Cork designer: Transform your home by bringing the outside in

We talk to interior designer Maura Mackey who shares easy ways we can use biophilia in our living spaces and workplaces 
Cork designer: Transform your home by bringing the outside in

'If Covid taught us anything it has made us realise how much we love our homes, outside spaces, and nature,' says Ballinhassig, Cork, interior designer Maura Mackey. Picture: iStock 

It's influencing everything from our cityscapes to the colours we choose for our bedroom walls.

Yes, biophilia is trending globally.

But while architects and urban planners are taking it from the top, are there ways we can evolve our own connection with nature?

Let’s take it right down to grassroots level — literally.

Like I did.

Acquiring a plant as a housemate can have a positive impact.

Even one green-budded buddy makes a difference.

My own reading of it is as follows: Biophilia can be as minute an action as giving your fern a drink of water while brewing your morning coffee, as I do, or as big a deal as having a glass dome-style sitting room that resembles the National Botanic Gardens.

Biophilia was defined by the psychologist Erich Fromm in 1973 and was popularised by US biologist EO Wilson in the 1980s.

Biophilic design is also usually sustainable.

Greening our homes, or “bringing the outside in”, has long been an ambition of soignée designers in their work.

The pandemic may have made us more aware of our need to forge a connection with our surroundings and with nature — as well as create spaces we actually enjoy being in.

Maura Mackey of Maura Mackey Design.
Maura Mackey of Maura Mackey Design.

I check in with a Cork designer and biophilia enthusiast to get specifics.

“If Covid has taught us anything, it has made us realise how much we love our homes, outside spaces, and nature. How lucky are we to be living in a country that has beautiful scenery for us to enjoy?” says Ballinhassig interior designer Maura Mackey.

“I am passionate about biophilia because it’s an area of design that can increase your wellbeing, reduce stress, improve cognitive function, expedite healing, and enhance your creativity at home or in the office.”

So, how can we break the concept down so we can enjoy it in our own homes and lifestyles?

“Biophilic design is an approach to architecture that seeks to connect a building’s occupants more closely to nature — in layman’s terms it recognises our innate need to connect with nature and that bringing areas of the outdoors into our homes, living spaces, and workspaces benefits us as humans,” she says.

The benefits of connecting with nature come as no surprise, she adds. “It’s good for our mental and physical health. Edward Wilson, the biologist, recognised this back in 1980,” says Maura.

“Biophilic design embeds the physical presence of nature in our surroundings, but this can be enhanced further by the addition of objects like materials, textures, colours, shapes, and segments found in nature – this stimulates visual, auditory, and sense of smell connections through furniture, art, décor and architecture.

“Earth colours, natural fibres and materials, daylight, organic shapes, nature and botanical prints, water features, fragrant plants, living roofs, moss walls all work together to give us this connection.”

Maura’s experience means she has “a great understanding of what ‘works in a home’ from a practical point of view”, she adds.

“A design needs to complement functionality in a home.

“I always bear this in mind when creating a new design for a client. Believe it or not, the choices that you make when deciding how your home will look will have a documented effect on your emotions and perceptions.

“I help clients transform homes and offices into creatively designed beautiful spaces that work for them and enhance their wellbeing.”

Maura’s practical advice

“Don’t worry, I am not going to make you sleep in a forest!”

  • Bring fresh air into your space, open up the windows — this will also let you hear some nature sounds outside, depending on where you live obviously
  • Maximise the light that is coming into your home, if you can open up a space in your home to incorporate a large window/bifold door, or add a skylight then do. Other simpler ways include drawing back the curtains to allow the light in; have some seating/reading areas, or even place your office near a window
  • Declutter — make the most of your space because clutter is not good for the mind

Wall ideas

If you don’t have the option of looking out onto nature then simulate it.

  • Use your walls as canvases
  • Add photographs of you in nature, or large landscape paintings
  • Add a wallpaper of botanical prints
  • Create a mural of an area in nature that you love
  • Add some stone on a wall, or an area you can see from your home through a window
  • Make sure you have a light-coloured paint on the walls; this highlights plants and natural elements in the decor, or use a colour palette derived from nature — earthy tones, forest hues or sunset shades

Dressing up

  • Add greenery to your tablescape
  • Add nature patterns: What I mean by this is maybe add a honeycomb tile to the backsplash in your kitchen or bathroom
  • Add candles and diffusers with scents of forestry, sea and nature
  • Bring greenery in, this will definitely make you feel more connected to nature. The English ivy, peace lily, weeping fig, spider plant, snake plant, and Boston fern are capable of filtering toxins from the air
  • Add a living wall in your hall or kitchen area, or add a herb tower in your kitchen to grow herbs

Bring nature in on

  • Soft furnishings: throws, cushions
  • Furniture that follows natural contours and lines, like coffee tables, office desks, bespoke window seats, dining tables, shelving
  • Wood screens: these are used a lot now in homes, commercial spaces and restaurants to divide a space, without compromising on light


Large or small, this will add a sense of tranquillity to a space, and a small water fountain can be installed anywhere in a home — by the front door, countertop, or on a window ledge.

  • Maura Mackey Design focuses on interior design for homes and businesses

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