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Sourcebook for Cultivated Living

older | 1 | .... | 77 | 78 | (Page 79) | 80 | 81 | .... | 212 | newer

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    They have a royal warrant over the door, but these tailors of the English hunt still stay as far below the radar as it is possible to be. "We are situated in the heart of the English Shires, the best hunting country in Great Britain," boasts Frank Hall. But that is all the boasting you will hear from this corner of Market Harborough in central England, one of the most anonymous of provincial towns. Discretion suits the clients who come from near and far to be outfitted to perfection.

    The people at Frank Hall do not like to talk about their clients so we will show you around discreetly, trying not to make too much noise.

    Photographs by Kendra Wilson.

    Above: A print hanging in a back room of Frank Hall and Sons, in Market Harborough. Loyal customer Prince Charles is shown riding quietly through a wood in his younger days, dressed in blue and buff, the colors of the Beaufort Hunt.

    Above: Nothing about the exterior of the Frank Hall premises, in a quiet part of town, reveals that it is interesting—except for the piles of jodhpurs and richly colored wool socks tossed over the partition in the window and the royal warrant over the door.

    Above: Jodhpurs and breeches in the making. All of the work in progress is part of the display, or rather it is the display.

    Above: Evening tail coat for the hunt ball, made with fine British wool.

    Above: A utilitarian rack of very superior tweed and wool, including some "pink" coats and a Beaufort blue.

    Above: A bespoke item in the front of the shop. Tweed is worn by regulars in the autumn before the Opening Meet and after the Cheltenham National Hunt Festival in March. It is also worn by guests on a hunt. Like the pink coat, it has an alternative name: Ratcatcher.

    Above: View from my window on a winter's morning, in the heart of Fernie Hunt country. Only top people wear pink (or shall we just say red) coats. And they are only men. The red coat (never "jacket") is worn by the Master of the Hunt and various male members of the hunt staff. Of course women can be masters, but they do not wear red. This person on her "gray" horse could of course be a hunt master, but we'd have to take a close look at her buttons to find out.

    N.N.: This is an update of a post published January 31, 2013 during our Haberdashery week.


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    Found: a potting shed replete with perfectly aged supplies and strewn with useful and beautiful gardening paraphernalia. This potting shed keeps popping onto our Pinterest feed, and we couldn't help but do some sleuthing to track down our favorite items from the beautiful mess. 

    steal this look: a perfect potting shed | gardenista

    Above: We traced this potting shed to the Swedish site Skonahem. Photograph by Clive Tompsett.

    steal this look: a perfect potting shed l gardenista

    Above: Every potting shed needs a proper potting bench. Consider making your own: DIY Planting Table from Scout Regalia.

    steal this look: a perfect potting shed

    Above: Another Country's take on the classic shaker peg rail uses the same upturned pegs as the rail in the photo. A Peg Rail is $199.28.  (See more about how Shaker Peg Rails Saved Christine's Summer Sanity.)

    steal this look: a perfect potting shed | gardenista

    Above: Stacked beneath the rustic potting table are Dome Bamboo Cloches, available from $18.99 at Gifts and Gardens.

    steal this look: a perfect potting shed | gardenista

    Above: We spotted a cheery green tin of Nutscene Garden Twine perched on top of the peg rail; $17 from Los Poblanos Farm Shop.

    steal this look: a perfect potting shed | gardenista  

    Above: Ilse Jacobsens Lace-up Galoshes can be tricky to find for sale in the US, but the stylish Swedish rain boot is available online for 1.149 SEK. UPDATE: A loyal reader alerted us to Splendid Avenue's collection of Ilse Jacobsen boots here in the US. Tall Rubber Rainboots are available for $199.

    steal this look: a perfect potting shed | gardenista

    Above: Hanging from the peg rail, a Haws 5-Liter Long Reach Watering Can; $38 from Casa.

    steal this look: a perfect potting shed | gardenista

    Above: For a vintage look, choose from among the collection of Galvanized Watering Cans on Etsy; from $15.

    steal this look: a perfect potting shed | gardenista

    Above: A stackable Galvanized Round Metal Potato Basket for stowing spuds is $42 from Uptown Country.

    steal this look: a perfect potting shed | gardenista

    Above: Just right for this time of year, a Burgon and Ball Bulb Planter is $25.99 from Life and Home.

    steal this look: a perfect potting shed | gardenista  

    Above: The large blue jars on the potting table have a similar look to Antique Pickling Jars we've seen cropping up at mainstream retailers lately. These antique jars range from $139 to $179 at Pottery Barn.

      steal this look: a perfect potting shed | gardenista

    Above: On the peg rail, a British-made Spear & Jackson Stainless Steel Digging Fork; $59.99 at Grow Organic.

      steal this look: a perfect potting shed | gardenista

    Above: Propped against the wall?  A Spear & Jackson Stainless Steel Spade is $59.99 at Grow Organic.

    To see more of our sleuthing, see our other Steal This Look Posts.

    N.B.: This is an update of a post published October 2, 2013 as part of our Tree Huggers week.


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    When I'm talking about getting plants to flower indoors, I prefer the word "coax" over "force." It sounds kinder, doesn't it? Well, coaxing Lily of the Valley to bloom indoors is a very good thing to do when you're greedy for all the springtime you can get.

    Photographs by Erin Boyle.

    growing lily of the valley indoors, gardenista

    Above: I bought a pot of already-started pips a little more than a week ago and settled them into their new urban home. Today? There are blooms.

    forcing lily of the valley indoors, gardenista

    Above: If you live by a nursery that has Lily of the Valley already started in pots, your work is practically finished. To avoid disturbing the roots, I decided against repotting the pips in favor of disguising the pot  I used garden scissors to trim off the top inch of my pot. If you're looking for a new, sharp pair, see 10 Easy Pieces: Floral Scissors.

