"An Expert's Guide to Styling Your House with Plants"by NICOLA HEATH & Photography by PARKER BLAIN
One leaf. That’s all it takes to tie different elements of a space together says interior stylist Ashley Macedo. In partnership with Henkell Blanc de Blancs, a stylish new way to enjoy sparkling wine, we find out how.
Interior design isn’t any one thing. From floor coverings to lighting, food presentation to artworks, great styling is a confluence of factors and materials – be it the unique imperfections in handmade tableware or the sleek white label of Henkell’s Blanc de Blancs. But according to Sydney-based interior designer and stylist, Ashley Macedo, there’s one thing that can unite them all: greenery.
“I use greenery across all aspects of my day-to-day work life,” says Ashley Macedo, Sydney-based interior designer and stylist. “From property styling to photo shoots, in my retail store and at weddings and events. Even in my home and studio. Greenery is my go-to element to finish off a space or project.”
Macedo runs Electric Eyes Homewares and Poco Uno Entertainment and Events. In her work she uses living plants in pots and baskets, fresh cut greenery from markets and gardens in vases, and sometimes faux greenery – “if the job requires it” – to craft spaces and installations like suspended chandeliers, table runners, bouquets and buttonholes. “There’s never a day without greenery for me.”
She says greenery breathes life into a space, creating shape, colour, texture and harmony: “Greenery can turn sharp angles soft, curved walls even more curvaceous and fill quirky little spaces with that pop of freshness and colour you’ve been struggling to find.”
There are no rules
Macedo says the first rule of styling with greenery is to do what works for you. “If you follow rules, then you’re not creating your own individual style,” she says.
Begin by identifying the mood you want your space to have, then find a plant that creates it, “whether it’s from the foliage, the colour or the height,” says Macedo. Incorporate different tones and shapes, use a single plant to make a bold statement, or different-sized plants to create a tiered effect.
When styling with fresh-cut leaves, consider how much space you have to work with. “How much greenery can your vase hold? Does it look better with a large bunch of foliage, or a single leaf like a palm or monstera? Sometimes less is more,” says Macedo.
Where to find it
When it comes to sourcing greenery, the options are endless, says Macedo. “It comes down to accessibility and how far you want to travel to find that perfect palm or bunch of spinning gum.”
To find it, prepare to roam. “Hit your local nursery or boutique homewares stores for indoor and outdoor plants,” she says. “Visit your local florist for fresh-cut greenery, and then, if you dare, travel out to the flower markets where you’ll find every style of greenery or leaf you could ever imagine. Talk to as many people as possible before making your purchase so you know you’re getting the right style of greenery for your space, as well as to ensure your greenery will last as long possible.”
Place the right plant in the right room
Macedo says one of the most common mistakes people make is putting a plant in the wrong place. “Succulents are a great example of this,” she says. “People place them inside and water them regularly, when really, succulents should be outdoors in full sun with minimal water.”
The maidenhair fern is another example. “Everyone loves the maidenhair fern, but they don’t realise it’s one of the most difficult plants to look after,” says Macedo. “Its soil needs to be moist all the time. People are left disappointed when their fern dies only a week after they purchased it.”
Which plant should you choose?
Is your past littered with murdered maidenhairs? Soggy suculents? The Zanzibar Gem is for you. “Let’s just say it lives on neglect,” says Macedo. “It has stunning two-tone waxy green foliage and requires very minimal watering, as well as not needing much natural light. It can work in most areas and rooms, although I’d avoid bathrooms as it won’t like the residual moisture.”
For the greener thumbs out there, Macedo says the bird’s nest fern works well clustered with other plants or placed on its own on a stool or bench. “Strelitzia nicolai, commonly called the bird of paradise, is perfect for areas where you want height and elegance from your plant,” she says. “It has tall, oversized foliage, and when big enough will produce a stunning blue flower."
If you want wow factor, you can’t go past popular palm varieties like kentia (Howea forsteriana), golden cane (Dypsis lutescens) and raphis or lady palm. “Keep in mind the palms like a lot of water so require your constant attention,” says Macedo. “They won’t do well positioned in direct sunlight as their foliage will burn.”
Macedo is particularly fond of plants from the Ficus family: the rubber plant (Ficus elastica), for its “stunning burgundy foliage”, and the fiddle-leaf fig (Ficus lyrata), an “on-trend” plant with luxurious oversized foliage.
Do your research
“Knowledge is power,” Macedo says. “The more research you do, the more you talk to your local nursery staff, or the more you chat to your friends and colleagues who also share a love of greenery, the more you’ll start to understand and learn about what greenery works for you.”
Also: don’t be afraid to experiment. “Trial and error is key,” says the stylist. “Keep working away at your styling game and you’ll hit the mark when you know it breathes new life to your home.”
This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Henkell Blanc de Blancs. Made from premium white grapes, Henkell Blanc de Blancs is the ideal stylish sparkling for making a fresh first impression. Follow @HenkellAU