Breathing spaces are better spaces – how nature is helping purify our living spaces

oliver General, Healthy spaces, Materials, Natural stuff

We ask a lot from the spaces that we inhabit; practicality, durability, energy , aesthetics, acoustics. But where health does that sit within our requirements? It goes without saying that our health is improved by regular fresh air changes through controlled ventilation. But before the times of MVHR (mechanical ventilation and heat recovery) systems there were other ways that the natural world helped us to make spaces psychologically and physiologically better.

In today’s quest to make better, healthier spaces we are seeing designers attention turned back to the natural world and realise the benefits that plants can offer not just in their purification abilities but also their sensory qualities – for instance as I sit surrounded by an array of amazing materials, on loan from SCIN materials resource library I love the delicate scent of rose petals that the sample swatch of Organoid Rose Petal veneer gives off from my desk. 

organoid copy

Architecture is offering numerous visible solutions to increasing bio diversity through the introduction of flora to roof-scapes, facades and urban landscaping. So too are we seeing a boom in the greening of  interior design solutions, bringing with it the benefits of introducing plants in unusual ways with numerous benefits. Take a look at these amazing Japanese string plants for example


It’s well known that plants absorb carbon dioxide and emit oxygen but they also improve internal environments by removing and absorbing toxins. Modern spaces contain a cocktail of hazardous chemicals such as formaldehyde (found in MDFs, carpets, upholstery), VOC’s (in paints and plastics) benzene (in plastics, synthetic fibres, rubbers) and trichloroethylene (in paint removes, cleaning solutions, adhesives) – which individually can be harmful, but combined their impact is scarily unknown.

Plants and toxins

Luckily a number of plants have toxin removing properties that can benefit interior spaces and health Peace Lilys, Mother In Laws Tongue, Boston Ferns, English Ivy, and the Areca Palm to name a few, and all examples of plants that can remove toxins from our internal environments. But how best to introduce them to our built spaces?

Mother inlaws tongue

One favourite are the ingenious Wooly pocket systems, affordable, simple to fix and made from reclaimed materials. The woolly pocket is a modular system that allows you to add as much or as little as you need, creating small burst of interior greenery or whole walls.

Wooly pocket

But for a smaller tech based approach I love the Andrea Air purifier, which it claims is the first air filter capable of absorbing toxins such as formaldehyde using the natural absorptive and metabolic properties of living plants. Its a futuristic tech meets bio thing but they look great.

ANDREA-Air Purifier

If you’re lacking in wall or floor space why not suspend healthy plants from the ceiling? The innovative Boskke sky planter offers a surreal opportunity to hang your green leaves upside down, apparently plants love it.


If plants simply aren’t an option but you are aware that you do have toxins in your environment or  leaching through walls (from surface coatings such as lead paints) why not consider lining walls with Bluchers Saratech Permasorb  – it’s a flexible sheet material filled with thousands of tiny spherical absorbing balls. Each ball sucks and locks  in toxins – so being the first wall covering that actually purifies environments.