     

    forcing lily of the valley indoors, lining wooden box with parchment paper, gardenista

    Above: I lined an old wooden box with a bit of parchment for protection and slipped my plastic pot on top of that. 

    forcing lily of the valley indoors, gardenista

    Above: After the pot was nestled into a corner, I used moss that I picked up at a local florist shop to cover the edges of the pot. You can also use preserved moss; Green Dried Preserved Moss is $2.99 from Jamali Garden.

     

    forcing lily of the valley indoors, gardenista

    Above: I broke my moss into smaller bits so that it fit neatly around my pot, but didn't cover any of the emerging pips.

    forcing lily of the valley indoors, gardenista

    Above: The wooden box fit squarely enough on our windowsill, which gets filtered light for most of the day. I made sure to give the pips a good drenching mist every morning and night. For similar results, you could use a Nickel Plant Mister ($20 from Terrain).

     

    starting lily of the valley indoors, gardenista

    Above: Ten days later, there were flowers. 

    lily of the valley pips, gardenista

    Above: If you're hoping to get your hands a little bit more dirty, you can also plant Lily of the Valley pips directly yourself, though in my experience whether they'll flower is a bit more of a gamble.

    forcing lily of the valley indoors, gardenista

    Above: A bag of pips I picked up at a local nursery came with soil which I moistened before planting. A kit of 12 Lily of the Valley Pips Plus Potting Soil is $29 from White Flower Farm.

    forcing lily of the valley indoors, gardenista

    Above: I gave a small trim to too-long roots and then potted them in an assortment of small glass jars.

    forcing lily of the valley indoors, gardenista

    Above: I left just a small bit of the pips exposed and placed them on my windowsill alongside my other plants.

    starting lily of the valley indoors, gardenista

    Above: The pips that I started myself grew quickly, but they're not showing any signs of flowering. I'm not sure if it's because I didn't use pips that have been specially prepared for growth indoors, but happily, I've gotten my landlord to agree to let me transplant the experiment outdoors. Here's hoping that they might flower some other spring.

    For more about Lily of the Valley, your grandmother's favorite plant, see Would Spring Still Smell Like Spring Without Lily of the Valley?

    N.B.: This is an update of a post published May 8, 2013 as part of our Kitchen Gardens week.


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    Perhaps it's unconventional to embark on gardening projects in a tiny space, but since I potted my first farmers' market geranium last spring, I've been searching for a tidy place to store my leftover potting soil. I didn't want to settle for something ugly and I didn't want to purchase a new bag each time I had the need for a little dirt, so I decided to bide my time until I stumbled upon the perfect solution. A few weeks ago, it finally happened:

    Photographs by Erin Boyle.

    Above: Can you spot my potting soil?

    I'm a woman who's firmly committed to only purchasing things which I find to be both beautiful and useful. William Morris taught me well. Generally, this means opting for vintage or decorative storage solutions rather than plastic or rubber options. There aren't many hiding spaces in a tiny apartment, and I'm not willing to stare at a plastic tub while I eat my dinner. Staring at a vintage pretzel tin with a beautiful patina? That I can handle.

    Above: I found this vintage bakery box at a local home shop, but I have a hunch that scouring flea markets and yard sales could get you a similar treasure. On Etsy, for instance, you can purchase a Vintage Metal Bin for $35.

    The key here is really the lid and the size; the fact that the lid is hinged is just an added benefit. At roughly 12 inches square, this cube is large enough to fit a significant volume of soil, without being so large that its storage in a small apartment is comical.

    Above: My local hardware store sells organic potting soil in 4-quart bags. That's a small bag as far as potting soil goes, but when you're only wanting to add a scoop or two to a pot, you'll still have a lot left over. I'm normally not a proponent of plastic bags, but when I spotted these Ziploc Big Bags at the hardware store, they seemed like the perfect solution for keeping my leftover soil neat and tidy and most important, moist.

    I opted for a box of Ziplocs in the 3-gallon size. To fill mine, I placed the empty bag in my tin first, and then added soil. A 4-quart bag of soil fills a 3-gallon bag about a third of the way. If you'd rather not transfer your soil from one plastic bag to another, be on the lookout for potting soil that comes in a re-sealable bag. If you find one, you can just plop the whole bag directly into your tin.

    Since I had extra room--and an extra bag--I filled the remaining half of the box with a bag of bird seed. (Yes, we're still at it with those house finches).

    After filling both bags, I sealed them and folded down the tops to fit neatly into the tin.

    See more of Erin's DIY Adventures.

    Now I have easy access to my potting soil, a pleasant perch for my rabbit-foot fern, and a little extra floor space in the back of my closet. (For a similar house plant, consider a Live 6-Inch Rabbit's Foot Fern for $24.50 from Pottery Barn.)

    City dwellers, I'm curious: what storage solutions have you found for your potting soil?

    See more of Erin's DIY Adventures.

    N.B.: This is an update of a post published March 14, 2013 during our Do-It-Yourself week.


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    I don't have anything against the idea of TV; in fact I consider TV to be the new novel. When I power-watch three or four—OK, five—episodes, I get the same woozy, drugged-out high as from being lost in a book. What I hate is how a TV looks, a black hole on the wall trying to suck light out of a whole universe. Plus, it has ugly sidekicks skulking around: modems, woofers, blink-y black boxes, and cords. Here's how to fix those problems:

    But first: how did I come own an enormous flat screen TV in the first place? The usual way. My husband tricked me into it.

    About three years ago, we moved across the country and my husband, arriving in New York City a few weeks ahead of me, took advantage of my absence to rush out to a harshly lit electronics store on Broadway to buy the biggest TV he could find—possibly the largest one in existence at that time. I got to town to find it propped on cinder blocks in the otherwise unfurnished living room of our apartment, with about a billion black snaky cords spilling out and attaching it to a life support system of bizarrely pulsating blink-y box things. "Isn't it beautiful?" my husband asked.

