My first exposure to a garden-inspired room was the restaurant inside
Lord & Taylor called The Birdcage.
My mother took me there for lunch once in a while when I was a girl, after a round of particularly heavy shopping. Peering beyond the hostess while waiting to be seated, I was agog at the wallpaper, with spindly trees growing from the baseboards, butterflies alighting on their branches and overripe roses spinning garlands across the room. Then there was the actual birdcage that hung from the ceiling with fake robins and bluebirds inside, frozen on their perches mid-chirp. The white latticework frames surrounding the windows shaded the sun’s rays just enough for me to feel as if I was stealing a patch of springtime with my mother as we ate raisin pumpernickel sandwiches with cream cheese, the crusts cut off. Between sips of my iced tea with heaps of sugar and her coffee, always black, I squirmed with delight, my bare legs squishing the green chenille upholstery fabric on my chair. I felt like an honorary grown-up. I thought my mother impossibly glamorous in her short, white floral shift and cat’s-eye sunglasses, a cigarette with her lipstick on it primly perched on one of the white marble ashtrays dotting every table.
Flowers just spoke to Mom. She was an avid gardener, working miracles on our diminutive concrete patio, attempting to reproduce Monet’s gardens at Giverny. She decorated generously with floral prints because for her, they represented happiness, hope and creativity. In that spirit, here’s a short guide to getting botanical and bringing the outside in while letting your artistic side out.
Floral prints have come charging into the 21st century, invigorated by forward-thinking production techniques. Wallpapers achieve brilliant image quality with laser printing and upholstery fabrics crafted from recycled plastic speak to our eco-consciousness. The modern, garden-inspired interior uses dazzlingly saturated colors that pair well with the geometric lines of up-to-the-minute furniture styles, such as a mid-century modern wing chair or a boxy 1970s platform coffee table. It all has a very mix-and-match quality that relies on contrast to achieve an urbane aesthetic.
The rustic look has retained its popularity since designer Rachel Ashwell of the Shabby-Chic brand pioneered it. The heavily distressed aesthetic with its chalky, muted tones references American Western, Scandinavian Country and English Cottage vernacular traditions. Rusted-out garden tools are used as accessories and frayed, raw fabrics are used for linens and curtains. Everything should look vintage or, in other words, worn but not worn-out. Wooden baskets, dried flowers, chipped painted furniture and heirloom carpets define the look.
The traditional sunroom conjures visions of green-painted walls, windows trimmed with swag valances and cascading drapery panels. Plush, overstuffed furniture and a beloved Beagle complete the picture. It’s no surprise that this love letter to formal botanical gardens has never gone out of style.
Floral prints are not the only way to reference the garden indoors. Using exterior architectural elements and outdoor materials can be just as evocative. A few favorites of mine include stone, terra-cotta or mosaic tile flooring; ceramic pots and vases; wood latticework trim on walls and surrounding windows; wrought-iron chandeliers; Chinese pagoda style lanterns; faux or authentic topiaries; tapestry wall hangings; awning striped fabric; urns containing tall branches; botanical prints and paintings; framed, pressed flowers; and, of course, a dazzling centerpiece of fresh flowers.
I hope to be lounging in a wicker chaise, next to a miniature Victorian, stone birdbath and reading in the shade for hours sometime soon. Here’s to you, Mom.