How Modernism is Embracing Biophilic Design in Home Décor

How Modernism is Embracing Biophilic Design in Home Décor

You don’t have to leave your house to get back to nature. Try bringing the outside indoors.

Throughout history, people have lived in response to the natural world. Nature was all around us, and we were part of the environment. There were no clear-cut lines. But that changed with the industrial revolution.

Today, 90% of our habitat is the constructed environment. While we want a clean house, it’s the little things that make a house a home. Biophilia refers to our innate tendency to seek a connection with nature. Biophilic design seeks to restore this connection without turning back the clock. It does so by bringing more of the outdoors into our homes and our lives.

Proponents of biophilic design, like the late Stephen Kellert, said the approach allows you to design a habitat and not just a home. The Yale University ecologist earned kudos as one of the country’s all-time environmental leaders. Kellert aimed to improve home design as well as health and well-being, productivity, and our social connection.

Better Traffic Flow

Beauty alone can justify this increasingly popular design style. Consider the elements: increased natural light, prominent vegetation, the use of natural materials and natural shapes, and an emphasis on the easy traffic flow of space within your home and between the indoors and out.

The approach is a near-perfect match to modernist design principles and also offers a sumptuous counterpoint of the clean lines of modern homes. But you don’t have to own or build a textbook-worthy modernist gem to bring more of nature into your daily life. Here are a few pointers:

Light and Air


Skylights, large sunny windows, and glass doors are no-brainers when it comes to creating a more natural home. Doors and windows are also a trending home improvement in 2021, but placement can mean a lot.

Openings that allow shifting light to play across your rooms add interest and more perfectly echo the experience of being outside. Vistas bring the outside in by deliberately framing whatever natural features your property offers — from dramatic views to intimate slices of a garden that is just a step away. 

Breezes, one of the joys of being outside, don’t have to stay beyond your walls. Windows that open and provide cross ventilation are good bets ecologically and also bring your inside life a bit closer to nature.

Promoting more natural light in your home is all about apertures. It can be as easy as eliminating drapes in some rooms or replacing heavy fabrics with light or translucent natural fibers.

In darker rooms, install lighting that can simulate natural light. This can be as simple as choosing broad-spectrum lights or as innovative as a lighting scheme that would mimic the varied forms of light and shadow in natural space.



Your windows and doors let you see the green world outside — more so if you plant with views in mind. But house plants are also critical to biophilic design.

The ultimate feature is a green wall or vertical garden. These can work anywhere — from bathroom to living room to hall. Green walls also harmonized beautifully with the natural building materials such as wood and stone favored by the biophilic aesthetic.

Potted plants can serve a variety of purposes. An array of fresh herbs on the kitchen window greens up both your décor and your menus.

A light-loving plant in a window without a beautiful vista can block out a less-than-stellar view. And few design elements can match the impact of a gorgeous tropical plant, such as the money tree plant with its braided trunk, broad showing leaves, and promise of good luck.

Common house plants such as peace lily, English ivy, and snake plant do double duty by improving your indoor air quality as they beautify. They replace pollutants in addition to carbon dioxide and, like all plants, keep up moisture and oxygen levels. This helps your indoor surroundings feel as fresh and clean as the outdoors they are designed to emulate. 

Materials, Shape and Colors


Light, air, and plants constitute direct experiences of nature. The use of natural materials, shapes, and colors creates an indirect experience.

Natural wood is the much-preferred building materials, with natural stone considered another good option, particularly for bathrooms and kitchens. Man-made materials such as old bricks or antiques that show tarnish over time are also favored because they show the evidence of time.

Nature, of course, does not grow in straight lines. Curved architecture can be expensive. Curved accessories and appointments don’t have to be costly and can go a long way in softening the built environment with an organic feel. So can natural designs on wallpaper and upholstery — or images of nature in a picture on the wall.

When it comes to color, complement whatever natural materials you are able to use with soothing, neutral palettes inspired by sky, sea, plants, and earth. No matter their color, fabrics, and fibers should be natural. Opt for cotton, silk, bamboo, wool, and down. This is particularly important for fabrics that go next to your skin, such as towels and bedding Space.

Blend the Indoors and Outdoors

As great as light, air, plants, and natural materials can be in any home, their presence alone does not constitute a biophilic design. The deciding factor is continuity and integration.

Biophilic design creates a repeated and sustained experience of nature as you move from room to room and between indoors and out. Spaces that flow are preferred to discrete, cut-off rooms.

Elements such as outdoor showers and living rooms that melt into terraces reinforce the message that our modern, busy lives are part and parcel of the ongoing, natural world.

At its best, biophilic design heightens our emotional connection to our home by satisfying our inherent need to affiliate with nature. By creating beautiful spaces that are as soothing as they are energizing, biophilic design also fosters our ability to connect with one another and to take pleasure in that connection.

Put simply: Biophilic spaces are good spaces to be. May the forest be with you.


Cindy Mitchell is a home stager and lifestyle and landscape and home design writer. She is a social butterfly and loves to entertain guests at home with beautifully decorated spaces for any occasion.

