Home & Design

Green Acre #447: Earth Tones

The plant-filled painting destined for the greenhouse, if it ever gets built. / Photo by Stephanie Cavanaugh.

By Stephanie Cavanaugh

MANY (MANY) YEARS ago I was dating a guy who became my first husband, a move my father called “a good first marriage,” which didn’t bode well. How right Dad was.

I should have seen this when Alphonse* and I were dating and he paired a brown velvet sofa, which I quite liked, with a multi-hued green shag rug, a combination I found repulsive. Dreary. Like someone vomited salad on the floor. I told him so; he ignored me.

While I quite like brown, green was never my color. I dropped out of Girl Scouts because of the uniform. I backed out of being a bridesmaid at a cousin’s wedding because of the dress. I itch to remember it. (I invented a fine excuse, blaming it on my little sister, who was also asked to attend.) St. Patrick’s Day has always been problematic.

Last week, the publisher of Prime Women, an online magazine for which I write a weekly column on fashion, suggested I devote my next piece to green and brown as an haute-style color trend. (Though I sit at my desk in tatty sweats, popping candy corn, I find I have a fount of opinions.)

At first, this reminded me of the ex, and then I realized with a startle that I live in a house that is almost entirely shades of green and brown: chestnut moldings, doors, staircase; dark-stained pine floors; green walls in the living room, foyer, and master bedroom; flowery paper in the kitchen and upstairs bath, which also has a dark green ceiling. 

Maybe what made the combination so unappealing was that our apartment was in Manhattan, overlooking a parking lot. In a house, with gardens front and rear, green and brown feels natural. The house itself became part of the garden—even more so in winter, when the more tender plants get moved inside and palm fronds tickle your neck when you’re sitting on the sofa.

On our last trip to Florida, a sad farewell to my beautiful sister Jeanie, My Prince and I rented a truck to haul various bits and pieces back to DC. Included among them was a thrift-shop find, an impulse purchase enabled only by that truck: an enormous painting of a plant-filled atrium that goggled my eye. When our back porches are finished, this would go on one wall, I said. Baby, who was standing beside me, applauded the concept.† $250, the helpful woman at the desk said.


While repairing the back porches (and resurrecting my greenhouse) are still a dream, and the painting can’t be exposed to the weather, into the dining room it went, filling a third of the space on one wall. A pair of loopy-iron bistro chairs set in front give it the air of a café. It’s hard not to get caught up in its charm, which will be intensified when the garden’s parlor palms come inside. I fancy setting them near the painting, as if it’s welcoming me in for a visit.  

A green carpet might be nice.


∗ Not his real name.

† The older The Prince and I get, the closer Baby gets to inheriting all of my frequently over-the-top finds, most of which her Personal Prince Pete would otherwise reject and including items she has contributed and covet—here’s looking at you, peacock feather boa.

One thought on “Green Acre #447: Earth Tones

  1. Maggie Hall says:

    I could walk for ever through that new work of art adorning your home – ‘am “green” with envy!

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