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Amazing Psychological Effects of Nature in Pet-Friendly Interiors

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Amazing Psychological Effects of Nature in Pet-Friendly Interiors

Meet the Author and Your Future Designer: Julio Arco is a passionate architect with years of experience in architecture, interior design, urban design, and housing. He studied at prestigious universities across North America and Europe. 


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Amazing Psychological Effects of Nature in Pet-Friendly Interiors

Psychological Effects of Nature in Pet-Friendly Interiors – Introduction Video

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Why is Nature Important in Evidence-Based Design for Pet-Friendly Interiors?

More than 99% of human history as a species was spent with nature, to which we evolved to be responsive. From an evolutionary perspective, the human body evolved in a natural environment, not the artificial built environment we are used to.

Large-scale food production began around 10,000 years ago (Hopkins, n.d.), the first city around 6,000 years ago (Mark, 2012), mass production of goods and services around 400 years ago (Kellert & Kalabrese, 2015), industrial revolution around 176 years ago, and electronic technology that seems so familiar today, just in the 19th century.

This is the primary argument for “biophilia,” which states that humans have an intrinsic inclination to nature, even in the modern world, contributing to people’s physical and mental health and wellbeing (Kellert & Kalabrese, 2015). This topic dramatically weighs evidence-based design because it helps interior designers create positive outcomes and quality design strategies based on evidence and credible research.

While taking nature (biophilia) into consideration in interior design, 14 patterns fall into three different categories. These elements can be beneficial in interior designs for the connection humans have with nature, rendering interiors more liveable and comfortable; moreover, a list of health- and psychological-related benefits will be presented. 

This article should provide designers with the evidence-based design knowledge needed to enhance the built environments and, in consequence, will allow the interior designer to promote health and wellbeing based on this research. 

Also, to learn which houseplants are safe for dogs and cats, visit our article Safe Houseplants for Dogs and Cats, and very importantly, visit our article 20+ Houseplants Poisonous to Dogs to know which ones to avoid.

Amazing Psychological Effects of Nature in Pet-Friendly Interiors

What are The Psychological Effects of Nature on Pets?

It’s no secret that dogs have an innate connection to the natural world. After all, they are descendants of wolves who have spent centuries living in harmony with the environment. As such, dogs have evolved to be highly responsive to nature, and research shows they often react positively to the presence of plants and animals. In fact, research has shown that dogs who live in urban environments are significantly more calm and relaxed when exposed to green spaces.

Furthermore, you might have seen how your pet instinctively knows where to hide when they feel threatened, looking for Refuge from the threat of Risk/Peril, as mentioned earlier. They know precisely which sofa to hide under or which corner gives him the most protection. This behavior is likely a vestige of their wild ancestors, who would have used these same strategies to avoid predators.

Thus, it is clear that dogs have a solid connection to the natural world and benefit psychologically from exposure to nature. Therefore, we can argue that most if not all of these principles can be applied to how pets feel in any given environment. 

And while your dog or cat may not be able to tell you how much they appreciate the fiddle-leaf fig in the living room, there are a few ways to know if your plant is positively impacting your pet’s mental state. For example, if your pet is spending more time near the plant or seems more relaxed in general, the plant is likely helping to reduce their stress levels.

Amazing Psychological Effects of Nature in Pet-Friendly Interiors

What are the Psychological Effects of Nature on Humans?

Humans have an innate connection to nature. For centuries, we have looked to the natural world for inspiration, solace, and physical sustenance. And there is a good reason for this: numerous studies have shown that contact with nature can positively impact our mental and physical health.

For example, research has shown that spending time in nature can help to reduce stress levels, improve moods, and increase feelings of vitality. Nature can also help to improve cognitive function and increase levels of creativity. In addition, contact with nature has been linked with lower rates of anxiety and depression.

According to biophilic design, there are 14 patterns that have an effect on humans, supporting stress reduction, cognitive performance, emotion, and mood enhancement of the human body to further stress the importance of following these patterns and how they influence humans.

The table was retrieved from 14 Patterns of Biophilic Design – Improving Health & Well-Being in The Built Environment (2014) and indicates, with up to three asterisks (***), the level of peer-reviewed studies and empirical data that backs up the research. No asterisk specifies that there is little to no research rather than compelling anecdotal information. Therefore, interior design as a profession should apply all these evidence-based design principles and guidelines created with quality research and use them in any given project.

Amazing Psychological Effects of Nature in Pet-Friendly Interiors

Nature in the Space

This pattern tackles nature in its physical and ephemeral manifestation, including plant life, water, animals, breezes, sounds, scents, and other natural elements (Browning et al., 2014) in the built environments. Examples of these manifestations can include but are not limited to “potted plants, flower beds, bird feeders, butterfly gardens, water features, fountains, aquariums, courtyard gardens and green walls or vegetated roofs” (Browning et al., 2014). Having this knowledge and guidelines should help designers improve their design decisions based on evidence that ensures the best possible outcomes and improves the dweller’s health. The first seven patterns fall under this category and are:

1.- Visual Connection with Nature

 A view of elements of nature, living systems, and natural processes.

2.- Non-Visual Connection with Nature 

Auditory, haptic, olfactory, or gustatory stimuli engender a deliberate and positive reference to nature, living systems, or natural processes. 

3.-Non-Rhythmic Sensory Stimuli 

Stochastic and ephemeral connections with nature may be analyzed statistically but may not be predicted precisely. 

4.- Thermal and Airflow Variability 

Subtle changes in air temperature, relative humidity, airflow across the skin, and surface temperatures mimic natural environments. 