    Of course I wanted to get rid of it. I mean, I haven't even known how to turn on a TV since the advent of those remote control things, much less how to change a channel (are they still called channels?). But then the weather turned cold and gray, and I got sucked into watching episode after episode of Downton Abbey or Mad Men or Grey's Anatomy. (This is a much more instantaneous way to entertain oneself in New York, by the way, than bundling up in a coat and boots and scarf and gloves and going into the hall to wait for the creaky old elevator; riding slo-o-o-wly down nine flights with the neighbors who you don't know and their dog; walking to the subway; breathing through your mouth to avoid the bad underground smell while waiting for a train, and then riding it somewhere to do something.)

    By the time I moved back to California and remodeled my house a year ago, the TV was my friend. I wanted to find a way to keep it in my life without ruining the beauty of the new, no-cinder-block decor of my house. This is where my friend Stephanie Dorfman, a designer and certified cord removal specialist, stepped into the picture.

    Photographs by Michelle Slatalla.

    Above: Do you feel this the biggest TV you have ever seen? No? Good. It's an optical illusion.

    Secret No. 1: To minimize the TV's hulk-iness, Stephanie surrounded it with deep bookshelves. The screen sits flush with the front of the shelves, making the TV seem barely three-dimensional and no more obtrusive than, say, a chalkboard.

    Secret No. 2: The TV is surrounded by a generously sized (it's 5 inches wide) frame with a beveled edge, like a picture frame, further diminishing the screen. (The frame is attached by magnets and pops off so my husband can rummage around behind it with cords, etc.).

    Secret No. 3: Notice how the whole wall—shelves, cabinetry, frame—is painted a single neutral, light color. This further downplays the TV, which is mounted on an arm against a false wall that's shallower than the wall behind the surrounding bookshelves; cords attached to the TV drop behind it into the cabinets below.

    Dealing with TVs is one of those design dilemmas that never goes away. In other words, the size and shape of TVs change but they still look bad—just in new, bad ways. In my grandparents' house, an entire corner of the living room was a no-man's-zone given over to an old-fashioned TV cabinet from the Pleistocene Era; the set hadn't worked for years but there was no move to get rid of it (in those days, furniture was a life sentence; the prehistoric sofa had lace doilies sewn over bare patches on the arms). You knew to avoid the TV cabinet corner if you were playing hide-and-seek because it had sharp corners to jab you as you tried to slip past the person who was "It" without being tagged.

    Then came Armoire Armageddon. In the 1990s, TV sets still were about three feet deep, and I was one of those people who bought into the "let's-get-an-armoire-to hide-the-TV" craze. Flash forward 20 years, with flat screens everywhere and all these hulking, superfluous armoire things taking up space in living rooms across America. I gave mine away—overnight, it seemed, its value had dropped from the $800 I'd paid for it to $0—and still feel lucky that someone would take it. Given the number of TV armoires that are still out there, lurking in corners of living rooms, I expect that eventually we'll see them littering highways like discarded mattresses.

    Secret No. 4: Put all that horrible TV-related stuff inside cabinets, and put vented doors on the front so the electronics don't overheat. Beneath the TV, Stephanie designed doors with Octagon Cane Decorative Perforated Metal. For more information on perforated metal patterns, see Direct Metals.

    See where the cords drop down from the TV above?

    Secret No. 5: Put all the electronic components on pull-out drawers so it's easy to get to the cords at the back. Our TV is attached to a receiver that's connected to a set of five surround sound speakers including a subwoofer the size of a dorm refrigerator; a router; a Blu-Ray DVD player; a Sonos hi-fi system bridge, and an Apple TV. I don't know what any of these things are—my husband insisted we "needed" them—but I am happy I cannot see them. They live inside these cabinets.

    There is a messy tangle of cords attendant to any entertainment center setup; I put a few books on the bottom shelf to hide the cords (and the power strip to which they are attached).

    Secret No. 6: Let your furniture help you hide the cords. At my house, the power strip hides between two pieces of my sectional sofa.

    In the family room, we lounge around a lot on the sectional with our computers (sometimes while simultaneously watching TV—sick, I know). Where the two pieces of my sectional meet, a power strip lurks beneath on the floor. You can pull up a cell phone charger, an iPad cord, possibly even the charger to my husband's electric shaver. There's a lot hidden under the cushions.

    Above: From a distance you would never know a tangle of nasty wire is attached to the power strip that sits beneath the sectional. The whole spaghetti-bowl mess is tucked between the cushions of the sofa, and we fish out the appropriate cord when we need it. Cost: $10.78 (for a Belkin 6-Outlet Home/Office Surge Protector from Amazon).

    If you don't have a sectional, you still may be able to accomplish this neat trick. Simply attach your power cords to a power strip that sits on the floor behind the sofa, and thread the cords up through cushions or unobtrusively up the side of an arm.

    Secret No. 7: Maintain some electronics-free zones in the family room. On my bookshelves are, well, books. And plants. Can't you just feel all that oxygen coursing into the room? Empty white space is a design element that makes the area around the TV set feel more open and spacious.

    And now? I still have a few episodes of House of Cards (the British version—I finished power watching Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright last week) to catch up on. Reminds me of Bleak House.

    Emboldened to rid your life of all cords, once and for all? Miracles do exist. See 5 Ways to Banish Computer Cords From Your Home Office.

    Hooked on Domestic Dispatches? See all of Michelle's weekly columns here.

    N.B.: This is an update of a post published on April 1, 2013 as part of our Cult of the Kitchen week.


