Designing with nature: RHS Chelsea Flower Show

A growing awareness of design’s potential in helping to improve our overall wellbeing and state of mind via the spaces in which we live and work has been well documented over the past couple of years.

The principles of Biophilic Design, namely the referencing of and ‘bringing in’ of nature, have been explored and put into practice by an increasing number of interior designs and architects alike. It was perhaps only a matter of time before designers looked to take a further and quite literal step outside, to take part in nature and make more of the fruitful bounty that it offers.

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And what better place to do so that at the countries leading horticultural event, The RHS Chelsea Flower Show? Spotted amongst the expected nurseries, garden centres, horticultural societies (including Barbados,) The Chelsea Pensioners and a host of garden furniture brands (not to mention the Royals themselves) are a handful of brands that we’re more familiar with over here in ‘interior world.’

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Print Designer Laura Slater mentioned that she was working on a collaborative project for the show during my recent interview with her and the outcome is a thing of beauty! Working closely with fellow Yorkshire-based botanical studio The Plant Room, the pair have created a multi-sensory installation based on the concept that nature inspires creativity and increases wellbeing. The raised timber structure offers 360-degree views whilst creating a sanctuary within, and one that visitors are invited to sit and spend time in and even take some time to draw.

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As Laura explains, “The space is designed to allow visitors to feel at ease with pausing and we will provide seating for those who wish to sit in the garden and materials for people who would like to draw. Inspired by Piet Oudolf’s naturalistic style, the plants reflect the print, colour and pattern of my LAND textile collection and include indigenous soft grasses and colour pops to subtly bring the two practices of textile and botanical design together.”

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Timber specialist Tom Raffield is fast becoming a regular at the show, returning for the 4th year running and offering a typically sensitive yet masterful approach to the materials and construction of his courtyard-esque space. The zero-waste environment is formed from and showcases the studios new steam bent screens and planters that share in biomorphic forms that sit perfectly ‘in nature.’

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Speaking of the new approach to designing Tom points out, “our ground-breaking new designs allow for a flexible approach to gardening by incorporating different heights, surfaces and structures of our planters and screens, which also creates an accessible environment for everyone to enjoy. Simply being in a green space can make you feel happier and is also proven to provide health benefits.” 

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Scooping a Silver Medal award are Ikea and Tom Dixon, who have joined forces to explore the future of urban-farming with their Gardening Will Save The World stand. Set across 2 levels, the space offers a natural sanctuary designed for quiet contemplation and immersion, whilst the base garden operates as forward-thinking botanical laboratory, where hydroponic technology is used to help grow edible crops on a small but useful scale.

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A timely reminder (pre-summer) that there is still time for all of us to get growing and at the very least, to get outside and into nature…*closes laptop*.

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About Jim Biddulph

Jim is our material specialist, conducting ongoing research around cutting-edge surface materials. He is also the founder of Here You Are Studio, and is a lecturer at Buckingham New University.
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