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9 Alfresco-Style Home Decor Updates

Get tips and tricks for bringing nature into your house

No matter what your style is—cottage, traditional or modern—the colors and textures of nature are always welcome in any home. Consider these ideas for bringing a bit of the outdoors into your rooms, even if you're not the outdoorsy type or you don't have a green thumb.

1. Plant the seed. Houseplants— living ones, not artificial—are an easy, affordable and intuitive way to add a touch of nature. “They breathe life into a room, giving it color, interest, balance and warmth,” says Jon Carloftis, garden designer and author of Beyond the Windowsill. Place plants to define an open space, block a bad view and balance your decor. One or two plants per room is plenty, Carloftis says. “Just go with something you love.”

2. Weave it in. Woven elements can bring natural texture into a room. Swap a tufted rug for a jute one, use rattan baskets to corral shoes by an entry, or hang a bamboo shade on a window. Look for textural fabrics in earth-inspired neutrals for your upholstered furniture. ...Read More

3. Be art-smart. “If you can't afford an expensive piece of artwork, create one yourself with a big, striking plant,” says Carloftis. “It's a living sculpture.” A grouping of pressed framed leaves or ferns—simple DIY art—can fill bare spots on a wall or bookshelf. Or get out the camera: Photos you've taken outdoors will look gorgeous when enlarged and framed. Convert them to black-and-white for a graphic look.

4. Borrow from the garden. Stylish outdoor furnishings easily transition indoors: A ceramic garden stool can serve as an end table or a rustic urn can be an oversize vase. Use a cute metal bistro set in a tight kitchen. Spruce up wicker pieces weathered by the elements with spray paint (it's easier than trying to paint with a brush) to give them a fresh new look.

5. Broaden your horizons. Windows are a home's obvious connection to nature, so make the most of a good view. Hang curtain panels beyond the sides to make windows seem larger and emphasize the scene beyond. Draw the eye outside with carefully placed accessories and plants, or train ivy to grow around the window frame for a natural segue.

6. Use botanical motifs. Pillows and cushions with nature-inspired prints offer an easy way to bring the outdoors in. Go the ready-made route, or buy a remnant in a botanical pattern from a fabric store and make slipcovers for existing pillows that can be tossed in the washing machine. Another fun touch is an outdoor floor cushion reassigned as an indoor seat for kids or adults who play or eat at the coffee table.

7. Add some whimsy. Buy unfinished birdhouses from a crafts store and paint them in fun colors for an instant folk-art look. Watering cans—either vintage or new—also make an unexpected indoor display. And, with the stake removed, decorative metal garden stakes topped with butterflies, flowers and frogs can turn into fun wall art for a child's room.

8. Consider your surroundings. If you're ready for a room redo, let nature be your color guide. Watery blues and greens evoke a summery seaside feel. Sage, cocoa and burnt orange give a room an autumnal warmth. Change with the seasons by keeping walls neutral and injecting color with pillows and throws.

9. Bring in a bouquet. Nothing sums up nature more simply than fresh flowers. Even a bud vase on a nightstand can be a refreshing pick-me-up. Other natural freebies include sculptural twigs or roadside grasses. Unconventional containers, such as a rustic sap bucket, garden urn or wooden toolbox, make any bouquet more interesting.

Which Plant Where?

For garden designer Jon Carloftis, plants make a house a home. Here are his picks for every room:

Bathroom: “I'm crazy about ferns. They like humidity, so they're great in a bathroom that gets medium light.”

Try: asparagus fern, holly fern, rabbit's foot fern, Boston fern.

Kitchen: “Herbs thrive near a sunny window, and they can also absorb odors.”

Try: rosemary, tarragon, thyme.

Powder Room: “In a really small room with no natural light, a plant is a nice surprise.”

Try: a cast iron plant.

Dining Table: “A living centerpiece is one of my favorite things. Fill an oversize planter with mosses and small plants.”

Try: mini ivy, baby's tears.

Child's Bedroom: “Bring in something fun—even a terrarium—to get kids interested and make plants seem cool.”

Try: cobra fern, Venus fly trap, spider plant.

Living Room: “Most ficus trees can take the indirect light that you might find in a corner of a living room.”

Try: fiddle-leaf fig.

  • Breathe life into your space with a few lush plants.

    Helen Norman, From Beyond the Windowsill, by Jon Carloftis (Cool Springs Press, 2006)
9 Alfresco-Style Home Decor Updates
Get tips and tricks for bringing nature into your house
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