Lately I’ve felt very tempted to buy a fake tree for my apartment but there’s a tiny voice in my head warning me off. Sacrilege, it’s saying! The thin end of the wedge! Soon you’ll find yourself replacing all your real plants with plastic and your soul will wither. But, I don’t know. I really like the idea of an indoor tree, and a real one is not only expensive but, knowing my poor nurturing skills, would almost certainly die slowly and horribly over a fairly short period of time.
At the moment, a corner of my home looks like this (right). The plants in the foreground are real but behind them is a Walplus Wallsticker picture of a tree with falling leaves scattered across the wall. It felt like a huge risk when I first did it but the transfer was very inexpensive and could easily be taken off if I didn’t like it. But, I do like it. And maybe there’s a good reason for that…
In Technobiophilia, I wrote about the power of ‘nearby nature’ as described by R. & S. Kaplan in their important book The Experience of Nature (1989) (hard to find, check your library).
Instances of nearby nature are small suggestions of the natural world which, although seemingly insignificant and often out of physical reach, can play a powerful role in human well-being. Even the sight of a few trees viewed through a window can provide a sense of satisfaction and people with access to nearby natural settings have been found to be healthier than those without; studies show they experience increased levels of satisfaction with their home, job and life in general. Nearby nature does not have to be beautiful or complex, and you do not even have to be physically close to it to gain the benefits. It appears to be just as potent when viewed through a closed window or seen pictorially via a photograph, painting, video, or even something as mundane as a wall calendar.
The Kaplans didn’t express any opinions about fake greenery, but it seems to me that as long as it’s done well it must surely fall into the category of nearby nature.
An artificial weeping fig, made from polyethylene plastic, 170cm tall. I saw it in the store, and felt its leaves.
It’s kind of fabric-y, not cool and living, and the ‘wood’ is pretty badly done. but from a distance it’s a kind of mirage of a tree.
I think I could live with it. Any advice?
Would it bring a breath of nearby nature?
There is a little-known design discipline devoted to helping us feel closer to the natural world. It’s called biophilic design and Professor Tim Beatley is one of the best-known researchers in that area. He leads the international Biophilic Cities Network.
In a recent blog post, Tending To Our Interior Nature(s), Beatley advises choosing objects and furnishings with meaningful stories, connections, relationships with real nature. He also recommends nature-themed art, explaining the personal benefits he has gained from photographs:
Nature-themed art is now commonly found in many hospitals and offices, and can both help to elicit positive feelings and jog memories of earlier nature experiences. I have framed photos of Half Dome, in Yosemite, for instance, and Monument Valley, Utah. These forms of interior nature are beneficial in themselves and enjoyable to look at, but also embody important memories and mental connections that can be activated with the slightest gaze or pondering. While not every time I look at these photos, but quite often, they have the effect of taking me back to the time and place, and sensations and family connections that I associate with those memories.
He offers lots of interesting examples of ways in which interior decor of all kinds can enhance our relationship with nature, using natural materials like water, wood and stone., although I must admit that, like the Kaplans, he makes no mention of plastic wall transfers or polyethylene trees.
Shall I go ahead and get that tree? Still can’t decide…