It’s a cool autumn morning and the hinterland village of Montville is buzzing with activity. The aroma of freshly ground coffee melds with gentle chatter as people amble along the sun-dappled cobblestone paths.

Inside Shop 2, 171 Main Street, people talk in hushed tones as they explore the myriad beautiful objects adorning timber and rattan shelves. It may be the delicate wares, or
the imposing view through the large picture window – a kaleidoscope of green leaves and brilliant blue sky – but a sense of peace descends on the cosy store.

Behind the counter, Jessie Bailey looks up with a smile, her warm eyes welcoming. She chats with ease as she places my selection – a natural-cut rose quartz crystal and a wood and cotton woven baby toy – into a small carry bag. She looks at home here in her homewares and style store, Bailey Loves, which she opened in August 2020.

Interior design is Jessie’s lifeblood, and her passion is evident through each item in the store. The curated range is handpicked with wellbeing in mind. Natural materials, textures and hues, organic patterns and plants engage the senses, conjuring feelings of calmness.

“I’ve been a qualified interior designer for a decade but I think it’s always been something that is within me,” Jessie says. “I remember spending a lot of time redecorating my bedroom as a child, making tables out of boxes and putting the nicest sheets I could find as a tablecloth so I could create a vignette of my collections.

“As a young child, I remember becoming quite obsessed about the beautiful raffle home brochures that would be sent in the post and loved following my parents around the display homes.

“In saying that, I have felt as though design was incredibly subjective, and as a creative person with an academic background [she studied law and business], it was hard for me to justify why my opinion in design and style was worth any more than anyone else’s.

“Sure, balance and scale are important, apparently I have ‘the eye’, but style really is based on opinion and I struggled to see the meaning behind it.”

It was upon discovering the concept of biophilic design that Jessie’s true potential blossomed. She realised that her skills could make a significant difference in people’s lives.

In a nutshell, biophilia is the hypothesis that humans crave a connection to the natural environment. Biophilic design focuses on connecting humans to nature through architectural and style elements to improve wellbeing.

It is based around 14 patterns, which fall into three categories: nature in the space, which includes visual connection to nature, non-visual connection, air flow and the presence of water; natural analogues and patterns, including biomorphic forms and patterns and material connection with nature; and thirdly, nature of space.

“It was an evidence-based design theory that had proven benefits,” says Jessie. “I could design beautiful spaces and have the client feel better for it and that sat much better with me.”

Raised on a dairy farm in regional Victoria, Jessie has a natural affinity with nature and identifies how personalities change between different environments.

“I think most of us notice the change in us when we spend time outdoors. When we go on holidays we search for the beach or the mountains. We know that we aren’t supposed
to spend so much time indoors.”

As a mother of two boys, she also notes how children benefit from an outdoor experience.

“Hence my fascination and research into how we can live and function in this society, but still have that necessary connection to nature that we need as human beings. I have
a very strong belief as a result of my research, that children also should either be outdoors as much as possible, or be in an indoor environment that has biophilic benefits such as ample natural light, natural materials and textures, plant life and opening windows.

“We, as humans, have spent most of our existence outdoors in nature. It hasn’t been until recent history that we spent so much time indoors with the rise in technology and comfort and convenience that home offers.

“We can turn lights on rather than open up blinds and windows. We can cool ourselves in air-conditioning rather than being in a cool space under a tree. We can entertain ourselves endlessly with TV and our phones rather than going to the park or for a walk. Having so much separation between us and the natural world is bound to have an effect.

“And now the studies prove it with cities that have less greenery being associated with less social cohesion and more crime. Other studies have shown that our immunity, sleep and general happiness improves if we are more connected to nature.”

These studies, and the observations of how nature and design intertwine, are the driving force behind the growing interest in the biophilic philosophy. It’s about emotional connection and the basic fundamentals of life.

For example, curves are popularised in biophilic design for a positive experience and directly linked to a human’s natural fight or flight response activated by sharp corners. Natural lighting is important for circadian rhythm to help us sleep better and be more energised through the day.

“Incorporating biophilic elements does not just mean incorporating indoor plants,’’ Jessie says. “The direct connection with nature, like adding plants, is one component, but there are also natural analogues and nature of the space principles that are applied.

“It’s completely people-centred, where we mimic the natural environment and its processes in our homes or workplaces to allow us to feel the way that we want to feel in that space, whether that be calm, creative or energised.”

Through her home-styling services and the products sold at Bailey Loves, Jessie practises what she preaches. “It’s a holistic wellness approach which also considers colour psychology, organisation and clutter-free living and buying things only because you love them or because they serve a purpose.

“We choose handmade, perfect imperfections and uniqueness. We source many products locally, but also further afield where they fit our values,” she adds.

“There is little doubt that COVID has had a huge impact on our interest in our homes. Many people working from home and spending more time at home notice and care about how their homes look, function and make them feel.

“People are slowing down, buying locally, and perhaps appreciating the smaller things a little more.”