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Our Latest Home Design Research Revealed

Our Latest Home Design Research Revealed

Design Basics regularly conducts online polls regarding home design and amenity preferences. Here’s what you’ve been telling us:

Front or Back? We asked, “Where would you prefer your home office/remote learning center? Right up front (convenient for receiving clients and colleagues) or privately located at the back?

Front or Back Office?
Poll 1 Results

Larger Closets or Added Bath? We asked which way you would prefer to have the Teglia Place, plan 42481, built: as originally designed with walk-up closets in the secondary bedrooms + a powder bathroom near the stairs, or forego that half-bath in favor of walk-in closets for Bedrooms 2 and 3?


More Space or More Light? We posed the question that if it were the same price, would you choose to have the Cavanaugh, plan 8540, built with the additional loft space/storage upstairs behind the bedrooms, or with added windows increasing natural light levels and offering cross breezes for ventilation.


3rd Garage Stall or Sun Room? The Cherry Park plan 42442 as originally designed has a deep, tandem 3rd car garage stall (also think storage or workshop!) The plan comes with option of finishing off most of that tandem garage space as a Sun Room.


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Cover photo: <a href=''>People photo created by pch.vector -</a>

New Home Cost: Cheaper than Expected?

New Home Cost: Cheaper than Expected?

“When the price is higher, people tend to focus on the things that make it higher. When the price is lower people tend to focus on things explaining why it’s lower,” William Poundstone wrote in his book, Priceless. Which do you want? Prospective buyers touring your homes to figure out why your prices are cheaper, or having them appreciate what makes your homes more expensive?

In most markets, national/production builders can offer what appears to be the “best prices.” Rightfully so, as they may enjoy economies of scale that can provide certain cost advantages in terms of land, building products, and even labor. The model homes are attractively presented, consumers notice the Delta faucets and Whirlpool appliances, and the sales representatives show how easy it would be to own one of their homes. (Photo courtesy: Delta Faucet)

Delta faucet

Some of these builders deliver an outstanding value, but oftentimes, in checking online reviews and apps such as Next Door, the builder’s reputation, quality, and customer service may be suspect. Buyers reason that is how the builder can price their homes cheaper. Aware of this, some buyers will accept those risks and buy on price; others rule out that builder, fearing the potential disappointment and regret.

If you’re not the lowest price builder in your market, your challenge is to help possible buyers identify what makes your homes more expensive. Those factors, if they matter to the buyer, will help them justify choosing you, so you may also need to help those folks appreciate why you build that way and/or include those amenities. Remember, buyers buy on emotion and subsequently justify those decisions rationally. Wanting to buy a home based on factors other than the lowest price is emotional.

Hy-Lite Awing Window

Some of the factors might be obvious – the Craftsman touches add to their home’s curb appeal. They fall in love with the look, can’t wait for their friends to see it, and value aesthetics. Other factors might require demonstration – the glass block windows (photo courtesy: Hy-Lite®) in the suite’s bathroom that provide both light AND privacy, plus crank out for fresh air, too! Factors might even be hidden – like the high performance insulation that will make their home more comfortable to live in, and is estimated to save them $XX monthly in utilities, giving them “bragging rights” as well as appealing to their desire to be environmentally responsible.

So, how do you make sure new home shoppers become aware the many reasons your home is a better value, even when it is more expensive? Besides the obvious model home tour, focus on rapport and trust. Rapport is a two-way street. The buyers want to know more about you, your company, and the homes you build. On the flip side, they’ll appreciate talking with someone who listens, cares, and truly has their interests at heart. Trust takes a little longer, though most people initially believe people they meet are trustworthy until they have reason to doubt. Knowledge of home building and your models is an important component of establishing trust. So is discovering things you have in common with the hopeful buyers (e.g., affiliations, schooling, interests, hobbies, preferences, etc.) – such similarities can go a long way with both rapport and trust. People like to do business with others like themselves. Transparency also aids in building trust, especially when it comes to pricing. Think pre-priced options and upgrades. Intriguing signage in your model home that calls attention to a specific feature that might be overlooked or under-appreciated can aid your buyer’s learning about amenities they would really want, but may not have even been aware of, further establishing trust.

As a business thought-leader and author, Seth Godin points out, price is a story, “People form assumptions and associations based on your pricing.”

Hyundai’s pricing strategy is very different from that of Mercedes Benz, and they sold a million and a half more vehicles world-wide last year than Mercedes. Yes, people form assumptions about Hyundai and Mercedes vehicles based in part on their pricing. But Mercedes sales pros probably aren’t losing any sleep over Hyundai prices!

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(Product spotlights are for informational purposes only.)

A Great Elevation Helps Make the Sale

A Great Elevation Helps Make the Sale

Prospective customers rule you “in” or “out” based on your homes’ exteriors. It’s a fact. Overwhelmed by too many choices, buyers use shortcuts to narrow the number of home builders they will consider. One of those shortcuts is your elevation designs. Photographs can be great – once the home has been built AND if the photos, the lighting, the landscaping, etc., are top-notch. 

