspace in the office. The ledge provides the same benefits as a green wall, but is much easier to maintain. From the front conference room to the meeting space in the back corner, plants brighten employees’ day, while also cleaning the air they breathe.



Some other notable biophilic elements used in this space include a magnified pattern of dragonfly wings on the interior glass to provide some visual privacy, a unique design detail and a subtle biomorphic pattern to the space. Abstract water patterns on the conference room walls also provide beauty, vibrant colors and a connection to nature.


I am thrilled to see ASID leading their constituency to embrace WELL, LEED and the rising movement towards evidence-based design strategies.

Biophilia is inherent to us as human beings, and biophilic design provides a framework for us to build exceptional spaces enabling us to thrive and do our best possible work.

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A Love Letter to Nature


Dear Nature,

We didn’t always love you the way we do now. In fact for our first 21 years, we didn’t even realize how intrinsically we were connected to you. We didn’t know that our every action affects you. But then we were awakened, and we fell so deeply in love with you that others called us crazy. And our love for you transformed every aspect of ourselves – how we operate, how we make decisions – even our purpose. After all, how can a business be successful if it is harming you, the source of our life support system?

clouds in nature

Nature, do you remember the first time we came seeking your inspiration? We put aside our brash belief that we could solve every problem by ourselves, and we asked for your guidance. Admiring the beautiful and chaotic floors of your forests and meadows, we let go of our need to make every tile identical, and we embraced the untapped power of diversity. The world loved your innovative solution too.

Now here we are, decades into our love affair, and we are still learning from you—how your patterns can heal us, how your models can guide us. And we believe that reconnecting with our love for you will not only lead us to more circular systems, but also help us become healthier and more productive too. How amazing to learn that spending time with you, or in spaces designed to be evocative of you, may result in reduced stress levels, faster healing rates, and improved cognitive functioning!

room with nature light

We are finally learning from your generosity and asking ourselves what it would mean for us to be generous too. How could we contribute to spaces that facilitate wellbeing? How could our factories replenish your ecosystems? We are striving to be more like you and know we need your guidance now more than ever.

With love,

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Pantone 2017 Color of the Year: Greenery

Gretchen Wagner

2017 is finally here and with it comes the long anticipated opportunity to turn over a new leaf. In keeping with traditions it is also the time to celebrate Pantone’s 2017 Color of the Year, Greenery.

Throughout all seasons, Greenery is a reminder of vitality and prosperity; youthfulness and energy.

Greenery palette

Greenery hinges on the development of well being and self care trends that have been rising to the forefront of our minds while we contemplate the differences between health and healing, the group and the individual.

Shades of green are ubiquitous in nature. You can find Greenery nestled as a pop of color among soft pastels or paired with bolder shades of jewel toned orchids in an effort to transition us out of Winter. Root Greenery with deep mineral and rust tones for the perfect earthly balance and blur man made versus nature made by bringing the outdoors inside.

Greenery carpet palette

Ultimately, Greenery is about embracing our inherent connection to nature and the beneficial qualities that we absorb when surrounded by it. So as we transition and grow into 2017, remember to breathe deeply, enjoy matcha lattes and sliced avocados, barefoot walks along moss covered trails and cultivate some greenery in that urban apartment of yours.

Check out our Green Pinterest board below. Until next year my color loving friends.


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