More and more people are recognizing the value of biophilic design — the concept of bringing the outdoors inside. Studies show that simply having a houseplant improves air quality and positive energy in any living space. Now imagine actually using the outdoors as part of the interior design. That’s exactly what Lesley Ray does.

Continue reading below
Our Featured Videos
A woman with black hair hearing a purple top

Lesley Ray is a huge voice in the biophilic design movement. Leading by example, this San Francisco-based designer’s innovative approach has gained notice. Ray is a USGBC LEED AP interior design and construction certified professional, using minimalistic design to create unique, beautiful interior spaces that bring the outdoors in. Ray believes in seamless architectural transitions and uses attention to detail to create healthy, beautiful spaces that honor humans and the natural world.

Related: Indulge in your love of nature with biophilic furniture

Furthermore, Ray has worked with the U.S. Green Building Council to promote sustainable construction practices and she has studied biophilic design by putting it into practice and actually using this concept in her designs.

“Incorporating live plants into spaces is beneficial for so many reasons; one of the biggest being air quality. Plant’s ability to filter VOC’s (volatile organic compounds), uptake carbon dioxide during photosynthesis and release fresh oxygen into the atmosphere can literally breathe new life into your home,” Ray said.

Science suggests that plants can do a whole lot to improve your home. Rooms that have plants in them have less dust and mold than rooms that don’t. Plants act as natural air purifiers that help to remove allergens from the air, which improves air and breathing qualities.

Evidence suggests that plants improve mood, making people feel happier. People who work in places that have plants experience less worry in general, take fewer sick days and tend to enjoy their jobs more. Houseplants help to improve humidity indoors, preventing dry air that causes itchy, sore throats and other symptoms. Spider plants and other indoor plants can add humidity to the air.

They also release healthy oxygen into the air, a natural by-product of the carbon dioxide they consume. Some plants continue to release healthy, fresh oxygen into the atmosphere even after the sun has gone down, filling the air with healthy oxygen while you are asleep at night.

According to Ray, there are ways to use biophilic design in their own daily life. When it comes to small spaces, Ray says that anyone can do it.

“Try incorporating vine plants, such as pothos or ivy, by letting the vines climb organically throughout the space. This is a simple and cost-effective way to bring an extra layer of depth and create a more dynamic space,” she said.

Vining plants find their own way and grow in interesting ways, following their own paths. This can create a truly stunning interior design element. Vines add a lot of green to the space and they grow out just one plant in one pot, so you get a lot out one low-maintenance design element. But what about spaces that have low lighting and little natural sunlight?

“There are plenty of plants that can thrive in lower lighting, such as the snake plant and pothos. You can also purchase plant/grow lights to double as an accent and give those plants some extra sun-love,” she said.

Plants can thrive just as well with artificial light as with sunlight. As long as they’re getting the light they need, plants can get the nutrients they need. So when in doubt, add a lamp to the space and this will keep that plant’s engine powered, so to speak.

Moreover, use plants not just to bring nature indoors. Make them a real part of the interior design by using plants to add color and life to your spaces.

“Plants and greenery in general can add a lot of depth to a space. Plants are inherently organic, so adding them to an otherwise cold space will liven it up immediately. Color-wise, try introducing native, seasonal flowers or plants to spruce things up; holly in the winter, peace lily in the spring, orchids in the summer and sunflowers in the fall,” Ray said.

You can also choose plants based on the colors you like, or choose plants specifically to match the colors in your home décor. Yellow, purple, orange and red are found often in plants, colors that are easy to match. As for adding sustainability elements to your design, Ray has got some ideas for how you can do this on your own, too.

“If you’re open to a project, consider installing a greywater system to integrate with your existing plumbing. Be sure to check your local jurisdiction for any regulations, but this adaptation will allow you to safely reuse water from your sink and/or shower to water your plants,” she said.

Images via Lesley Ray Design