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Let's Dress Up Your Interiors with Houseplants

Updated: Jul 9, 2019

You’ll want to choose the right size, right location and right container. Adding houseplants creates living, breathing beauty in any space in your home.

"Bringing various shades of green into a room is a perfect way to add life while complementing the existing décor," said Matt McKenna, creative director of garden design at Winston Flowers in New York City. "Plants can also have a positive effect on our health, as many are effective in removing various toxins from our air and adding much-needed moisture."

They are also key to making a house a home, said Jane Landino, design director of London-based Taylor Howes. "Having a houseplant in your home is the equivalent to bringing a little bit of the outdoors inside; not only do they purify the air, filtering out pollutants, but they respond to their environment, blooming and often scenting a home," she added.

To give your home the benefit of greenery, follow this advice from the pros.

Think About the Space

"Paired with a beautiful container, a floor plant can become a visual focal point in any room. Conversely, smaller plants offer the chance to dress up an interior space in a subtler way.

"Selecting the right container is always the first and most important step. Appropriate scale, color, and material relative to the space should all be considered. Using a taller container paired with a shorter plant can be a fresh and more interesting way to achieve height in a larger space with high ceilings. Another way to accomplish this is by selecting an interesting container and displaying it atop a pedestal. Shorter plant material, such as a rhipsalis, combined with a pedestal and container makes for a more attractive and visually interesting arrangement than the typical palm or ficus tree.

Shelving with varied plants and vessels creates a verdant backdrop for this dining room.

"Consider species like firestick pencil cactus, which are slim, pencil-like foliage with a color gradient ranging from soft green at the base to bright red at the tips. They can either be a small table-top plant or a five-foot-or-larger floor plant. These thrive in a bright location with direct sunlight. Sansevieria cylindrica, smooth, spear-like foliage with gray-green stripes are a unique plant for clean, modern spaces. They thrive in bright light but will tolerate most light conditions. Varieties of sansevieria, philodendron and dracaena plants are all great low-light options for year-round interior plants displayed around the home."

— Matt McKenna, creative director of Garden Design at Winston Flowers in New York City

Get Creative 

"We often layer a variety of houseplants into a scheme when we are dressing our client’s homes—from large arrangements of elegant and beautiful giant phalaenopsis orchids, which can last for months, to smaller house plants such as ferns, money plants and various interestingly shaped cactus.

"In my own home I like my houseplants to be seasonal. I always have amaryllis growing on the window sills in the lead up to Christmas. I plant hyacinths intertwined with twigs and bun moss in oversized bowls in December and January, and in spring, I swap out the hyacinths for pots of tete a tete daffodils, which bring such a wonderful scent into the house. Then in summer I have large pots of indoor hydrangeas which can be transferred to the garden once they have bloomed.

Bring some green herbs on your kitchen bench.

"Pots and planters full of fresh herbs are always wonderful in the kitchen; we plant up rosemary, basil and thyme. Orchids often do well in bright humid spaces, so either on a console in a sunny window or in bathrooms. We also like putting large citrus plants into garden rooms or orangeries. If your home is smaller, then adding in a mini orange or lemon tree can add a really fun pop of color and the scent from the blossom is wonderful.

"Arrangements of succulents in large bowls or glass terrariums always look interesting and require minimal maintenance. These smaller displays look stylish and are perfect for apartments.

 "If clients are looking to fill a large volume space, then tall indoor planters of Kentia palms always work well and look great in indoor pool areas or sunny open plan spaces."

 —Jane Landino, design director of London-based Taylor Howes

Consider the Plants’ Needs

"Besides the pops of beautiful, gangly greens that create singular moments in their successful nook, dappling light and throwing green onto your walls, I cannot help but also think, ‘This home is being cared for.’ It’s understood that although a plant’s job in interior design is to remind us of the outdoors—they are living things that need correct light, preening, a good loving talking to— somebody is doing that.  

"The choice of plants is not always easy, even for the most control freak, design-obsessed homeowner. If the plant doesn’t like the place we put them, they will rebel like terrible teenagers and look depressed and miserable. So, the first thing to understand is what you can and can’t have in your home based on a plethora of needs: Light, air flow and the time you’ve got to give them. Personally, I love exotic, crazy leaves and things that can get a little gangly and drippy. I love to play with the different tones of greens and sizes. I like the architecture of cactus and succulents and I have them in interesting funny pots.

"The most fun part is the pots. I use vintage ones together with shiny, blingy modern ones. [They come from] CB2 and Anthropologie, flea markets and garage sales. 

"I have a bright window near my tub and I have a thriving gardenia growing and smelling the room up at all times. Jasmine is also nice and also likes humidity.

"I love playing with sizes. And if you have a conservatory-like environment, you’ll want different levels. The way larger plants create these amazing shards of translucent and solid moments in their big leaves. 

"Wherever you can pop a plant and it’s happy to thrive is a good moment."

—Kim Gordon of Kim Gordon Designs in Venice, California

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