Home & Design

Green Acre #228: Plants v. Decorating Flaws? Plants Win!

The living room chez LittleBird Stephanie, where greens do their thing, drawing attention away from whatever decorational deficits might otherwise draw the eye. Note how the palm fronds at center sit in a broken stone pedestal inside which lurks a plastic bottle that holds their water. The pedestal sits atop an old radiator, but that’s camouflaged by a sequined wool shawl. / Photo by Stephanie Cavanaugh.


MY PRINCE complained about my last article.

“You made the house sound too elegant,” he said. “People will think we live in a mansion.”

“Oh?” said I.

He took a deep breath and began. “The wallpapers sounded really nice, but there are all  these rips and things . . . ”

And there he stopped, which was a good thing, because loath as I ever am to assess blame for the dings and distresses around here, I might have said something.

It is times like this that I genuinely admire my ability to remain serene and clearly sensitive to his feelings. I’m never one for assessing blame, but if I were I might say . . . And whose fault is that? (Perhaps in cruder terms, but as already said, I am just too nice). 

It is his job to fix things, eventually. It is my job to hide that which needs fixing, immediately. 

Unfortunately, he is always in the process of fixing something, then gets distracted and starts fixing something else, never finishing the first thing he was fixing. And so I am always busy with distractions of my own.

To that end, we have amassed a great many such distractions: such as tassels, feathers, lighting, shawls and throws, pictures, pillows, vases, candlesticks, screens, mirrors and so many rugs. And books. At the moment, I think most everything is employed somewhere, doing a job. Some things have been doing a job for over 35 years, and what they cover has been hidden so long that neither of us remembers what loiters underneath or behind.

Crack in the wall? Hang a picture. Tatty wallpaper, stick up a mirror. Floor scratched? Rug! Chair rip? Shawl!

Really dim lighting also helps. 

Also feather boas. Toss a feather boa over a screen and, believe me, no one will notice that a seven-foot length of molding that belongs in the hallway is leaning against a dining-room wall (for over a year, but who’s counting?). You might also toss the boa over the molding, if it’s flamboyant enough—presto, no molding!  

And books are a welcome distraction—people tend to snoop about; bodice rippers or Brontë (how do these differ, discuss), Proust or Joyce, etc. Bookies can get caught up in this and not notice the . . . dust. 

Let us not discuss the basement/garden suite.* I really don’t want to go there—that’s a mess that’s beyond me—but what bones it has! What eternal promise! I keep envisioning myself in front of the armoire (a lovely thing that hides a TV) with my yoga mat, flicking on an exercise video and getting myself back into bikini shape at last (damn childbirth). But there are all of these tools strewn about that are needed for fixing the bathroom . . . so I’m forced to sit on the living-room sofa with a bag of chips watching my waist expand. But we are not discussing the basement. 

Did you know I once had a 21-inch waist? That’s neither here nor there, but interesting, I think. 

Of course, plants are a brilliant distraction. Of these we have many. As mentioned last week, they line the mantel, and several live behind the sofa. There is a six-foot schefflera in the dining room. I usually have a bunch of arrangements, as well. These are moved about as necessary.

There is always a mass of greens in the broken pedestal behind the sofa (it sits on the old radiator, cleverly hidden with a sequined wool shawl).  As the pedestal won’t hold water, there’s a plastic bottle shoved into the opening, which not only keeps the greens alive but also acts as a support to keep them erect. There’s also a plastic bottle for greens in the art nouveau vase atop the curio cabinet in the dining room; a beauty that vase is, but it’s been dropped more than a few times so water leaks out the bottom. Fine cheap fix that is. 

There, My Prince. Is that better? Now no one can say I lay claim to a mansion—though, despite the dings and detritus, any home I share with you feels like one. Happy birthday, my beautiful boy.

—Stephanie Cavanaugh

LittleBird “Stephanie Gardens” understands the many varied uses of plants. Among their accomplishments, they hide the dirt outside and the dirt within.

*Did you know that the British do not call basement apartments English Basements? I asked a genuine Brit this once and she harrumphed, “That’s called the garden suite.” 


2 thoughts on “Green Acre #228: Plants v. Decorating Flaws? Plants Win!

  1. Maggie Hall says:

    And MANY HAPPY RETURNS to your “beautiful boy!”

  2. Carol says:

    What a grand tribute!

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