Designing for Plants to Boost Human Well-being

Designing for Plants to Boost Human Well-being

NYCxDesign: Functional, beautiful, and Web-connected habitats to keep both plants and humans happy

Dave Pinter, PSFK
  • 22 may 2015

It was at the 2014 edition of NYCxDesign that we noticed a fair number of exhibitors feature or incorporate potted plants into their displays. A year later, a new cast of leafy inhabitants made design venues around NYC their temporary home. For 2015, designers created a range of vessels that display a single flower to a fully mature cactus.

What’s behind the interest from designers in featuring habitats for flowers and houseplants in a show extensively about furnishings for humans? Turns out house plants are really good for us. A number of studies have shown that having plants around can boost concentration and memory, accelerate the healing process and generally improve our quality of life. This paper from the Ellison Chair in International Floriculture offers a good overview of the benefits.

Here’s a roundup of the products and projects from around NYCxDesign 2015 incorporating plants that boost well-being.


Herb Pot by Andressen Voll for Mjolk

The pots are made from hand thrown terracotta, the side opening promotes watering the from the soil at the bottom instead of from the top, watering for the top displaces soil and exposes sensitive root systems. Watering from the bottom promotes healthy root growth and as a result, a bigger plant.





Liv and Soft Vase by Kristine Five Melvær

Each of the glass vases can artfully display a single flower or cut piece of greener. The larger Soft Vase can be turned upside down to hold a larger arrangement.




Utility Vases by Luur

A deceptively simple shape but these Utility Vases solve a number of problems. The ceramic vessel comes with a Corian grate which can accommodate small, medium or even larger flower arrangements. Without the grate, the base becomes a sturdy container to house a potted plant.



Felt Droplets by Garman Furniture

Felt Droplet is a wall mounted modular system made of natural felt that can support shelves, planters, panels and more.


Spun Metal Planters by BROOK&LYN

At first glance this new collection of planters looks like they are made of cast stone. The Los Angeles-based couple behind the project included the native California cactuses with the sale of the first batch of planters.



Plant-in City is a collaboration between architects, designers, and technologists who are building new ways of interacting with nature. Our 21st century sculptural terrariums combine modular architecture, basic laws of physics, embedded technologies, and mobile computing to construct a “Plant City” where the aesthetic meets the pragmatic.


Each frame is made with cedar wood and copper piping, with digital sensors and integrated lighting controlled by smartphone app. The plants live in an artful structure that’s nearly self-sustaining. After all, plants improve our quality of life and nurture us on an everyday basis; we think it’s only fair to nurture them in return.

The project’s embedded technologies provide ambient and mobile interactivity. Through a network of Arduino micro-computers with sensors for soil moisture, temperature, humidity and light the plants are able to “speak” about their environmental wellbeing. For example, they make a sound when the soil is dry and a different one when it’s wet. Additional sounds for day, night, humidity and temperature levels are heard over time.



This wireless network connects to the Web and is accessible by smartphone. From their device users can remotely monitor environmental data conditions and water plants.









Vitra at ICFF

Vitra’s booth at ICFF wasn’t so much about a new planter product as it was a modern take on creatively integrating plants into a room. Using furniture and walls with complimentary colors to the plants, the space was a refreshing place to stop by within the concrete and halogen lit basement of the Javits Convention Center.


Photos: Dave Pinter


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