Affordable art: Textiles as art

Filling your home with lovely art shouldn’t cost you a fortune, so I’m running this Affordable Art series where I talk about economical ways to personalise your walls. The first post in the series was about Art Calendars, and for this second post, I’m talking about using textiles as art.

FABRIC
Have you seen a pretty fabric you love but can’t think of where to use it in your home? Hang it on your wall!

Marimekko fabric as art
A painterly Marimekko fabric turned into hanging art by Anu from Nalle’s House
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@michellematangi on Instagram framed this stunning fabric for her bedroom
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A gallery of beautiful framed fabrics is such a great alternative to prints! Image: St Frank

TEA TOWELS
Many tea towels have fantastic arty designs and really feel too gorgeous to wipe dishes with. Considering that a tea towel is usually priced between £8-£12, that is incredible value for a great sized piece of art. You can usually use economical standard sized frames: either 50x70cm or A1 size with a custom mount, or make an easy hanging kit with wooden dowels and string.

There are countless designs of tea towels with themes of kitchen art, bar art, typography, bold graphics, animals, dinosaurs, sea life, humour, romance, maps, architecture, gardening, icons of the past or present… the list is endless! So if there’s a room in your home where you want seriously affordable art, look for tea towels! If the same design is available as a print on art paper, it’ll definitely be a lot more expensive! I’d get the tea towel :-).

Framed Tea Towels by Bianca French For Pineapple
How chic do these framed graphic tea towels look as part of a black and white gallery in the living room of Bianca of French for Pineapple?

SCARVES
The intro in this magazine article says it all really –

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Image: Martha Stewart Living

If you’ve inherited a gorgeous vintage scarf, or scored a pretty one in a charity shop, or even nabbed one with a modern painterly or bold graphic design in a sale, it might just be the perfect accessory for your wall… if you don’t plan to wear it, that is.

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Image: The Design Chaser
Framed orange Hermes scarf above bar
Image: Elements of Style

Have you used a textile as art? Or framed anything else that’s unexpected? I’d love to hear your ideas!


10 of the most easygoing houseplants

10 easygoing hard to kill plants

It’s undeniable how much life, movement and energy houseplants bring to an interior, not to mention their excellent air purifying properties. We all want them in our homes but many people are turning to faux plants because they don’t know what plants to get that they won’t end up killing.

There are lots of posts flying around the blogosphere about easy houseplants that are apparently hard to kill. It amuses me when many of these articles list plants like English ivy and fiddle leaf fig. This winter my English ivy bit the dust despite not being totally neglected. So unfortunately for me, it is killable. And I often come across a distressed conversation about fiddle leaf figs dropping leaves, so they definitely aren’t easy. Some articles even list maidenhair ferns – ha! I’ve honestly never come across a bigger diva of a plant. If you’re not misting it every few hours and pretty much serenading it, it’ll probably die on you.

I class a plant as easy only if it can happily survive in a dry centrally-heated home during the dark months of winter with just occasional watering. This post is an actual-experience roundup of reeeeally easygoing plants that have survived a couple of winters in my home with very little care. These plants are content in a range of light conditions. They are also relatively easy and cheap to obtain, so there’s no fear of being much out of pocket if the worst should happen, although with these plants, that can only happen if you drown them. Nothing kills a plant faster than overwatering.

1.  Zamioculcas zamifolia (ZZ plant / Zanzibar Gem)

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One of my two ZZ plants

The ZZ plant, for me, is most handsome plant on this list, and the easiest. It’s an upright plant with gorgeous glossy leaves that almost look fake! It’s fine in any light away from direct sunlight – I have one in a corner that gets bright indirect light [image above] and another in a very shady corner. The one in the lighter location gets more growth but the one in shade is still fine, it just grows slower. The ZZ plant likes it very dry: this winter I’ve watered mine just twice. Once would probably have been enough. In the warmer months I water it approximately once every 6-8 weeks… depending on when I remember. This plant is so chilled out it really doesn’t care. Do not water it if the soil is even remotely damp. The only reason not to have it in your home is if you have pets or kids who may try to eat it as it is toxic if ingested.

2.  Aspidistra elatior (Cast Iron plant)

Cast iron plant
@thedesignchaser’s desk holding a large cast iron plant

This magnificent plant can survive conditions that most indoor plants would die in, hence the name Cast Iron plant. It prefers bright indirect light but also grows well in low light areas and is not fussy about regular water either. Keep it away from direct sunlight so you don’t scorch the leaves. Overwatering and repotting too often can cause problems for this plant, so it’s perfect for neglectful indoor gardeners. Just leave it alone for the most part! The bigger it is, the better it looks, but it grows very slowly so if you find one that’s a good size for a good price, snap it up!

