San Francisco Bay Area designer Leah O’Connell recently tried to create that feeling at her cousin’s family home in Richmond. “Everything was done with the light and the garden in mind,” says O’Connell.
And while her choices are specific to her clients, they also speak to broader emerging lifestyle trends: the ever-increasing interest in sustainable materials, the return of indoor plants, and a renewed fascination with naturalistic collections, including taxidermy.
Of course, most people don’t have the space (or the budget) to embark on this kind of project. But we talked to O’Connell and other designers about how anyone can cultivate that garden experience inside their home – without having a green thumb. Here are their suggestions.
Let Mother Nature shine. “Scenery is an integral part of the home experience: spring is bright pinks and whites, summer is green and lush, and then there are the colors of fall,” says O’Connell. She chose white paint for most of the house to allow the views from the many windows to be the star of the show. But she also wanted to use green in a contemporary way. She installed custom green-gray and white tiles in a bold cubist pattern on the conservatory floor, and she chose a “cool, grassy hue” from Fine Paints of Europe (#S 6020-G10Y) for the library. rather than a more predictable dark green. She went with a glossy finish in this piece to add a lively note. “It’s quite loud and shiny, but because they’re a young family, we wanted some freshness and some hairspray,” she says.
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Create new perspectives. Panoramic murals, popular since around the late 17th century when China began exporting hand-painted wallpapers to Europe, are another way to embrace landscape themes. O’Connell chose de Gournay’s early pictorial views of India for the dining room, where his elephants, palm trees and distant mountains lend a romantic, distant feel.
“Scenic papers grab your attention and can be conversation starters,” says Nashville-based interior designer Robin Rains. She also likes the way images can reflect places or atmospheres that interest us. Because you’ll want as few interruptions in imagery as possible “to get the full effect,” she says, “be sure to take doors and windows into account” when positioning scenes.
Explore models. Botanical prints, especially on fabrics, can visually connect a home’s interior to its surroundings. O’Connell went with Schumacher’s fern print, Les Fougeres, on a pair of chairs in the conservatory; the classic Bowood chintz from Colefax and Fowler in the breakfast nook; and Jasper’s Malmaison-Fontaine, with climbing passionflower vines, in the library. The flowers continue into the master bedroom, which O’Connell has wallpapered with one of her own designs, Cora, named after the owners’ daughter. She mixed stripes and solids to keep the rooms from being overgrown.
“There should always be elements of surprise too,” she adds. A flick of the powder room switch reveals Jennifer Shorto’s Emeralds wallpaper, a kaleidoscopic pattern of bright green beetles inspired by the drawings of 17th-century naturalist Maria Sibylla Merian. Insects, hardworking pollinators who may not receive as much love as some of their garden cohorts, are ancient Egyptian symbols of rebirth.
Add wildlife. Animal motifs, including taxidermy, are having a short time in interior decoration. O’Connell brought them to the Richmond space with antique bird prints, a snake frame mirror and a vintage taxidermy pheasant from Creel and Gow.
“Taxis can be tricky. You either like it or you don’t,” says Los Angeles designer Kevin Beer, whose home (adorned with his costumed stuffed birds) is featured in “The New Naturalists,” a book that sheds light on collectors interested in such curiosities. But if stuffed creatures aren’t for you, Beer says, there are other options. “Flea markets, estate sales and antique malls are a good source of inexpensive treasures, but if you’re lucky enough to have a garden, it’s all there for free: feathers, pebbles, pods seeds, a flowering dogwood branch,” he said. said. “Just get out. Lost objects are everywhere. Whether you scatter them around your home or collect them in cabinets or glass domes, as Beer does, they create a personal story and represent what “the earth has given you,” he adds.
Play with textures. Incorporating intriguing textures, including nubby surfaces and natural upholstery materials, can give even a formal space a relaxed, open-air feel, while recreating the sensory and tactile experience of being in the garden. O’Connell has filled the conservatory and living room with vintage pieces of rattan, wicker and bamboo, for example, sourcing from Chairish and the West End Antiques mall in Richmond. For the living room, she brought a handcrafted rattan console table from Soane that is woven to look like draped fabric. She also found faux wood wallpaper from Nobilis with a grain for the conservatory and gave a guest room wing chair a utilitarian edge with burlap upholstery.
Don’t forget the plants. “A green plant does you good,” says Stephen Block, owner of Inner Gardens, a California nursery and showroom. “The world is a mess right now – there’s a war going on and we all feel out of control – but the plants are collapsing.”
Comparing today’s demand to the plant boom of the 1970s, Block says they’re the perfect way to add a natural touch. “Just don’t bring plants that will add stress. Think cost, lifespan and ease of maintenance,” he says. “Small plants can be tougher, as they have fragile root systems, while larger plants can withstand variations in care.”
For this Richmond home, O’Connell focused on leafy Boston ferns and blue star ferns, as well as umbrella plants and orchids, “to echo what’s outside. “, she says. “Houseplants have a less formal look than cut flowers, and you don’t have to change them all the time,” she says, noting that fresh bouquets come for special occasions.
“Greenery is the main focus here, but it’s also about convenience for customers,” she adds. “And the house looks like them: cool and grounded.”
Maile Pingel is a Los Angeles-based writer and former editor of Architectural Digest.