More common is to win buyers’ hearts and minds with elevation renderings. But all renderings are not created equal, and this is where buyers infer a lot about the builder. A black and white CAD drawing is devoid of emotion, and a black and white artist’s rendering does little to capture buyers’ attention. Color renderings are more impactful, but many are perceived as being “cartoonish,” unprofessional, and actually work against you as they help her rule you out. Professional, hand-drawn color renderings used to be the standard, but are now seen as old-fashioned, inferring the builder is also less sophisticated. (Elevation rendering progression shown below - Dorsett plan #29062; click on the image to enlarge.)

Dorsett - #29062 BW CAD

Black & White CAD Elevation

Dorsett - #29062 BW Drawn

Black & White Hand-drawn Rendering

Dorsett - #29062 Color Drawn

Color Hand-drawn Rendering

Dorsett - #29062

Photo-realistic Rendering

Photo-realistic, color, CAD renderings are now what buyers expect. Everything can be perfect – from the weather to the landscaping, color and materials choices, etc. Plus, there can be multiple views, whether that’s front/sides/rear, different perspectives, daytime/dusk, or even drone views. (Click on an image below to enlarge.)
the Sinclair Terrace - #42424

Front Elevation Rendering
(Sinclair Terrace - #42424)

Sinclair Terrace - #42424

Rear Elevation Rendering
(Sinclair Terrace - #42424)

Wendling Park - Dawn/Dusk

Custom Presentation Renderings for Your Plans

Design Basics was selected by the Home Builders Association of Des Moines to create photo-realistic elevation renderings for each of the five homes built for their 2020 HomeShowExpo. The different views of each home visually connected viewers with the homes’ designs on an emotional level, and feedback form the builders, their sales representatives, the HBA, and consumers was extremely positive.

What about you? What does the visual presentation of your homes say about you, your company, and the homes you build? Design Basics can create custom photo-realistic elevation renderings from your CAD home plans that stir buyer’s heartstrings and rule you “in!” You can specify exterior colors and products, or Design Basics can make recommendations. We will also discuss what angle and perspective we feel would help create the most intriguing rendering.

One plan or dozens, we look forward to helping you raise the bar with high-quality presentation renderings of your homes! Contact us today: 800.947.7526

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Tailoring Solutions for You – Design Basics’ Concierge Service

Tailoring Solutions for You – Design Basics’ Concierge Service

Adding new home plans to your portfolio is risky. Will the design attract buyers? How much will that home cost to build?

Design Basics’ Concierge Service is designed to help you minimize such risks. We know what is selling in terms of home design. Based on your goals (e.g., affordability); restrictions (e.g., 40-foot maximum building widths); and target market or specific customer needs (e.g. multi-generational households); we can recommend popular home designs that improve your odds of success.

After discussing what you are looking for in a home design, we’ll research our entire library of home plans to recommend top designs that meet your needs, saving you time! While it is easy for everyone to search home designs on our website, with heightened knowledge of our plans and search methodologies, our plan specialists often identify ideal home designs that may otherwise be missed or overlooked. In addition, we may recognize that a certain plan, with minor modifications, might be exactly what you are looking for.

What is the value of working with a plan specialist? You may have the requisite accounting knowledge and software, but you work with a CPA. You might be tech-savvy, but you hire a website design company. Residential design is a similar specialty. Is that neat amenity a fad, or destined to become a “must-have”? Was the home value-engineered, helping with your budget concerns? Our plan specialists are your home design consultants, tailoring recommendations and solutions based on your situation and needs.

Upon request, we can even review your existing design portfolio to identify gaps and opportunities we feel could be better addressed through design to help you sell more homes. Over 60 million Americans live in multi-generational households. Which of your home designs address this market’s needs? You have four one-story homes, which account for half of your sales, yet they all have “snout” garages and the writing is on the wall – several new neighborhoods are requiring flush or recessed garages.

Kickstart Your Neighborhood℠

Design Basics is a builder-oriented home plan design firm. With our Kickstart Program, you can get up to five sets of construction drawings for estimating purposes per year for just $100 each, including the corresponding elevation and floorplan presentation artwork for marketing. You will also enjoy plan and product discounts, FREE upgrades, and more!

Neighborhood in a Box®

Our Neighborhood in a Box Program can save you 50% when buying four or more home plans! Choose from pre-configured neighborhoods or build your own when you choose from over 1,300 designs.

Builder Plan Sets

A great floor plan with multiple elevations. Create a cohesive look for your neighborhood with builder plan sets at a discounted price.

Multi-Elevation Plan Set

Sample Builder Plan Set (#42376)

In addition, our home plans can be licensed for construction on a single-build or unlimited-build basis. Your plan specialist will be happy to discuss ways to get the most for your home design investment. Contact us today about our individually-tailored Concierge Service: 800.947.7526

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Cover Photo: <a href="">Business photo created by nensuria -</a>

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