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Bring the Outside In

Nature—in its myriad forms—is the inspiration for truly unique decorating.

Back in March, I took a walk and was reminded of how many colors are still out there despite the time of year. I came across the expected red and purple berries but also: thin, red, naked boughs of a tree that look like the color of slapped skin or your stained hands after picking berries; a startled-looking white dogwood leaf; hearty roses, including one blushing beauty with a soft, custard-yellow glow on its top petals; pink and white camellias tricked into an early bloom; purple-headed fuzz ball flowers that reminded me of the bloated bodies of sleepy bees; strange ripe, red berries the size of grapes with bumpy skin like a jackfruit or a lychee; the fetal buds of cherry blossoms, like pussy willows to the touch; white and red bark sloughing off trees like old, peeling wallpaper; silvery grey clumps of lavender gathering their violet hue and soapy scent, greens that aren’t only green if you look really closely but, rather, a melange of cool purples and autumnal reds. Every color is part of some other color, either presently, or in its past or future. When the sun shines on a tree, it’s almost like a kaleidoscope. I love how you see fall leaves clinging to naked branches while spring buds sit patiently waiting on others. It’s truly the convergence of new life and decay occurring in beautiful harmony.

That’s why I was so moved by Erica Tanov’s gorgeous new book Design by Nature: Creating Layered, Lived-In Spaces—the first book of its kind. Inspired by textures, colors, and patterns from nature, she’s created imaginative home décor ideas that will truly imbue your space with the ambiance of the natural world in surprising ways.

Divided into five chapters—Wood, Water, Dirt, Weeds, and Decay—no part of the cycle of life is left out, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised and charmed by how even the supposed “ugly” side of the outdoors can be transformed. Here, just in time for Earth Day, are two favorite ideas from each part of the book. Play around with some of them yourself or see where your imagination might take you when you ruminate on the great outdoors.

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wood interior design

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  • Tufted, aged leather on chairs inspired by the crackling knots in wood
  • Shaggy pillows from alpaca yarn symbolize lichen hanging off trees



shimmering accent wall

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  • A shimmering wall of layered brass sequins that recall the gentle glow of sun hitting the water
  • A plant-derived indigo blue dye used for fabrics like curtains




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  • An assortment of ceramic vessels used to hold fruit or findings from outside, like seed pods and dried flowers, echo nature’s fallen treasures
  • Pillows with earth tones and graphic patterns tossed casually on a daybed mimic a forest floor strewn with leaves and pine cones



shag carpet


  • A shaggy Turkish textile at the foot of the bed reminiscent of feathery plumes of pampas grass
  • The mixing of patterns, prints, and colors in a kid’s room emulate the unexpected color and cacophony of weeds



lace curtains



  • An intricate lace curtain found in a flea market closely resembles the delicate veins of a decomposing ivy leaf
  • A Gothic settee upholstered in horsehair, split and ravaged by age, reveals its history layer by layer—and achieves beauty even as it slowly falls apart






Photo Credit: iStock


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