Modern Indoor Gardening: Decorating with Houseplants | Articulate
Plant designer Izabela Jankus in her home, surrounded by plants.

Modern Indoor Gardening: Decorating with Houseplants

Houseplants make the best roommates. That’s not an invitation to debate, it’s an indisputable fact (sorry Scott, the saxophone-playing dorm-mate from college). They’re quiet, hold a warm and welcoming presence, aren’t terribly fussy, and generally clean up after themselves (and the air around them — bonus!).

We wanted to know more about decorating with our green friends, so we talked to plant designer Izabela (AKA @theplantjunkie) to learn more about how these leafy creatures can add new life to your space.

Where Izabela’s Story Sprouts, Shoots, Grows, Germinates, etc.

Izabela’s origin story as a plant designer starts, oddly enough, with an asthma attack. Afterwards, a holistic doctor suggested that she collect plants to help increase the air quality of her home. Two, ten, twenty plants later, Izabela was in deep. One popular Instagram (and Facebook) account documenting her plant-designing adventures later, her self-taught career finds her decorating homes for clients like Michael Bublé. Not bad. So, who better to turn to about the ins and outs of plant décor than Jankus herself?

Looks like the Sven sectional, Thetis Flame Tweed Chair, and Mara Coffee Table have made fast friends with Izabela’s green roomies.

The Benefits of Houseplants: Why Have ‘Em?

Green is Good (for Your Body)

Just as Izabela’s holistic doc prescribed, studies have shown that plants scrub the air around them of toxins, which is a very nice thing for them to do. Thank you, plants. A study out of Washington State University found that 20 percent of household dust was reduced with plants. That’s in addition to those pesky airborne microbes that irritate or infect your airways, which are selflessly absorbed by our green friends.

Izabela’s houseplants getting the requisite amount of natural light, alongside the Sven.

And if that wasn’t enough, that study also shares that plants can even help accelerate our bodies’ healing process. Their leafy presence in hospital recovery rooms is known to contribute to patients healing faster, thanks to the soothing effects of ornamental horticulture. So again, thanks plants.

Green is Good (for Your Mind)

          “My philosophy about plants… I think plants are happiness. When you put a plant in a room, it changes everything. It changes the mood, it changes the vibe.”

Izabela’s take is more than just a great personal philosophy: at least one study has shown that people who “spend extended lengths of time around plants tend to have better relationships with others. This is due to measurable increases in feelings of compassion; another effect of exposure to ornamental plants.” Such kind, sensitive beings.

The same study also details how cultivating, caring for, and spending time with plants can reduce stress in people’s lives: “Plants soothe human beings and provide a positive way for people to channel their stress into nurturing.”

To that end, Izabela considers her sizable collection of plants to be a part of the family — little green dependents that she’s even taught her human children how to interact with. “They understand [that] they’re alive beings and appreciate [the plants] but don’t mess with them. It’s pretty good. Thank god because I have a lot of plants.”

If you work from home, houseplants have you covered there, too. Keeping plants around helps people concentrate and can even improve memory. Studies (yes, more studies!) suggest that “tasks performed while under the calming influence of nature are performed better and with greater accuracy, yielding a higher quality result.”

One more time: thank you plants.

The Geome sideboard and Lignum bookshelf double nicely as homes for Izabela’s plants.

Styling Houseplants: How to Choose ‘Em and Place ‘Em

For Izabela, this is only answerable on an individual, person-by-person basis. She believes people need to choose a plant that’s going to thrive in their own home environment, which is why she likes to have a chat with potential clients first — and doesn’t have a website. “If I had my products on a website, people would go there and buy without talking to me…  it would be so easy to sell people thousands of dollars worth of plants, but then they’ll kill them.”

To avoid committing herbicide, here are some questions to consider.

What Makes a Happy Home for a Houseplant?

Understanding your home and how plants will live in it is key, Izabela stresses. “The first thing I say is ‘let’s talk about your light condition.’” Then there are the follow-ups.

“What direction do your windows face and is your place cold, is it warm, do you have fireplaces close to where the plants will be placed? Do you use a lot of heaters? Is it going to be close to a door that has a draft? These are the questions you have to ask because plants are living beings… they act differently in every single spot you place them.”

All important things to keep in mind when choosing a plant. (Thankfully, there are pros out there like Izabela to help guide us green-thumbed newbies out there). But once you do have that sorted, are there best practices for styling your home with houseplants?

Dirt & Décor: Is There a Perfect Style of Plant for Your Space?

Again, for Izabela, it’s subjective. “For example, some people think that fiddle-leaf fig trees are so beautiful, and some don’t feel attracted to them at all, right?” This also extends to whether plants themselves have a particular style. “I don’t think, oh this is a modern plant, this is a boho plant. I think all plants are modern or boho or whatever other style.”

Izabela believes choosing a plant is a deeply personal endeavor:

“It has to be an attraction for the person. It’s like when you’re looking for a mate. Maybe what you’ll find attractive is not going to be attractive to me, so the client has to look at the plant and make that connection and say, oh yes, I can envision this plant in this corner or I can envision this plant in my bedroom.”

And once that spark has happened organically, Izabella steps in, “when they say ‘oh yes I love the look of this plant,’ then I’ll discuss with them if they have the light conditions for this plant.”

A practical romance we can all get behind.

Houseplants, natural light, cute dog, the Sven, Otio, and Mara — Izabela has assembled the living room dream team.

You Have ‘Em, You Love ‘Em, Now What?

Okay, so you’ve got the right light conditions, you’ve got your new houseplants, and you’re smitten. What’s next? 

Making sure you take care of your plants properly. Thankfully we’ve got a handy guide for taking care of your new roomies right here.

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