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    The menu at a recent dinner party hosted by Beth Kirby of Local Milk sounded delectable—stinging nettle and ricotta ravioli, yes please—but it was the tablescape she created with Tennessee textile designer Margaret Pate that stopped us in our tracks. In a week that's all about dry gardens, we're looking to her collection of low-water plants and her eclectic dining room as inspiration. 

    steal this look: potted plant table top from local milk | gardenista

    Photographs courtesy of Beth Kirby at Local Milk unless otherwise noted.

    steal this look: potted plant table top from local milk | gardenista

    steal this look: potted plant table top from local milk | gardenista

    steal this look: potted plant table top from local milk | gardenista

    Here are a few key pieces needed to recreate the look:

    steal this look, gardenista

    Above: Beth's tablescape was inspired by the Margaret Pate scarf she used as a tablerunner. A summer-weight version of the Luca Scarf is available at her shop Inks and Thread for $105.

    trumpet honeysuckle, gardenista

    Above: Photograph by Blue Ridge Kitties.

    To hide an unslightly light fixture, Beth and Margaret festooned the chandelier with honeysuckle. If you don't have honeysuckle growing in your neck of the woods, consider planting the non-invasive Red Trumpet Honeysuckle. A 1-gallon pot is available seasonally from Gardener Direct for $19.95. (For another honeysuckle-laden design, see Design Sleuth: A Very Green Garage.)

    steal this look, gardenista

    Above: The light-relfecting Howard Elliot Madison Round Mirror is available at Arcadian Home for $249.90.

    steal this look, gardenista

    Above: The Robert Abbey Bone Triple Ceramic Buffet Lamp is $308.91 from Lamps Plus.

    steal this look, gardenista

    Above: The Madeleine Side Chair is on sale for $99 at Restoration Hardware.

      steal this look, gardenista

    Above: A Rustic Terra Cotta Cylinder in Moss Grey is available at Greige for $26.

      steal this look, gardenista

    Above: For a red-hued pot, a handmade clay Hot House Pot is available in three sizes at prices ranging from $10 to $24 at Iron Accents.

    steal this look, gardenista

    Above: We love succulents, but we're especially impressed with Beth's assortment of pint-sized cacti. The Terrarium Cactus Collection from Terrain can provide you with your own instant collection for $35. 

    steal this look, gardenista

    Above: Beth served her version of Lavender Soda in recycled glass bottles. A similar Korken clear glass bottle is $3.99 from Ikea. For an entirely different take on our favorite glass bottles, see 10 Easy Pieces: Bottle Vases.

    Distracted by the showy mother-In-law's tongue? Try one in your bathroom.

    Looking to steal more bright ideas? Check the Gardenista Archive for 80 Posts About Houseplants.

    N.B.: This is an update of a post published June 26, 2013 as part of our coverage of Dry Gardens.


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    Ask most people who live in New York City about the tap water, and they'll say it's terrific. Carried into the city from a network of reservoirs and controlled lakes that make up a 1,972-square-mile watershed, New York City tap water is some of the country's best. But what happens to the water's quality as it runs through the pipes in an old building? I swear I can taste a difference. I filter my drinking water and I wonder if my plants deserve the same treatment?

    Photographs by Erin Boyle.

    After a bit of internet digging, I've come up with what I think is the right answer. It seems that filtering water for house plants isn't as necessary as simply allowing tap water to sit overnight. If you bring water to room temperature, plants won't be shocked by tap water that's either too hot or too cold coming out of the faucet.

    Most municipal water supplies, including New York City's, are also treated with chlorine. The damage that chlorine causes to plants is a topic of debate. But if you fill a few open containers with water and let them sit overnight, the chlorine will evaporate. I've taken to keeping a pretty jar or two of water on my windowsill for plant watering purposes.

    In addition to coddling my plants with water that's been sitting out overnight, I also invested in proper watering implements fit for a small apartment. Before, when I wasn't busy forgetting to water my plants altogether, I was drowning them with entire tumblers full of water. Now that I've got a tray of seedlings in my charge, I wanted to make sure I had the right tools for the job. A 2-pint Haws Green Indoor Metal Watering Can is $74.95 from Haws Watering Cans.

    This green Haws watering can is small enough to tuck into our closet and will be a real treat when it's time to start watering my window box this spring. After much deliberation, I settled on this model because it comes with a detachable head. The attachment is just right for giving a gentle shower to the fragile seed starts I'm growing, but I can also remove it to get a less far-reaching spray for the plants I keep on hard-to-reach shelves.

    For humidity-loving house plants like ferns, lots of folks swear by the gentle spray from a plant mister like this one. I've been filling mine with tap water that I've already allowed to sit uncovered overnight. A similar Glass Plant Mister is $12 from Terrain.

    Important consideration in an apartment where storage is limited: Get a mister that's pretty enough to display alongside your plants. A Maidenhair Fern in a 4-inch pot is $12 from Pernell Gerver.

    See more of Erin's DIY Adventures.

    N.B.: This is an update of a post published March 19, 2013 during our Loft Living week.

    Explore more: Rainwater Catchment; Watering Cans.


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    Two years ago, I finally decided to part with the ugly plastic box of tools that I'd been carting around since college. I'd keep the tools, but their carrier needed an upgrade. With a limited budget but an unlimited yen for anything that shows some sign of age, I found a vintage turquoise tool box that was both nice to look at and practical. When my dad came to visit my apartment a few weeks later, he laughed when he saw my new tool box. He had two just like it sitting empty in his workshop, he told me. And I could have them.

    Photographs by Erin Boyle.

    What do the contents of your tool box look like? Show us by uploading a photo in the comment section below.

    We'll blame my dad's colorblindness for the fact that his tool boxes aren't just like this one, but suffice to say, I currently own three vintage tool boxes. In our tiny apartment they're perfect for organizing all of the tiny things that there aren't cabinets or closets to keep tidy. Last weekend I did a major overhaul of the boxes, taking everything out and rearranging the contents. By the time I finished, I'd designated one as my gardening tool box.

    Tucked under the couch, it's within reach whenever I embark on a garden or flower project. Having all of my gardening supplies in one box now means I don't have to pull out each box searching for the proper tools.

