Hospitality is taking note of the rise of biophilic design. These spaces, from South Korea to China to Malaysia, show how.

We’ve got a need for green. And that goes for all of our spaces: not just those outside. Hospitality is paying attention to the rise of biophilic design, as evidenced by a handful of intentionally verdant interiors in Asia.  Plants aren’t just treated as decorations in the form of a few well-placed pots and planters in these spaces – they inform the entire interior concept and help frame the hospitality destinations as escapes within the urban environments they’re at home in. From Jeonju, South Korea to Beijing, check out five examples to make a plant lover swoon and a non-enthusiast become a (green) believer.

Photo: Masaaki Takahashi


Ryoji Iedokoro

Ryoji Iedokoro delivered both an aesthetic and a haptic two-storey experience for Japanese barbecue restaurant Nikunotoriko by drawing from the natural environment. In the ground-floor ‘cave,’ walls and ceiling are moulded with mortar – a tactile treatment that evokes primitivism and antiquity. Running down the centre, a 6.5-m-long glass table features a smoky motif, referencing bonfires. Underneath the table, gravel-like glass forms a ‘riverbed,’ while at least 1,000 glass tiles comprise the floor’s herringbone pattern, alluding to the flow of water. Above ground, a forest awaits. Framed with greenery, an earthy landscape of OSB provides fertile ground for 126 steel pipes, or ‘trees.’ Instead of chairs, guests sit on zabuton floor cushions around sunken kotatsu tables, creating a relaxed camp-site vibe intended to transport visitors’ minds from the city to the wilderness.

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Photo: Jin Sung-gi (Soulgraph)


Design Studio Maoom

Devised by Design Studio Maoom, CUUN Café (cover image) would be all white furnishings and rough concrete if it weren’t for the plants that populate the interior and terrace spaces. The South Korean café – located in the city of Jeonju – is designed to symbolize the contrast between traditional architecture and the modern urban landscape; its name is a combination of the Korean and English words for cloud, which the white furniture is a visual reference to. In fact the outdoor area of CUUN is larger than its interior – 112 m2 is dedicated to the patio while 81 m2 is the size of the build space. A wide passage guides a visitor from the indoors to the out, creating a sense that the space is without boundary.

Photo: Edward Hendricks - CI&A Photography


Ministry of Design

For the interiors of The Prestige Hotel in Penang, a Malaysian island-state, Singapore-based studio Ministry of Design wanted to create a modern-day Victorian feel: the hotel is set within the core zone of the George Town UNESCO World Heritage site and is surrounded by 19th-century English colonial buildings. The Design Hotels location, which was in part inspired by local botany, includes 162 rooms, a restaurant, rooftop infinity pool, events pavilion and terrace, as well as an era-inspired dining and retail arcade. ‘The lift lobby surprises with a champagne bronze tinted feature wall with etched patterning inspired by Victorian grilles and a window portal which frames the lush plants outside,’ says a spokesperson.

Photo: Shan Liang and Shiyun Qian


Nota Architects

Nota Architects, the firm behind a leafy 221-m2 café for Seesaw Coffee in Beijing, has worked on over half of the specialty coffee company’s 20 spaces. But this is their greenest yet, ironically atop a symbol of urbanization – a mall. CN Flower Zonyong Ling is responsible for the design of the café’s interior garden, situated in sunken plaza. The coffee bar itself exists as almost an island unto itself in the mossy, rocky terrain, shrouded in a layer of mist. Surrounding the core of the space, blocks of wood and customized planters incorporate even more foliage.

Offering sweeping views of the metropolis beyond the interior refuge is a glass curtain wall, which faces a terrace. The bird’s-eye view shows, that when it comes to achieving clearer skies and greener land in Beijing, there’s still much to be done outdoors – in the meanwhile, the indoors can give a hand.

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Photo: Wenhan Luo


Anson Design

Anson Design’s interior for Guangzhou café LaiHui Coffee focuses on dimensional surfaces and finishes, punctuated by tall plants. Ceramic tile, aluminium plating, paint and additional materials were chosen in the same tone, emphasizing the textures and greenery within. ‘The whole design is based on grey,’  explains a spokesperson for the studio, ‘which makes the function of space more pure, and customers pay more attention to visuals, experiences and products’ in addition to the calming botany.