3.  Sansevieria (Snake plant or Mother-in-law’s tongue)

Snake plants
@houseplantjournal’s enviable snake plant collection

The snake plant is nicknamed Mother-in-law’s Tongue, because it’s virtually unkillable :-). Well, you can kill it if you overwater it. Snake plants are succulents and like it dry. I tend to water mine approximately monthly in summer and very rarely in winter. Snake plants come in many different varieties as displayed in the image above by Darryl Cheng of @houseplantjournal. They prefer bright indirect light but are content in shady corners too. If you’re keeping yours in a shady spot, you’ll need to water it even less because it is not able to use up excess moisture as much as if it were in brighter location. Remember to water the soil and not the leaves because if water is left in the leaf rosette it can lead to rot. They really don’t like being wet!

4.  Chamaedorea elegans (Parlour palm)

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Parlour palm: pretty and delicate-looking but really quite tough!

For such a pretty plant, the parlour palm is remarkably tough and easy to look after. It is happy anywhere away from direct sunlight (although a very dark location is not recommended) and tolerates dry air well. I only water it when the soil feels dry. If you have the inclination to mist plants, this one will enjoy the attention, but I rarely mist mine and it has been absolutely fine.

5.  Philodendron scandens (Heartleaf philodendron)

Philodendron Scandens
@lapalomasuzarte’s trailing heartleaf Philodendron

This easy to keep plant has beautiful deep green heart-shaped leaves that trail down (great for shelves!) or can climb up a moss pole. They’re happy anywhere away from direct sunlight, although could get a bit scraggly in very low light. Pinch out the stems to encourage bushy growth. The soil needs to be left to dry out before watering during winter, but it will appreciate slightly moist soil and monthly feeding during the growing seasons of spring and summer.

6.  Chlorophytum comosum (Spider plant)

Spider plant
A very healthy looking spider plant in the gorgeous home of @artynads

The spider plant can be kept in almost any position away from direct sunlight, except the darkest of corners. If it gets pale and droopy, it definitely needs a drink, so it’s easy to judge when it needs water. It’s a smashing plant for a hanging basket or shelf where the leaves and stems can grow freely.

7.  Haworthia Fasciata / Haworthia Attenuata (Zebra cactus / Zebra plant)

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Zebra Haworthia – a striking little succulent. Image from The Plant Recipe Book by Baylor Chapman; photography by Paige Green.

Isn’t this just the cutest little succulent? I love its zebra stripes! It’ll be happy in bright to medium light and is very tolerant to underwatering, but will succumb quickly to rotting if overwatered, so only water when the soil feels dry.

8.  Aloe vera

Aloe Vera houseplant
Aloe vera – low maintenance, gorgeously structured and useful. Image credit: Room for Tuesday

The Aloe vera is also called the First Aid plant because the gel in its leaves is renowned for its healing properties – a great plant to have in the home. Place it in a bright spot out of direct sunlight and water it when the soil feels dry. Easy peasy.

9.  Ceropegia woodii (String of hearts)

Ceropegia Woodii
Ceropegia woodii, or string of hearts. Image credit: Sprout London

This trailing succulent vine has the loveliest little heart shaped leaves, hence the name String of hearts. This charming plant is happy in bright light or medium shade and needs very little care. It hates being overwatered (notice the running theme?) so only water it when the soil feels dry.

10.  Monstera deliciosa (Swiss cheese plant)

Monstera deliciosa
My monstera deliciosa is very happy in my bright living room

The Swiss cheese plant is an absolute stunner but needs a fair bit of space in a room. It’s so popular that much of the current interiors botanical trend is modelled on the gorgeous shape of its leaves. This is a fast growing plant that makes a big impact, and can be pruned to keep it looking tidy. It has aerial roots which I gently push into the soil but you can leave them be if you prefer. I have it in bright indirect light and water it when the soil feels dry, with occasional feeding during growing seasons.

So these are the 10 plants that I find to be low maintenance in my home. If you want to explore even more plants, I have the following on my wishlist which I hear are all easy-care: Rubber plant, Peace lily, Chinese evergreen, Kentia palm, and String of pearls.

A few pointers to keep in mind for happy plants:

  • Plant them in pots with good drainage. About 10 minutes after watering them, if there is any excess water in the saucer or catch pot, discard it. Do not leave them soaking in water.
  • Good appropriate potting soil will really help your plants. I have found IKEA use very heavy soil that stays wet for ages so any plants I buy from there are promptly repotted when I get them home.
  • For many plants, allow the soil to dry before the next watering.
  • As far as possible, keep your plants away from radiators or draughts.
  • Most plants should to be kept away from direct sunlight to avoid scorched leaves.
  • Read up about your plants to understand the care (soil, light, water, plant feed, humidity and repotting) that they need and also to check their toxicity if you have kids or pets. Websites such as www.guide-to-houseplants.com and www.houseplantsexpert.com are great for such information.
  • Finally, even though they tolerate a fair bit of neglect, don’t leave them to gather dust. Show them some love by occasionally wiping down the leaves with a damp cloth or showering them to keep them looking gorgeous.