    Newest additions to my collection include a Dewit Garden Hand Shovel ($25.90 from Kaufmann Mercantile) and Gardener's Goat Skin Work Gloves ($29 from Womanswork). The gloves are soft and supple, and most important, they actually fit my small hands. As for the trowel, it's a major step up from the soup spoon I'd been using.

    The contents of my tool box are particular to my personal urban gardening needs. I had to compromise and keep a few non-gardening specific tools in there too; real estate is a precious thing in 240 square feet. Among the tools above is a canvas bag for foraging finds, leather garden gloves, Japanese scissors, pruners, hand drills, a trusty trowel, and various bits of wire, tape, and twine. My Victorinox SwissTool ($124 from Swiss Army) is also included, invaluable in a small apartment or anywhere.

    The top tray of my tool box holds all of my tiniest tools. The pair of pruners above was purchased in a hurry from a neighborhood hardware store when I lived in Providence, Rhode Island. The historic building where I did my graduate work has a garden designed by Frederick Law Olmstead and when I got permission to take clippings from the yard's flowering quince, I knew kitchen scissors wouldn't do the trick. One day I might upgrade to one of these beautiful options, but for now, this pair is the best tool I have for clipping spring branches.

    Even though I keep a separate box with craft supplies, I decided to leave some paper scraps and a pen and pencil in the upper tray of this box so that I have them on hand to make labels or jot notes as I work.

    Below deck, I keep my larger tools like my scissors for flower arranging and my trowel. Extra seeds and garden gloves also make their home here.

    And finally, the dram vials that I sometimes use as small wall vases are also snuggled in the bottom of the box for safekeeping.

    Any urban gardeners out there? What are your must-have tools?

    Explore more: 125 more posts about Garden Tools and one of our favorite tool boxes, The "It" Tool Box.

    N.B.: This is an update of a post originally published March 7, 2013 as part of our Japonesque week.


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    I am fussy about what I put on my face. If I can't pronounce the ingredients on the back of a bottle, I get nervous in the pharmacy aisle. So I took matters into my own hands with a do-it-yourself face mask based on Rosemary Gladstar's recipe for Miracle Grains in her must-have book, Family Herbal. I think of this concoction, using just five basic ingredients, as food for my face. It's gentle enough to be a daily cleanser and pretty enough to give as a gift:

    Photographs by Erin Boyle.

    Here's what I used:

    • 2 cups Bentonite Clay, $4.50 per half pound from Bulk Herb Store.
    • 1 cup ground oats.
    • 1/4 cup ground almonds.
    • 1/8 cup dried lavender, ground; a 16-ounce bag of Whole Lavender Flowers is $33.60 from iHerb.
    • 1/3 cup dried Rose Petals, ground; a 1-pound bag of petals is $13 from Layla via Etsy.

    Above: I chose to work with five simple ingredients, but the real beauty of the recipe is that you can amend it to suit your particular skin needs. You can supplement the mixture with dried seaweed, poppy seeds, or ground blue corn for some additional texture. Instead of mixing your grains with water, you might try apple cider vinegar for its moisturizing properties. If you want a mixture with a stronger scent, you can even add a few drops of essential oil to the mix.

    Above: Bentonite clay is the main ingredient in this recipe. Powdery soft and filled with minerals, this clay is often used to make poultices and face masks. (You could also substitute another mineral-rich clay like French green clay.)

    Above: You can use a mortar and pestle or an electric coffee or nut grinder to grind your oatmeal and almonds. I found that measuring the dry ingredients to be just a hair more than the recipe called for gave me just the right amount of ground material. Though you might be tempted to go superfine with your grinding, leaving your grains just a little bit course is what adds an exfoliating element to your routine.

    Above: I let electricity do the hard work on the oatmeal and almonds, but I preferred to use a mortar and pestle to grind my delicate lavender and rose petals. This Porcelain Mortar and Pestle ($49.95 from Williams-Sonoma) is my favorite.

    Above: I purchased my dried flowers at The Herb Shoppe, home to my favorite allergy tea.

    Above: After grinding all the ingredients, I mixed them in a stainless steel bowl.

    Above: The fine bentonite clay coats all of the ingredients, so you won't actually be able to see the pops of purple and pink until you wet the clay to use. I sprinkled some extra dried flowers on top of my mixture, just to make it look pretty.

    Above: If you make the full recipe, you'll have enough of the mixture to apportion among small jars to give as gifts. I tied a tiny luggage tag to my grains with instructions for their use: Mix 1 teaspoon grains with water to make a paste. Massage the paste into your face. (I let my clay mask dry completely.) Rinse with warm water.

    Suffering from allergies? See DIY Miracle Cure: Gentle Nettle Tea.

    N.B.: This is an update of a post published April 15, 2013 as part of our Africana week.


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    There are people who refuse to use the bathroom if they are not at home, and I used to think they had a problem. That was before I ventured into the guest bathroom at a dinner party and a toilet paper holder tried to kill me.

    Subscribe to get more of Michelle's weekly Domestic Dispatches adventures.

    Above: A restored bath in a Brooklyn house designed by Elizabeth Roberts (for more, see A Brownstone in Brooklyn, Reborn).

    I was minding my own business when—suddenly—the toilet paper holder fell off the wall with a clatter. One of the brackets flew into the dark nether region behind the toilet. The other wall bracket dropped on my foot, and the spool of toilet paper rolled away, unfurling itself as self-importantly as patriotic bunting on the Fourth of July.

    The commotion did not go unnoticed.

    "Are you OK in there?" the hostess called from the other side of the door, where she stood rattling the handle.

    No, I am not OK. I am shaken to the quick by the realization that it is not safe to use someone else's bathroom, where you are at the mercy of their bad fixtures. Not that I am blaming the hostess; she's a victim too. Of bad bathroom design.