5.- Presence of Water

 A condition that enhances the experience of a place through seeing, hearing, or touching water. 

6.- Dynamic and Diffuse Light 

Leverages varying intensities of light and shadow that change over time to create conditions that occur in nature. 

7.- Connection with Natural Systems 

Awareness of natural processes, mainly seasonal and temporal changes, is characteristic of a healthy ecosystem

Amazing Psychological Effects of Nature in Pet-Friendly Interiors
Amazing Psychological Effects of Nature in Pet-Friendly Interiors

Natural Analogues 

As the name states, these patterns evoke elements if nature directly or indirectly, so all design professionals should include them in their design process. These can be achieved by using objects, materials, colors, shapes, sequences, natural patterns, artwork, ornamentation, furniture, décor, and textiles in the given space. For example, evidence-based design and research suggest that representing elements of nature like leaves carved up on furniture or natural materials that look as they did in their original states, such as wood planks or granite tables, can evoke a feeling of nature. The following three patterns fall into this category 

8.- Biomorphic Forms and Patterns 

Symbolic references to contoured, patterned, textured, or numerical arrangements persist in nature.

9.- Material Connection with Nature 

Materials and elements from nature that, through minimal processing, reflect the local ecology or geology and create a distinct sense of place. 

10.- Complexity and Order 

Rich sensory information adheres to a spatial hierarchy similar to those encountered in nature. 

Amazing Psychological Effects of Nature in Pet-Friendly Interiors

Nature of the Space

The last category tackles how space is configured in nature, including the inborn desire to be able to perceive a built environment outside of our immediate surroundings, curiosity for the unknown, and visual surprises. The last four patterns follow the last category.

11.- Prospect 

An unimpeded view over a distance for surveillance and planning.

12.- Refuge 

 A place for withdrawal from environmental conditions or the main flow of activity, in which the individual is protected from behind and overhead.  

13.- Mystery

 The promise of more information is achieved through partially obscured views or other sensory devices that entice the individual to travel deeper into the environment.

14.- Risk/Peril  

An identifiable threat coupled with a reliable safeguard. 

Amazing Psychological Effects of Nature in Pet-Friendly Interiors
Amazing Psychological Effects of Nature in Pet-Friendly Interiors


In conclusion, we can argue that the principles of how humans feel in the built environment can be applied to dogs as well. From an evolutionary perspective, humans and dogs have a long history of co-evolution, and as a result, they are both highly responsive to nature. Studies have shown that exposure to plants and animals can positively affect human health, reducing stress levels and promoting relaxation.

Nature provides us with changes: changes in weather, illumination during the day, changes in seasons, sounds, and other elements. So the built environment should shift during the day, with different amounts of lighting, different light hues, and varying temperatures which will, in consequence, enhance the quality of the design and the dweller’s health.

Additionally, nature also provides us with shelters, such as trees or caves, of different heights and sizes. Therefore, architects and designers providing spaces that serve as shelter to feel safe can be highly beneficial. These can be achieved by using different ceiling heights, window seats, canopy beds, and nooks.

Finally, we can argue that most if not all of these principles can be applied to how pets feel in any given environment. Dogs, like humans, are complex creatures with their own needs and preferences. However, both humans and dogs need to interact with nature to boost health, well-being, cognitive performance, and creativity.

For dogs, the benefits of exposure to nature are also well-documented. Dogs who spend time in parks and green spaces are less stressed and more relaxed than those who don’t. In addition, walking in natural environments has been linked with improved mental well-being in both humans and dogs. So next time you’re feeling frazzled, take your dog for a walk in the park and enjoy the calming effects of nature together.

Bringing nature into your home can be a great way to introduce pet-friendly plants and pet-friendly trees for your dogs. You can create a beautiful botanical indoors for your furry friends, adding color and texture to the area. Start by thinking about different houseplant trends which will suit your housing décor – from luxe foliage to cascading hanging gardens

Talk to your plant, telling it how much you appreciate its beauty and joyful presence. Then consider the perfect spot in the room, ensuring enough sunlight is streaming through with natural light filtered from curtains or blinds. Use smart grow lights or moisture meters to optimize your plants’ growth for accurate readings. 

It’s also important to research plant toxicity, as some species may be harmful to pets or people due to their chemicals and oils. Finally, take advantage of humidifiers if the indoor air is too dry in winter months, remembering that humidity levels are very important when looking after houseplants. With these tips in mind, pet-friendly indoor trees will flourish in no time!

This article is a part of a series called Evidence-Based Design Principles for Great Pet-Friendly Interiors, click this link if you want to learn more. 

Amazing Psychological Effects of Nature in Pet-Friendly Interiors

Hire an Online Interior Designer at Havenly

There are several online interior design websites, but Havenly is your best option to hire from a robust list of interior designers that will help you in decorating and creating the perfect dog-friendly home. When you sign up for Havenly, you will take a short quiz about your design style and what you are looking for in a designer. Havenly will then match you with a designer who will help you select paint colors, furniture, and accessories that are both stylish and safe for your furry friend.

In addition, your Havenly designer will be able to provide tips on how to create a space that is both comfortable for your dog and inviting for guests. With Havenly, creating a beautiful and functional home that your dog will love is easy and stress-free.

Click here if you want to learn more about Havenly or book an interior designer and get 25% off your design package if you click here!

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M.Arch. Julio Arco
M.Arch. Julio Arco

Bachelor of Architecture - ITESM University
Master of Architecture - McGill University
Architecture in Urban Context Certificate - LDM University
Interior Designer - Havenly
Architecture Professor - ITESM University

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