How to Elegantly Integrate Indoor Plants Into Your Home

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A sacred fig tree looks downright sculptural in this entryway by Carter Design.

Photo: Laure Joliet

Use plants to punctuate, not pack, a room

Laetitia Wajnapel, owner of Los Angeles–based design studio Cinquième Gauche, describes her philosophy for everything from style to interiors as “less is more,” even when it comes to plant selection. “I generally think about plants in the same way I think about art. They punctuate the space and add visual interest,” she says while noting that on some projects she’ll use plants as dividers to break up a space.

Brittny Button, founder of Los Angeles–based design studio Button Atelier, likes to think of them as ways to frame an interior. Whether “providing a canopy to a row of clerestory windows or offering serpentine grace to a fireplace, there’s an undeniable organic beauty to their presence.”

And as Sulaiman reminds us, you don’t have to be too fussy when picking a plant. “Often I cut a branch from the garden and place it in a simple vase,” like a magnolia branch displayed in the center of a long bathroom that stretches upward, drawing your eye toward the tall ceilings.

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Tall, fully grown plants can underscore a room’s dimensions, like the monstera displayed in this Carter Design project. / A sacred fig tree looks downright sculptural in this entryway by Carter Design.

Photo: Laure Joilet

Maturity matters

While it’s always gratifying to raise a plant from a small cutting to its full-fledged, large-scale version, it can take years to grow it to a height where it actually adds impact to a room. For that reason, Samson prefers to source larger mature plants so they can have a real presence. She also invites people to think about how dense they want their plants to feel before selecting greenery: “For example, will the plant have a single stalk or have multiple stalks coming out of the pot? Heavy foliage, or more sparse?” Button points out that oversized offerings of commonly known plants can be an unexpected way to break up a space. “In the breakfast nook, placing a monumental money tree (a.k.a. Guiana chestnut) offers playful whimsy.”

The higher the ceilings, the bigger the plant

Rooms with high ceilings can be daunting to decorate but also provide an opportunity for vertical displays. “I like to place the largest plant possible in a room when there is height to emphasize the scale of the room,” Sulaiman says. Main rooms or foyers with double-height ceilings can be accentuated with spikes and bamboo plants that appear to reach for the sky, Button suggests. “Bringing the outdoors in through trees or a plant with a tree-like stature conveys a simple, sculptural, and striking effect.”


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A pint-size cactus in a shallow geometric dish is vital decor in the textured bathroom it’s displayed in, decorated by Jen Samson Design.

Photo: Mellon Studio

Consider your climate

Plants in different climates serve varied functions, too, which can help you decide where to place yours, along with which varieties to look for. Genevieve Carter, cofounder of bicoastal design studio Carter Design, explains that greenery helps blur the line between indoors and outdoors in warmer climates. In places that are less temperate, plants can bring vitality and warmth to your interiors. “The delight of a blooming lemon tree on the inside of a house in the dead of winter is palpable,” she says.

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