    It's a widespread problem. If you Google "toilet paper holder," you will get 1,050,000 results, and about 1,049,999 of them will be ugly or poorly made or wildly expensive (or all three). The average American spends 30 minutes a day in the bathroom—and one in four of us spends upwards of an hour in there, by the way. Yet of all rooms in the house, the bath is most likely to be the repository of after-thought accessories that seem as if they designed specifically to be locked away in a medicine cabinet where no one has to look at them. Why?

    Above: The classic, ingeniously simple Thomas Hoof Porcelain Toilet Paper Holder (above) with a slot through which you can pull paper; it's €22.

    Bathrooms are by and large overlooked opportunities for good design, says Josh Owen, an associate professor of industrial design at the Rochester Institute of Technology.

    "The vast majority of products in this category have been addressed from the standpoint of tools and hardware," says Mr. Owen. That attitude leads to designs that look best if you don't look at them.

    There are exceptions to this rule, of course, including the Thomas Hoof Porcelain Toilet Paper Holder. It's also one of the most popular products we've ever featured on Remodelista, if our readers' reaction on Pinterest is any indication. More than 48,000 people have either pinned or re-pinned the photo.

    So why isn't it sitting on the shelf at every bed and bath shop and big-box store in America? I know a dinner party hostess who needs at least one, immediately. And I'll take three, for my house. But unless we want to fly to Germany, where the Thomas Hoof toilet paper holder is manufactured, good luck with that. Here in America, the selection veers more towards the sort of products that fall off the wall and strand unsuspecting guests in your bathroom.

    "This is a problem on several levels, both from the perspective of aesthetics and the more obvious need for immediacy of use," says Mr. Owen, who has designed a line of attractive bathroom accessories—including a toilet brush, plunger, and garbage can—for NY-based Kontextür.

    Above: A Soap Dish with Hole is enameled cast iron; €39 at Replicata.

    Why do I think bathroom design matters so much? (I am asking this in the tone I imagine would be used by my friend Amy, a serious person who writes about world affairs and third-world poverty and who probably has never noticed what kind of toilet paper holders are in her house.)

    It's simple, Amy. It's not really about the toilet paper holder or the plunger or the soap dish. It's about solving a problem. It's about having the right tool for the job. It's about transforming something mundane and rote and sort of dead-feeling—the day-after-day tedious moments of routine—into something pleasant and satisfying. If I am going to clean a toilet (and yes, I am going to clean a toilet pretty much every week of my life), then I should have the proper brush, with a nice handle and a weighty heft to it, to get the chore done. There is a purity to any useful object that represents the perfect iteration of itself. A toilet brush that cleans well and looks beautiful and lasts like iron? To create it elevates civilization.

    Above: A wall mounted ceramic Brush Holder is €82 from Thomas Hoof (brush sold separately). For more, see Toilet Brush Roundup.

    Above (L to R): A ray of hope: Mr. Owen's WC Line includes a Waste Bin ($47), a Toilet Brush ($51), and a Plunger ($55); all are available in five colors from Kontextür. His Hanging Line includes silicone-wrapped round Wall Mirrors (from $65 to $229, depending on diameter).

    There is possibly more good design on the horizon. Mr. Owen's line, made of wood and silicone rubber and featuring welcoming circular shapes, may expand. "We have discussed accessories for the Hanging Line such as brushes and cups and the like. We have also discussed the notion of storage and display," he says.

    Above: A classic bath in Brooklyn, with restored tile work and vintage, time-tested features like a built-in soap dish, glass holder, and toothbrush holder, via Elizabeth Roberts.

    "Are you OK in there?" the hostess calls, rattling the doorknob.

    I do not want to cause a fuss. I do not want to hear the low voices of other guests, now gathering outside the door as well, everyone wondering in hushed tones if I have fallen, if someone should call the fire department, if men with pickaxes should be summoned to knock down the door while I am scrabbling around on hands and knees in search of drywall screws.

    And so I say, "Yes, I'm fine—out in a minute" in the chirpiest tone I can muster.

    But really? We all deserve a better toilet paper holder.

    Subscribe to get more of Michelle's weekly Domestic Dispatches adventures.

    N.B.: This is an update of a post published February 25, 2013 during our Bath & Spa week.


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    A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down? Make that honey.

    As we approach flu season, here's a natural remedy for flu prevention that actually works. I've been making elderberry syrup every fall for the past few years, and I swear it's magic. Widely used in herbalism as a flu preventative, elderberry syrup is filled with immune-boosting properties—not to mention antioxidants, potassium, beta carotene, calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin C. 

    Best of all: making your own is truly simple. This is a DIY that won't try your patience. 

    Photographs by Erin Boyle.

    elderberry syrup | gardenista

    Above: Dried elderberries ready to be turned into medicine. I purchased dried berries through Mountain Rose Herbal; a 4-ounce package is $4.25.

    elderberry syrup | gardenista

    Above: Use a sieve to smash all the good juices out of the berries after boiling.

    elderberry syrup | gardenista

    Above: Allow your liquid to cool completely before adding the honey so the raw honey doesn't get damaged by the heat.

    elderberry syrup | gardenista

    Above: Bottle your syrup in dark apothecary bottles. A 4 Oz. Amber Bottle is $1.50 from Mountain Rose Herbal.

    Elderberry Syrup for Flu Prevention

    Adapted from Mountain Rose Herbal

    Ingredients:

    • 1/2 cup dried elderberries (or 1 cup fresh)
    • 3 cups water
    • 1 cup raw honey
    • 1 cinnamon stick
    • 3 to 5 cloves

    Instructions:

    Place berries, spices, and water in a saucepan. Bring the ingredients to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for from 30 to 40 minutes until the syrup begins to thicken slightly. Remove from heat and strain liquid through a sieve, smashing the berries with a wooden spoon to release any extra juice. Discard the berries and spices. Allow the liquid to cool completely and mix in raw honey. Divide into glass bottles and label. Keep the syrup refrigerated and take a teaspoon daily to ward off germs.

