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Biophilic Kitchens

June 26, 2023

Mrinmoy Dey

To achieve the look and feel of a biophilic kitchen design, one must try to include as many natural elements as possible in the design to bring out that built environment-nature connection. Prominent architects and interior designers talk about how to approach the concept in different kitchen formats and sizes, to Mrinmoy Dey

Any design that is close to nature gives an instant sense of calm and helps soothe the senses. A good kitchen design approach should always be human-centric and focus more on how the space makes the user feel rather than how the space looks. Spaces in our homes, like the kitchen, must reflect as an environment of well-being in both physical as well as mental ways.

What is Biophilic Design?

A biophilic design approach can help in achieving this. Biophilia in general means the love towards nature, and biophilic design enhances this relationship with nature through means of architecture. “Biophilic design is much more than an art style, it encompasses how a person feels in the space they’re living in. Kitchens for most people are an essential space. Some enjoy the space, using cooking as an output while others do it out of necessity after a long day. It’s a space that should make you feel most comfortable in, to unwind and distress without too much of a hassle,” opines Seema Parulekar, Principal Design Director, Monad Designs.

However, biophilia isn’t a new concept in India. “Biophilia may be a new word but it was always an intrinsic part of the Indian kitchen. I still remember my great-grandmother’s kitchen and how the sheer aroma would draw me in. Food was always brewing or cooking! A large earthen Kalsi of water would be in the corner. In the centre was a mitti ka chulha, an angeethi and a tandoor. The stone chakki, dauri-danda, hamam dasta, okhli and musal, sil batta were the gadgets. The Indian kitchen has changed a lot in these last five decades, but freshly prepared home food is such an inherent part of Indian living that the nature connect is still maintained,” shares Monica Khosla Bhargava, Principal Architect, Kham Consultants.

The designer carved out the small garden which was actually a utility balcony adjacent to a duct and this made the kitchen much livelier with butterflies and birds visiting and chirping on the terrace plants while the kitchen was in use. Photo Courtesy: StudioSW

Connecting Kitchen with Nature

Biophilia is a concept that promotes the “well” factor. “One of the most popular ways of bringing nature into a kitchen is by creating a skylight. Natural light always creates a feeling of well-being. Besides this, opening up of the walls and integrating the surrounding spaces creating seamless movement from one area to another plays an important role,” shares Sonali Bhagwati, President, DPA.

Biophilic resting or working areas are always a welcome break and a sure-shot way for creating a stunning design. “For a truly biophilic kitchen, I would involve using natural materials, colours, patterns, forms and light that mimic or evoke a nature-like feel and largely by adding plants and greenery to bring life and freshness to the space. I would consider installing windows or skylights that allow natural light and views of the outdoors. I would choose organic shapes and textures for cabinets, countertops, backsplashes, and flooring or consider using natural elements such as wood, stone, metal, glass, cork or bamboo for furniture and accessories and incorporating natural colours such as greens, browns, blues or whites that reflect the landscape,” adds Santosh Wadekar, Design Director, studioSW.

The Benefits

Talking about the benefits of a biophilic kitchen design, Wadekar opines, “I think any type of kitchen or for that matter any dwelling space can benefit from biophilic design. Biophilic kitchen design can create a more inviting, relaxing, and healthy environment for cooking and eating. It can also reduce stress, improve mood, and enhance creativity.”

He further adds, “To quote some examples, we recently designed a kitchen in a high-rise apartment that overlooked a small pocket garden where the owners used to grow their own herbs. My design team very cleverly carved out the small garden which was actually a utility balcony adjacent to a duct. This addition of space suddenly made the kitchen much livelier with butterflies and birds visiting and chirping on the terrace plants while the kitchen was in use.”

Indoor kitchens tend to be closed up and defined. “The moment we open up the walls and provide a visual connect with other areas as well as outdoors, it completely changes its character,” opines Bhagwati.

Smaller footprints of kitchens might seem congested with sharp edges and multiple storage spaces. “But the addition of a window to the outdoors or a simple touch of greenery incorporated into the design of the space can lift its appeal. Adding biophilic design as a forethought rather than an afterthought to spaces makes them come alive and interesting in their true essence,” quips Parulekar.

“Natural elements as an addition do not limit themselves to greenery. Using materials themselves that imitate a natural look and feel would be an interesting choice, structures like panels and art pieces that mimic patterns from flora and fauna could be an interesting concept to explore."

Seema Parulekar

Principal Design Director,

Monad Designs

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Open kitchen & Nature Connect

An open kitchen design is one that has no partition walls between the kitchen and the adjoining room, such as the living room or dining room which creates a more spacious and airier feel and allows natural light and views to flow through the space. “The easiest ways to approach an open kitchen design with biophilic elements would be to use natural materials, adding a layer of plants and greenery to create a fresh atmosphere, by choosing natural colours and more importantly incorporating natural patterns and forms in the design,” shares Wadekar.

According to Bhagwati, open kitchens that hold centre stage in a house automatically become biophilic due to their connect with the outdoors through large openings of the surrounding spaces. “It benefits from all the biophilic interventions of the surrounding living areas.”

Kitchens have historically always been centre points in households and the open kitchen concept enhanced this knowledge. "It’s important to cater to a user’s specific requirements when designing a space and the same goes for the inclusion of nature and greenery within it.  While some might find merit in maintaining kitchen gardens (focused on usability), others might find the addition as a purely aesthetic addition,” states Parulekar further adding that no two spaces can follow a tried and tested template as each space has its unique identity.

Talking about using natural materials in the open kitchen, Bhargava shares, “The island kitchen, of course, gives the best feel as you’re in the heart of the space but, even the smaller kitchens can incorporate stone look tiles, natural wood or wood-look finishes for cabinets, metal finishes like copper, brass or antique silver in the handles. It’s the vibe of the kitchen that’s most important. The open kitchen is an extension of the dining area and if the dried food items are well displayed in transparent jars, they look very attractive. I, of course also favour the use of ceramics and the irreplaceable martabaan!”

"Potted plants look good but the mud may contain mites and creatures, so I don’t recommend them for a kitchen. What one can do is arrange cut mint bunches in a bowl of water. One can also display micro greens or anything that you’re going to use for cooking and which can go without refrigeration." 

Monica Khosla Bhargava

Principal Architect,

Kham Consultants