It’s Only Natural

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outdoors in_Brana Designs
A visualization of a Corona del Mar project by Brana Designs, which incorporates wood and plants to bring the outdoors inside | Photo by Brana Designs

Home design that embraces biophilia, or the concept of connecting with nature, is currently trending, highlighting new ways of bringing the outdoors in.

By Ashley Ryan


In recent years, endless studies have detailed the importance of immersing oneself in nature. From a walk in the park to outdoor yoga and meditation, breathing in fresh air while experiencing the beauty of the world around us has many benefits. Now, designers are striving to capture that magic and bring it indoors.

“Overall awareness of the natural world and the environment is at the forefront of social … [consciousness, and] … using natural materials and products has been shown to increase emotional well-being and comfort,” says Helena Brana of Corona del Mar-based Brana Designs.

It was only a matter of time until biophilia, this human desire to form a connection with nature, infiltrated interiors—especially in an era when mental health and overall wellness come first. And there are so many ways to incorporate the natural world when it comes to design.

One pivotal component is harnessing the glow of natural lighting. Skip the artificial bulbs in favor of floor-to-ceiling glass walls, skylights or even folding doors. These types of design elements can often double as a way to bring fresh air into the home, offering cross ventilation that can both cool a room and create an alfresco feeling.

If you’re simply looking to revamp a space, Brana says you can also add natural radiance with a light neutral color palette. Opt for off-white shades, but incorporate pops of color, with accents in deep blues or greens.

The materials you select for the home can also play a major role when bringing the outdoors in. Wood is one of the most obvious choices, and also the most versatile. According to Brana, one of her favorites is white oak flooring. “I love wood slats applique,” she says, “as they can be used in many creative ways and look especially stylish in oak, walnut or—my favorite—exotic zebrawood.” Other suitable natural materials include marble or limestone tiles for the floor as well as stone around fireplaces or water features.

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Another visualization that showcases the theme of biophilia | Photo by Brana Designs

Complement your foundation with matching or contrasting decor pieces as well. Furniture is a great way to incorporate many of these same materials, with live-edge or stone tables currently trending. Wood can also be incorporated in frames for couches, chairs or even beds. And don’t forget upholstery, where you can experiment with textiles ranging from linen to hemp and wool. These fabrics are also a great way to add texture to the space. “The most important thing is to stay … [with a] thoroughly planned design scheme so it all looks aesthetically harmonized,” Brana adds.

Of course, one of the best ways to celebrate biophilia is by incorporating live greenery in the space. “I love to be surrounded by them, whether it’s plants or … fresh flowers,” she says. “I would recommend an easy-care Asian money tree to place in partial sunlight. I have it in a porcelain black pot for contrast, but for someone who prefers a neutral color palette, I would suggest sandy colors. The same with succulents, except leave them in full sun.”

If fresh flora isn’t an option, plants can also be tied into the design of a room in the form of artwork or wallpaper. “The best way to incorporate a botanical or floral print is to find the perfect focal point in the room and use large-scale murals … instead of small-scale patterns that make the room look busy,” Brana notes.

The way you weave all of these pieces together will definitely vary based on preference. But that is the beauty in creating a space that is tranquil. “Some people are more comfortable with symmetry and organized lines while others enjoy more dynamic, organic asymmetry. I like to use soft radius shapes and clean lines as I find them soothing and elegant,” Brana adds.

But the most important thing is the effect that these naturally inspired spaces will have on not only your health and happiness, but your overall lifestyle, with Brana noting that studies have linked nature with productivity, cognition and relaxation. If nature itself is so healing, imagine the possibilities of being immersed in it even while indoors.


The Great Indoors

Fill your space with greenery, natural materials and sunlight with the help of these products, all of which are available locally.

Liven up any space with the GRASSCLOTH WALLCOVERING, a wallpaper crafted with natural grasses that adds texture to the walls and is available in a variety of colors, from neutral shades like Grove and Stone to bold complementary hues such as Amalfi, $298 per roll, with advance order at Serena & Lily, Lido Marina Village. (949-287-5764;
Bring some live greenery into your home with the purchase of a MONEY TREE PLANT; paired with the perfect pot, this vibrant piece will liven up any space with a pop of color and freshness, $210, at Orchid Republic, Costa Mesa. (949-516-8901;
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Select natural finishes for even your most functional pieces, such as the OLIVEWOOD BOARD WITH CLOCHE & CHEESE KNIVES, to make entertaining just as pleasant as your surroundings, $129.95, at Williams Sonoma, Newport Coast. (949-464-2168;
oliver sofa
Upholstered in teal Belgian linen, the natural fibers covering the OLIVER SOFA offer some added texture to any living space, contrasted by a classic, elegant shape and wooden legs, $5,265, with advance order at Sparrow & Sage, Corona del Mar. (949-524-8600;
The OAK BRÛLÉ LIVE-EDGE RECTANGULAR DINING TABLE showcases the beauty of the tree used to make it with a jagged edge, rich color and minimalist style, $4,295, with advance order at RH (formerly Restoration Hardware), Fashion Island. (949-760-9232;
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