    Elderberry Syrup is just one elixir that comes from the elderberry tree (remember Christine's post about Elderflower Cordial?).

    N.B.: This is an update of a post published on October 3, 2013 as part of Tree Huggers week.


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    Whether you've been pounding the city pavement to chase after cherry blossoms or crouching in the garden to harvest your garlic scapes, your feet have been doing most of the work. Reward them.

    Photographs by Erin Boyle.

    herbal foot soak, gardenista

    Above: Whether you've been pounding the pavement in the city chasing after cherry blossoms, or crouching in the garden to harvest your garlic scapes, your feet need a little pampering. Here's a recipe for an herbal foot soak that's as refreshing as it is easy to prepare.

    epsom salt for an herbal foot soak

    Above: Epsom salts are the main ingredient in this soak. They're something that you might associate more with your grandmother's medicine cabinet than a day at the spa, but I urge you to give them a chance. Do a little digging and you'll realize that more than just being useful, they're something of a miracle maker. Sometimes used as an amendment in garden beds, Epsom salts have therapeutic benefits for you as well. They draw toxins out of the body and give relief to achy muscles and joints. I used about a cup for my soak.

      lemon and mint for an herbal foot soak, gardenista

    Above: Peppermint, lemon, and rose petals are all known for their revitalizing and refreshing properties.  I used a handful each of rose and peppermint leaves, and a few rounds of fresh lemon. If you don't have fresh ingredients at home, or if you want to enhance the scent of the soak, you can add essential oils instead. 

    herbal foot soak with epsom salt

    Above: After you've added a cup of Epsom salts and your fresh ingredients to your basin, fill it up with warm water. Stir the mixture until the Epsom salts are dissolved. At this stage, you can also add a few drops of sweet almond oil to help moisturize.

    herbal foot soak, gardenista

    Above: You can make this foot soak in a stoppered bathtub if you don't have a wash basin, but there's something awfully luxurious about being able to sit on the couch and get a good soak while watching a favorite movie. I found this enamel basin at a local shop; there are similar vintage options for sale on Etsy including a Vintage French Enamel Basin; $40 from Sissidavril.

    khadi towel and lemon round, gardenista

    Above: Lately I've been admiring brightly colored khadi bath towels. This one is from the Brooklyn-based shop, Layla. A fringed Khadi Cotton Towel with blue-and-white checks is $12 from Monas Creation via Etsy.

    mint for an herbal foot soak, gardenista

    Above: A good foot soak lasts for at least 20 minutes. When you're done soaking, strain the water and compost the herbal materials. Now, that felt good, didn't it?

    For more of our favorite natural beauty treatments, see DIY: A Beauty Mask Made From Flowers.

    April 29, 2013 as part of our Spring Fling week.


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    Some people shop impulsively for shoes. I shop impulsively for vegetables. I wander through the Union Square Greenmarket at lunchtime and find myself stuffing jewel-toned beets and carrots into my tote bag with the frenzied fervor of a crazy woman. Before I realize it, I've purchased enough fresh veg for a family of five.

    But my vegetable crisper is where my good intentions go to die. Over the course of the summer, I've guiltily transferred at least one wilted bundle of lacinato kale, the withered remains of perfectly delightful carrots, and a bag or two of slimy arugula directly from crisper to compost bucket. I'll blame my vegetable crimes on a busy summer and make a public resolution to change my ways. In the meantime, I'll try my best to avoid the mental calculation of misspent farmers' market dollars—not to mention wasted food—and turn yesterday's mistakes into tomorrow's dinner.

    Happily, Ecology Center in Berkeley has put together a cheat sheet for vegetable criminals like me. In this season of plenty at the farmers' market, it's helpful to know how one might stretch the longevity of vegetable purchases. Because unlike shoes, vegetables don't last forever. 

    Photographs by Erin Boyle.

    How to Store Vegetables To Extend Their Shelf Life | Gardenista

    Above: A fresh haul of vegetables from the Union Square Greenmarket. Below are guidelines for a few basic vegetables; here's the full list.

    Carrots: Cut off the tops, store in the refrigerator in a closed container with plenty of moisture. 

    Celery: Place in a shallow cup or bowl of water on the counter or in the refrigerator.

    Summer squash and zucchini: Leave on the counter; wrap in a cloth and refrigerate for longer storage.

    Eggplant: Leave on the counter; don't wash until ready to use.

    Beets: Cut off the tops, then store in an open container covered with a damp cloth.

    Onions, garlic, shallots: Store in a cool dark, place.

    Tomatoes: Store on the counter.

    Peppers: Keep free of moisture until ready to use; store on the counter or in the crisper for longer storage.

    How to Store Vegetables To Extend Their Shelf Life | Gardenista

    Above: Root vegetables like carrots and beets send energy into their leaves even after they've been harvested. Keep all the nutrition in the root itself by storing them without leaves. Save the beet greens and use them as you would chard. Some vegetable nuts eat carrot tops, but most folks agree that they're toxic. I toss mine in the compost.

    How to Store Vegetables To Extend Their Shelf Life | Gardenista

    Above: Carrots like to be kept moist and cool. I've been storing mine in a ceramic crock from Canvas Home. Designed to hold coffee; I think the Handmade White Covered Coffee Jar$20 from Canvas, makes the perfect sealable container for a refrigerator. 

    How to Store Vegetables To Extend Their Shelf Life | Gardenista

    Above: Wash and store beets in an open container, covered with a moist dish towel.

    How to Store Vegetables To Extend Their Shelf Life | Gardenista

    Above: Greens like chard, beet tops, and kale can be kept in a glass of water on the counter or in the refrigerator.