10 comprehensive tips to nail your shelf styling

10 comprehensive tips to nail your shelf styling - Arty Home.jpg

Shared a #shelfie on Instagram lately? We know what a joy pretty looking shelves are, right? They look stylish and interesting, give you endless styling opportunities, allow you to showcase your personality and design aesthetic, and are pretty much a work of art. But it can also be daunting to try to create the perfect shelfie.

Here are the tips and tricks that I follow when styling shelves which I hope will have you faffing happily on your way to a beautiful shelfie!

1.  EDIT YOUR STUFF
I’m putting this first before you even start on your shelves because cluttered shelves are not where we’re going with this post. Anything that isn’t useful or beautiful or really sentimental needs to go. Be free of tatty tat. It’s very cathartic, I promise.

2.  DECIDE ON A COLOUR PALETTE
This tip is really more for decorative shelves rather than your home library shelves which have lots of different spine colours, and I am not about to suggest you turn the spines in for a neutral look because I find this a ridiculous thing to do.

F-ck your bookshelf with the spines facing in.png Yeah, don’t do this. Image from the brilliant Fuck Your Noguchi Coffee Table

So if you do have lots of books, see Tip 3 for how you can make them look aesthetically pleasing.

If your shelves are more decorative rather than for housing a whole library of books, a limited colour palette really helps to give your shelves a cohesive and soothing look. You don’t have to be strict about it at all, a naughty colour pop never hurt anyone!

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Impeccable styling by Amber Interiors using monochrome and natural tones

The fun part? You can change the vibe of your shelves when your mood desires by changing the colour palette. Case in point: Emily Henderson’s amazing shelves in her previous home styled in two very different ways:

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Emily’s shelves looking cheerful and fun. The art on the top left seems to have informed the colour palette.
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The same shelves, looking classy in a neutral palette.

3.  START WITH BOOKS AND OTHER LARGE ITEMS
Some shelves are for housing book collections, while others are more decorative and hold a select few tomes along with objets d’art. Wherever your shelves fall on this spectrum, I find it a good idea to start with the books you want on the shelves, along with any pretty storage boxes and lamps if you have them. Adding these larger items first helps you to visually balance the layout of your shelves so you don’t have one side looking heavier than another. Stack some books vertically and others horizontally (by height). When it comes to styling, I treat a box as a horizontal stack of books. Vary the positioning of your books: some in the centre of a shelf, some to the side.

Where you have a lots of books, try colour coding them. And if you can, paint the back of your bookshelves in a dark colour – it just looks better when you have lots of colourful spines. Also, pull your books to the edge of the shelf: this looks a lot smarter than having books at different depths.

Built In Bookcase Styled by Arty Home
My built-in bookshelf with varying arrangements of books, including a row of colour-coded books
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@styleophileuk’s colour coded bookshelves
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Bookshelves with colour-coded books. Image: Better Homes & Gardens

4.  ADD ART/PHOTO FRAMES
Large art at the back of the shelves layered with smaller art or objects in front of it add dimension to your shelves. Or you can be really bold with art and mount it on your shelves like in the image below:

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Beautiful bookshelf with mounted art. Image: Room for Tuesday

5.  ADD SMALLER ITEMS
Little decorative objects add so much interest to shelves. Let your pretty little things shine atop book stacks, in front of art, as bookends, etc.

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Afri-Scandi vibe in my dining room

6.  BLING
Not compulsory by any means, but I find warm metallics are great for adding a touch of luxe to your shelves.

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My simple alcove shelves: I do love me a bit of gold

7.  ADD GREENERY
You really can’t beat the life and movement that a house plant brings to a shelf! Succulents or trailing plants work best on shelves where height is limited. You can also try a little vase filled with flowers or leafy branches.

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Even the simplest of shelves come alive with a bit of greenery. Image: Lark & Linen

8.  DISPERSE COLOUR
Make sure the main colours in your palette are dispersed throughout your shelves (unless you’re going for a colour-coded look with your books as seen in Tip 4). This helps to balance the overall look and also helps the eye to travel across the shelves.

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@roomfortuesday‘s beautifully balanced shelves. Look for the blues – see how the colour is peppered around the shelves? Same with the black, white, neutral and metallic tones.

9.  LAYER AND VARY HEIGHTS
Layer by placing larger items behind and smaller ones in front. Play with heights: position your decorative objects in a triangular or mountain range formation; raise smaller objects by placing them on books or boxes. Whatever you do, stay away from symmetry.

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Lovely layered shelves by Amber Interiors

10. WHITE SPACE
There are some designers who advocate leaving no white space at all, but I’m an advocate of less is more, and I think white space allows your eyes to rest between visual stimuli, making your shelves look more soothing.

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Stunning shelf styling by @stylecuratorau on Instagram

These tips are not just for shelves, you can apply these principles to console or mantel styling too. It always takes me a bit of, er, faffing, before I’m happy with my shelves, so don’t be afraid to play around and experiment with different looks. Most importantly, have fun with your styling! Do you have any tips for shelf styling? Do share them in the comments!