What is Holistic Interior Design and how to implement it?


Holistic interior design (HID) is a theory of decoration that uses the materials and styles appropriate to specific locations. It has been called “ecological” because it takes into account the surrounding environment, as well as for being resource-efficient. This means that any products used must have little harmful effect on the planet’s resources.

HID is not new, but is becoming increasingly popular due to environmental awareness and social changes. It can be viewed as an extension of sustainable design for architecture.

The theory comes from the holistic tradition of thought which sees interconnections between things so that they are part of a greater whole rather than just elements within it. The idea of holism is closely related to the systems theory, which sees interconnected parts existing within a larger system.

HID has links with other disciplines such as feng shui (traditional Chinese geomancy), shilpa shastra (Indian architecture), traditional Japanese house design and classical Greek theories of beauty. One of its prime concepts is that of ‘gratefulness’ – the idea of appreciating the beauty and benefits of one’s environment by immersing oneself within them.

HID has its roots in Eastern philosophy and Native American culture although it is now applied to Western design. Some theorists, such as Diana Balmori and Sim Van der Ryn, see landscape and ecology as important elements.

HID is more than simply choosing the right colours and materials for a room.

It has an in-depth philosophical element of understanding where we are on this planet and how we can celebrate our lives here. This makes HID aesthetic and spiritual.

Sustainability: Another important part of HID is a sustainable approach to design. According to the Natural Step “sustainability refers to the inherent ability of future generations to meet their own needs”.

Sustainable design focuses on creating more durable products, using renewable materials and designing for reuse or recycling. In interior decoration this means using waste wood from exotic trees as flooring, reusing old materials or recycling objects, and using natural paints.

Activist designers: Some design activists might go further than just creating ‘greener’ products and try to change society’s attitudes towards the environment by demonstrating in public places. For instance, British artists Banksy decorated a load of skips with animal designs in London Zoo to make people think about endangered species.

Environment: HID is not only about the design of buildings, but also the environment in which they exist. For instance, urban planning or landscaping can be important aspects of HID, such as when there are planters outside a building to make it more attractive and reduce its carbon footprint.

Feng shui: Feng shui is a Chinese tradition which is roughly translated as ‘wind and water’. It describes the shape, colour and location of objects within a room to create balance with nature. For instance, it is thought that locating a bed in front of a window can lead to restless sleep because of too much yang energy from the sun shining on the bed.

HID principles:

  • Emphasizing nature and organic materials. HID thinks that we must live in harmony with the environment, rather than exploit it for our own ends. For instance, using bark cloth as a wall hanging instead of wallpaper, and canvas as curtains to let the light shine through and air circulate freely.
  • This means using only the things that are essential to life, leaving space for creativity and contemplation. Living in an uncluttered room can make you feel fresh and full of energy (yin), rather than lethargic (yang).
  • Having local materials. HID emphasizes natural materials like wood, stone and bamboo. Using materials from your own region means you are contributing to the local economy rather than importing things from far away. It also makes good Feng Shui, as an object should reflect the environment so that its yang energy is not overwhelming.
  • Using sustainable products and taking care of the environment. For instance using natural paints and renewable wood for furniture can be good for the environment. Wood is a natural and renewable resource, so long as it is responsibly and sustainably sourced and treated wood products are often better than synthetic ones for your health and the planet’s.
  • Reducing carbon footprint. HID says we should all think about our individual contribution to global warming – however small it might be – and try to reduce our carbon footprint by using recyclable products, reducing packaging and turning lights off.
  • Including nature in the design. HID tries to blur distinctions between indoors and outdoors by including natural materials like wood or stone, pebbles or rocks in the room. It’s also about recycling windows into walls so you can see through them. Rooms should feel like they are part of nature, rather than boxed off from it.
  • Using natural elements to create balance and beauty. HID suggests trying to make every aspect of your home attractive – even the roof! This is about lighting (natural light during the day), good Feng Shui, making things feel organic and comfortable so people feel relaxed, and using the features of a room to create a sense of harmony. For instance, having a table in the centre which feels balanced.

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