Force of nature

The power of nature in interior design. Courtesy Taracea

“I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.” — John Burroughs, American naturalist and nature essayist

The texture of a palm frond, the colorful volcanic strata on a hillside or a canyon wall carved by millions of years of erosion never fails to inspire my design work. Nature is the most powerful cue that I turn to every day.

I know nature makes me feel good. Many studies, in fact, have found our emotional connections with nature are predictive of our mental outlook and well-being. Researchers have concluded there is a unique connection between nature and happiness itself, as noted by American journalist and author Florence Williams: “Studies show that natural environments make us healthier, more creative, more empathetic, and more apt to engage with the world and with each other. Nature, as it turns out, is good for civilization.” Therefore, it makes perfect sense that the influence that nature has on design in general is substantial.

In my challenging childhood, where I often felt lonely or invisible, I discovered that I had the power to shape a “feeling” for myself within my environment. I know this is very personal, but it is the truth. It is because of this very fact that I chose to become an interior designer. If I can regulate the “feeling” of someone’s space, I think that is amazing and exciting. I love the creative aspect and being able to solve a plethora of problems, challenges … whatever you want to call them.

Our lives in this era of fast-moving technology take us away from nature. Constant connection to our so-called smart devices even thwarts our personal connections with one another. Undoubtedly, you have made note of people in a restaurant absorbed with checking their email or even being distracted by social media instead of having a meaningful conversation with their friend or loved one. I do not think we can replace a hike in any natural space with natural elements in interior design because, let’s face it, not everyone can hike or ski or play every single day. But by being thoughtful and deliberate with my design work, I can bring a little bit of nature to every project and influence someone else’s well-being.

There are many ways interior designers can fulfill this intention. We can utilize natural stone tile, pebbles, reclaimed wood elements, plant walls, botanical-inspired fabrics and wallcoverings, natural stone lamps consisting of real quartz crystalline bases, and stone veneers on walls. The possibilities are endless to nurture with nature-inspired design. At the end of the day, the key is to approach the design with careful consideration for the end user’s health and well-being, whether it is a residential, commercial or health care application.

Lisa Samuel ASID, IIDA, is a Santa Fe native and principal of Samuel Design Group, located in the heart of downtown Santa Fe. She is an award-winning interior designer known for creating unique interiors imbued with warmth and elegance. Lisa ( is passionate about good design that supports well-being.

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