What are the implications for how we should construct and curate our spaces if being surrounded by, or reminded of, nature makes us feel good? It's a relatively new field of design, and we're only now beginning to understand the physiological and psychological effects that various materials can have on people. However, despite the fact that design is highly subjective, most people respond favourably to naturally inspired design and materials with a strong connection to nature.
Consider the material wood. It's a fantastic material. It is easy to work with, extremely strong, renewable, and infinitely beautiful. Trees provide shade and protection, support other plants and animals, and help to clean the air. Timber, once felled, serves as the foundation for so many aspects of human culture, from building houses to expressive sculptures, warm fires to wooden spoons.
1. Stress-relieving effects
Recent studies appear to show that using wood as a building material in our homes, offices, and other structures can have a measurable effect on human wellbeing. Experiments conducted in Austria, Canada, Japan, and Norway have revealed that the presence of wood has a stress-relieving effect.
2. Relaxation: Lowering blood-pressure and pulse rate
Wooden environments, whether in the form of furniture, flooring, beams, or cladding, have been shown to lower blood pressure and pulse rate. When an interior is almost entirely made of wood (covering 90% of the space), the calming effect is so strong that the experiment concluded that it would be too relaxing for a work environment that required high cognitive functioning (but ideal for a spa or GP's office, for example).
More relaxing than other materials
We're not sure why this happens. Wood certainly feels warmer to the touch than many other materials. In comparison to other materials such as stainless steel or tile, touching wood with your hands appears to cause the body to relax, according to one study.
3. Reduced tension and fatigue
Wood, depending on its treatment, adds texture and visual interest to a space, but our preference for it may stem from the fact that touching and seeing timber gives people a reassuring sense of being close to nature. Researchers discovered that people who worked in rooms with a lot of wooden furniture and surfaces experienced less tension and fatigue than other colleagues in a recent experiment that tested everything from skin temperature to blood oxygen levels.
4. Regulating humidity and improving air quality
Using wood in an indoor environment can also help regulate humidity and improve indoor air quality because it absorbs and releases moisture into the air like a sponge.
5. Improved acoustics
Wood's acoustics are also fantastic; depending on which species you choose and how you use it, it can both reflect and absorb sound (different woods have different sound-altering properties). Timber does not transmit impact noise as well as other harder, shinier building materials.
Did you know some of these benefits of using wood?
Be inspired by our wooden collections here at Forest Homes.