Cali-cool design school Part 3: Greenery (how to decorate with plants in 3 easy steps)

4/19/2016 12:12:00 pm HELEN STILES 0 Comments

It's finally spring here in London, and what better way to update your home than by bringing some greenery inside? It's a trick used all the time in those laid-back California-cool homes I've been talking about recently, and it's one simple thing that can transform a room. So today we're talking greenery, and how best to decorate with plants.

Now before I start, I'd better confess that I'm not exactly the plant whisperer. I have been known to be a slightly neglectful parent to my house plants in the past. But, I'm nothing if not an optimist, so I keep trying, and I just love how they look (which is admittedly much better when they're healthy than when they're curling up and dying!) The best Californian style interiors always have a healthy dose of greenery, which is a trick that's easy to steal.

Plants are a fabulous way of adding some life, colour, texture and structure to a room. When I say plants, I am focusing on the simple pleasures of greenery (rather than flowers and orchids etc). With such a variety of specimens, shapes, sizes and colours it is easy to bring some life inside and plants really can be used as an interior decorating tool. They're good for the atmosphere and great for the psyche (why else do you think businesses pay to put them in offices?!) So, whilst I'm by no means a horticultural expert, here are 3 easy steps to help you decorate with plants...

Step 1. 
Choose a tall and structural plant to start with. Anything oversized, tall or spiky is fantastic for making a real statement. Tall ferns are easy to look after (like the howea forsteriana in the top picture of my kitchen). They are also inexpensive and add some lovely textural height (all rooms need a mixture of heights to look cool and whenever you put something BIG in a room it instantly improves it)!  Other well-known and relatively easy to look after varieties include cheese plants, weeping figs and guinea chestnuts, and most are tolerant of our less than Californian levels of sunshine!

West Coast designers particularly love the Fiddle Leaf Fig – the large specimens are significantly more expensive, but they do have real impact. Just look at how the huge fiddle leaf in the picture above turns this simple living area into a magical space.  I would dearly love to put a huge one in our kitchen but having been quoted nearly £300, I just don't trust myself not to kill it!  Ikea have started to sell small specimens in the UK (although I'm not patient enough to wait the 10-15 years for them to grow to anything like the size of the one above!) 

Step 2. 

Add some smaller plants at mid level around the room. Think spider plants tumbling from a shelf, ferns on a mantlepiece, herbs and bushy plants on windowsills – or even plants hanging from the ceiling. You can easily mix up the textures too – go for a variety of leaf shapes, sizes and colours. You can get creative with the plant pots too – mix up textures (brass, concrete, glass, baskets etc). Macrame plant hangers are definitely having a moment and are a great way of decorating with plants at different heights to keep your eye interested. This photo of stylist Carole Poirot's living room demonstrates the point perfectly – plants at a variety of heights around the room look amazing (oh, and spot one of my cowhide coffee-tables there looking gorgeous!)

Step 3. 

Finally, add some plants at a lower level around the room – on coffee tables and side tables. Succulents and cacti are great for this, plop them on a tray or pile of books – make them part of your styling. Terrariums are a contemporary way to decorate with plants and can be put almost anywhere, on a coffee table, the floor, or a hearth (obviously move them if you're going to light the fire!!) You can buy ready made terrariums with all the plants included, or make one yourself with an old glass vase/jam jar/bottle, some gravel and a quick trip to your local garden centre!

So there you have it, my very untechnical guide to decorating with plants. Now, I'd better go off and water mine before I forget...

1. Concrete plant pots  //  2. Terrarium  //  3. Brazilliance cushion  //  4. Antique Lassi cup planters /