BBC DIY SOS – Sunderland – How Biophilia can make a house a sustainable healthy home

oliver General, Healthy spaces, Natural stuff

My last BBC DIY SOS shoot was as ever a much deserved project where we completely rebuilt and refurbished the home of the Finlay family in Sunderland. It’s home to John, June and daughter Heather, who’s family life was brought into chaos when June fell ill with Clippers disease just as she came about her retirement. Its debilitating effect meant that she couldn’t get upstairs or even wash, so depressingly ended up living in a corner of the kitchen.  Before her illness June had a passion for all things to do with nature and gardening  but her disability meant she couldn’t pursue or get out on her own at all.

Luckily DIY SOS leapt into action to bring some of the benefits of being close to nature back into her life, through my design concept of Biophilia.

Biophilic design comprises of four  key aspects :

– Maximising natural light – through glass doors, windows and skylights.

– Improving views out onto nature – be it plants, trees, shrubs, and vistas and encouraging fauna.

– Creating safe spaces to retreat into – think cosy lounges and alcoves.

– Using a palette of natural textures, materials, patterns and images of nature as a reminder of nature.

From the outset I was keen to bring all of the Biophilic design principles into use and make the most of the rear garden, improving natural light, textures patterns and even natural sounds such as trickling water.

Garden Perspective

My sketch for the view from the re-modled kitchen and dinning table

Lounge perspectiveMy sketch of the view from June’s seating area in the lounge – looking through to the garden.

The end effect was one of improving the psychological and physiological health of the home through improving the connection with nature………. but getting there in just 10 days with a team of builders and a TV production team is a busy and very chaotic  process! Here’s an image from mid-way through the shoot showing just how chaotic and crazy it got- imagine trying to get anything done with this many people in the house!

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So how did the design work out? Views out. Light in.

In the June’s  bedroom, natural light floods in from windows, glass doors and skylights, providing psychological and physiological benefits by reconnecting with the suns daily rhythms and circadian rhythms. Floral patterned wallpaper was used – flowers are an evolutionary indicator of fruit and nutrition – and a unique grassy effect carpet designed by Interface flooring add to the input of natural images and textures.

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The views out of June’s bedroom are onto the beautiful wooden courtyard, and this unique  green wall which i welded up -allowing sunlight to filter through the leaves and into her room. Having views onto nature is a central concept of biophilia, and these green plants are full of life. Outside in the courtyard, a water feature adds the calming natural sound of trickling water to the sensory experience and encourages bird-life into the garden.

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Natural colours and textures to see and feel

In the kitchen I went for a palette of natural materials, white surfaces to reflect light and a vibrant energetic digitally printed glass  splash back- very striking!  On the opposite wall there is a low work surface that is wheelchair accessible with a Wooly Pocket green wall planting system , overflowing with life and utilising the skylight overhead.

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Below, this old second hand pine table was scorched with a blow torch and then wire brushed to bring out the texture of the natural wood grain. I believe that we take in the natural world through all the senses, and the texture of this table contributes to the touch and feel of the home.

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The study – a safe space

This digitally printed forest wall  had a fantastic effect when framed by the clean lines of the doorway, plus the  skylight allows light to flood in in a natural way.  The room is bright and lively without technological noise or distraction.

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It was a thrilling chaotic 10 days working with builders, craftsman and suppliers from the local area, even being “amusingly” arrested by the local police for scorching the dining table on public pavement space… funny for the rest of the guys I’m sure?!!  In the end I’m immensely proud of the finished home and the thought of these Biophilia themes of natural light, views, texture and touch enhancing June’s health and well being and improving the quality of life for the whole family.

ps i forgave the guys for having me arrested (in the end!)

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