Month: April 2014

Designed By Nature

Hi everyone, its been a while since my last blog, so Im excited to be back!

Today I want to talk about the Influence of nature in design. I could talk for hours on the subject.  It is one of my passions, especially when designing furniture. I will skim product and furniture design quickly, as I best focus on the relevance in terms of up cycling with Chalk Paint™ by Annie Sloan, and Interior design. I guess the best place to start is the beginning…

Wether you believe in God or in Evolution, one thing remains that nature is total perfection.  Man came first, and Leonardo Da Vinci recorded better than anyone the ‘Devine proportions’ found in the human body with his drawing the ‘Vetruvian man’. For those of you unfamiliar, it is well worth familiarising yourself with.  I was lucky enough to view Leonardos original drawings in an exhibition at the Ulster museum, maybe 15 years ago. To say I was in awe is an understatement!

We also see Devine proportions in other aspects of nature for instance this shell below.



Now look how the shell has been interpreted by an architect to create a fabulous spiralling staircase.  Nature at its best, influencing design to be at its best also.



When we Designers design anything human related be it a chair or mobile phone, human proportion plays a huge part in the design process. We use data correlated in books varying from child data right through to adult data.  Design is not simply the aesthetic, there is so much more in between.  It is no coincidence your new iPhone 5 fits snugly in the palm of your hand, and you can swipe the icons with your thumb. Or your favourite chair that sits beautifully in your living room moulds to your body perfectly. It is simply great design using human data taken from us, via natures original design.  Below is an image from an adult data reference book.


It is also no mistake that Autumn leaves are such a fabulous hue of russet, yellow, reds and brown, or that the sky is blue and the grass is green, or that bird feathers are such a myriad of beautiful tones (I mentioned this briefly last week on my Facebook page, here .

So I hope that gives you a little idea of how nature can and does influence most designed ‘things’ you see in everyday life.  Now I want to give you a simple example of how to look at nature and translate it into your own home environment.  It may be your favourite view, flower, tree, bird or fish that inspires you and by simply looking at the colour combinations of that situation or subject  you will find your inspiration.

Below is a colour wheel, you will find these in art shops or on the internet. I keep one handy everyday in work, they are such a useful tool for designers, garden designers, crafters and artists alike.  The colour wheel helps you choose colours that compliment. I mentioned in a previous blog the simple concept of using a colour wheel. For those of you who missed it, it basically means anything opposite is a complimentary.



Im going to start with a simple example, one we all have around us and we all have our favourites. Flowers, they are truly beautiful, and come in so many colours and varieties so the opportunities for inspiration are endless. One of my favourite flowers is the beautiful Iris below.


You can see the Iris is predominantly purple/pink combined with yellow.  Now look above to the colour wheel and you will see those very colours sit opposite each other. So translating this into furniture painting you could take direct inspiration and use Chalk Paint™ ‘Old Violet’ and ‘English Yellow’ together or by not taking ‘direct’ inspiration and using more subtle tones like ‘Emile’ and ‘Versaille’.  Below is the Annie Sloan colour card, you can see how these colours are opposite each other.  Cleverly Annie set out her colour card as a colour wheel to help you all when choosing colour! Clever!


Below is an example of Chalk Paint™ in ‘Versailles’ and ‘Emile’ used inside as a pop of colour.


Purple and yellow in their pure form can be a very harsh combination in an Interior space.  I personally would recommend using them in softer shades for a calmer, more peaceful experience. Below, in my opinion, is a really bad example of the use of these two colours together in an Interior setting.



On the other hand this time, below, is a gorgeous example of the two colours used beautifully together.  As you can see you don’t need to use the obvious shades of the Iris (strong purple & yellow), you can, but in this instance, I think letting the colour combination inspire you, but not directly creates a more subtle use of the colour combo.


This is a very brief example of how to use nature in your up cycling and interior design projects.  I hope it has inspired you to think about nature in a positive way when considering colour choice.  Nature is a constant source of inspiration for Interior design, with the endless changing hues reflected in every season. If you need some ideas, take a walk in the country or visit the coast. Colours and textures abound in nature and they are just waiting there to be noticed and used by you!

I hope you are all enjoying the lovely weather we are having here in N.Ireland at the moment.  Long may it continue 🙂


Jill xoxo