If you think incorporating nature into your home decor is synonymous with mounted deer heads and twig furniture, think again.
In these days, when more and more people are nesting and needing their homes to be their refuge, bringing nature inside, through the use of large windows, colors, accessories and furniture, is, well, natural.
“I think that nature is really the most basic blueprint of beauty on the planet,” says Brendan Flanigan, an interior designer with Brendan Flanigan Design in Saratoga Springs. “When we bring [nature] inside, it really opens up options. It brings some life to an inside space that otherwise doesn’t have it.”
Flanigan, for instance, likes to use natural textures such as stone tile, glass and water when a client expresses an interest in nature. “While you don’t find glass in the outside environment necessarily, it has many of the properties of water, and also [a similar] look and feel,” he says. Michael DeSantis, a visual display manager for Stickley, Audi & Co in Albany, also likes layers of texture to create that natural feel. “You need the softness of pillows, the hardness of wood – I’m a big fan of putting wicker furniture in the home,” he says. “Don’t be limited as to what’s supposed to be outside or inside. Ironwork is fantastic hanging in a room: old gates and iron doorways and arches, whatever you can find. Salvaged pieces are fantastic. Even just an old piece of wood with chipped paint could be artwork in a room.”
One obvious way to incorporate nature in decor is by using Mother Nature’s colors for inspiration, anything from the deep greens found in grass to the more neutral tones found in sand and earth. “There are those intense colors, and then there are those dramatic landscapes, so I think a way to do it is to use a mix of colors that range from neutral and earth tones to more saturated and stronger [colors],” says Flanigan. DeSantis looks to boldly colored vegetables for inspiration. “With all of the natural colors – eggplants and tomatoes and all of those really beautiful colors that you find right in nature – if you paint your walls those colors, it might [seem like it will look] too shocking, but it will actually feel very natural,” he says.
Incorporating the organic world through windows and window treatments can also help create fluidity between the outdoors and indoors. Flanigan is a fan of covering windows with natural fibers. “[They provide] a nice way to cover your window, but they also allow some light to come through, which people really like because they need privacy,” he says. Another option is adding a layer of 3M film. “In our building, which is historic, we kept the original windows and we treated them with a dark film,” says Dominic Carota, president of Blairhouse Interiors Group in Loudonville. “If you’re inside looking out you don’t notice it, but if you’re in the outside looking in you notice a bit of filming,” says Carota. He also recommends the film for skylights, sunrooms and solariums (perhaps the best ways for melding the outside with the inside).
When it comes to accessories, choosing objects that are important to you, whether it’s something with sentimental meaning or simply something you like, should be the main criteria. “I think [that with] natural elements, like seashells, you can’t go wrong if they’re used tastefully,” says Flanigan, adding he works with his clients to help them express themselves and “truly identify what they like and don’t like. I use my skills to help them bring the story out, to tell that story in their space,” he says. “If someone loves seashells, they should have seashells in their house, absolutely, and there are different ways that they can be displayed.”
Placing items asymmetrically also echoes nature. “In nature, things don’t grow symmetrically, and you can do that in lots of different ways,” says Flanigan. Pictures, for instance, can be clustered rather than placed in a straight line. Vases can be slightly staggered to one side on a mantel. “The way you arrange things is a really nice way to bring the outside inside,” he says.
Carota believes a critical part of bringing the outdoors inside means appealing to all the senses. “You have to do it as an experience. You have to hit all the senses, if you will, and the first to me is sound,” says Carota. “If you were to bring a fountain into the space, water sounds can be some of the most soothing in nature, and bringing in an appropriately sized fountain for a space is really a wonderful way to create that kind of soothing ambiance.”
Notes Flanigan, “Real beauty never goes out of style. Natural beauty that exists in nature, and those design consistencies that exist in nature, are things that never go out of style.” All you have to do for inspiration is look out your window.