Working as an interior designer in the 21st century is remarkably different compared to what earlier generations of designers experienced. Modern interior design is about more than just aesthetic appeal. Tastes have changed. So have materials. We view energy consumption in a whole new way. Even the terms are different.

These days we talk about things like passive design, going green, and biophilic design. But what does it all mean? Despite what you may have heard, all three types of design are distinct and unique. There may be some overlap when a designer employs one or more of the styles, but each one can be employed separately.

Let us take some time to define and briefly explain each of the three design styles. You will notice they all combine elements of function, form, and a new way of thinking about how natural and man-made spaces interact.

Passive Design

Living room using passive design

Passive design is the age-old practice of designing buildings to take advantage of the local environment in order to reduce dependence on mechanical heating and air conditioning. Its primary goal is to reduce energy consumption and thereby contribute to sustainability.

A good example of passive design is building a new house with window or peak overhangs that partially block the sun. During the summer, when the sun is at its highest arc, the overhangs blocked direct sunlight during the hottest parts of the day. But in the summer, when that arc is much smaller, the sun never gets high enough to be blocked out by the overhangs.

The result is a house that stays cooler during the summer and warmer during the winter. The designer uses natural sunlight year-round to reduce dependence on mechanical HVAC.

Green Design

Green design, also known as sustainable design or going green, is all about sourcing building materials that are sustainable and ecologically friendly. Simultaneously, green design also looks to make homes as energy efficient as possible.

Sustainability is all about protecting the ability of future generations to live happy and productive lives without having to worry about resources, pollution, and so forth. Therefore, green design places a heavy emphasis on locally sourced materials produced by companies that adhere to sustainable principles.

Biophilic Design

We have finally arrived at what is considered a newer trend in interior design: biophilic design. Truth be told, biophilic design isn’t new at all. It only seems new because it is suddenly enjoying a new resurgence in the American marketplace.

Biophilic design is all about bringing more of the outdoors inside and vice-versa. Its focus is blurring the line between interior and exterior spaces. It is rooted in the understanding that the vast majority of Americans spend almost all of their time indoors.

Designing a biophilic kitchen might involve creating dedicated spaces for plants and trees. If you want to know more about choosing and growing house plants, check out this beginners guide! It might also include a large panel of sliding glass doors that can be pushed into recesses, thereby eliminating the division between interior and exterior. The possibilities are pretty vast and appealing.

Combining All Three Forms

It is not unusual for architects and interior designers to focus on one particular form of design. Even combining two of them, like passive and green design, is not unusual. A good designer can combine all three to give customers the best of all worlds.

Today’s interior design goes multiple steps beyond aesthetic appeal. Aesthetics are still important, but homeowners are looking for both quantitative and qualitative appeal in their designs. They want designs that speak to who they are and how they view the world. And more often than not, that leads to some combination of passive, green, and biophilic design.