    How to Store Vegetables To Extend Their Shelf Life | Gardenista

    Above: Alliums like garlic, onions, and shallots should be kept out of the refrigerator in a cool, dark place. For me, that's my kitchen counter. I use a Small Bisque Handmade Bowl; $5.53 from Canvas. 

    How to Store Vegetables To Extend Their Shelf Life | Gardenista

    Above: Tomatoes belong on your counter, not in your refrigerator. I keep my Sungold and other cherry tomatoes in a Tourne Berry Bowl; $32 from Brook Farm General Store. For larger tomatoes, store them in a single layer, upside down on a plate to keep them from rotting too quickly. Eggplant and summer squash are happiest on the counter, too.

    How to Store Vegetables To Extend Their Shelf Life | Gardenista

    Above: Celery does well in a small cup of water in the refrigerator.

    How to Store Vegetables To Extend Their Shelf Life | Gardenista

    Above: The inside of my refrigerator. Ends of cheese and half used lemons get wrapped up in Bees' Wrap.

    Find yourself with too many zucchini? You're not alone. This is an update of a post originally published September 6, 2013 when we were begging people to Take My Zucchini Please.


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    If Remodelista and Gardenista HQ had a shop where we sold all of our favorite home ware and gardening goods (a recurring fantasy in these parts), it would look just like this.

    Designer Phillipe Malouin of Post-Office transformed what was once a doctor’s office into online design magazine Dezeen's North London headquarters, including a new watch store to complement an online store. With details including reclaimed Victorian windows, floor-to-ceiling gray curtains (hiding doors to the kitchen, bathroom and storage), and an abundance of green plants, it would not take much to persuade us Remodelista and Gardenista editors to move in.

    Unless otherwise noted, photography by Luke Hayes via Dezeen.

    Above: A glass divider made of reclaimed windows provides separation to the meeting and work space in what was previously the waiting room of the doctor's office.

    Above: Plants in galvanized buckets hang below the skylight in the meeting room while cacti adorn the wall.

    Above: For his window collage, Malouin bought most of the Victorian windows on eBay; a great deal of research was required to find windows the right size.

    Above: Dezeen uses Malouin's Market Table in a meeting room.

    Above: The windows in the roof reminded Malouin of a greenhouse.  Filling the room with plants creates an outdoor feeling.

    Above: Gardenista editor Michelle would happily take credit for these potted cacti which animate the wall.

    Above: Customers can come and purchase watches in the watch store while Dezeen staff members work in rooms nearby.

    Above: The new Dezeen Watch Store is located in what used to be the reception of the former doctor's office.

    Above: Tools for packing and distributing products hang on pegboards for easy reach. (See DIY: Pegboard Kitchen Organization Inspired by Julia Child to see the use of pegboards in kitchens.)

    Above: Dezeen director Rupinder Bhogal and designer Phillipe Malouin stand in front of the welded-wire display units that were designed with an industrial supplier and inspired by locker changing rooms. Photograph by Daniel Stier via Wallpaper.

    Above: The offices of Dezeen from the North London streets of Stoke Newington.

    See more Hardworking Houseplants in our Photo Gallery.


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    The term "potpourri" might evoke an image of plastic bags full of wood chips, cinnamon sticks, and sliced persimmons—their color pumped up with dye and drenched in synthetic fragrance. That kind of potpourri is meant to mask the air of a room, and its makers likely have little interest in the subtlety of scent. The kind I want to talk about is a bouquet of slightly shriveled organic material, left to stew in its musky oil over time before getting dished out in ceramic vessels around the house.

    The first documented use of the term "potpourri" was in 1749, but the scented blends were likely present well before that, used throughout Europe to counteract unpleasant household odors. The French translation of the term literally means, "a rotten pot," derived from the Latin, putrescere, meaning "to grow rotten." True potpourri demands an acceptance of rot, decay, and fermentation. Off-putting at first perhaps, but just think of other delicacies rendered delicious the same way: sauerkraut, alcohol, and fungi. In fact, the most potent, evocative ingredients in a fragrance often come from the world of decay. Take oud, also known as agarwood, for example. The dark and fragrant resin forms over mold found in an Aquilaria tree. The first documentation of its use is seen in Indian Sanskirt Vedas, and it is still used prolifically in modern perfume.

    Today, a potpourri revolution is on the rise. For me, it all began with Officina Profumo Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella, a Florentine pharmacy founded in 1221 by Dominican friars who have been serving up batches of their potpourri since its inception.

    Photography by Alexa Hotz for Gardenista.

    Potpourri by Santa Maria Novella, Alexa Hotz | Gardenista

    My first real exposure to the friars' creation was in the Paris flat of Lucile and Clarisse Demory last spring. Clarisse brought back the mixture from a recent stay in the Tuscan mountains. The blend is a secret recipe of herbs and flowers collected by hand from the Florentine hills. It is then soaked in natural essence in earthenware jars and sealed with wax. 

    Santa Maria Novella Potpourri, Alexa Hotz | Gardenista

    Aged underground for several months before packaging, the Santa Maria Novella Potpourri ($35) is made without synthetic fragrance or pesticides and has the added advantage of repelling moths and insects.

    DIY French Salted Potpourri, Alexa Hotz | Gardenista

    I'm also interested in making my own blend à la 17th century France, when fresh herbs and flowers were set out to wilt before being embalmed in a course sea salt. To make such a blend, flowers should be picked during times of low humidity as moisture gives way to excessive rot.

    DIY French Salted Potpourri, Alexa Hotz | Gardenista

    Flowers can then either be salted or soaked in essence before their fermentation begins. Naturally fragrant herbs and florals to consider are damask or cabbage roses, lavender, tuberose, sage, rose geranium, rosemary, gardenia, and lemon verbena.

    Potpourri by Santa Maria Novella, Alexa Hotz | Gardenista

    The art of room aromatics is unique to each home and individual; I suggest potpourri for an understated circulation of fragrance. It's best if placed into a permeable vessel (unglazed ceramic or stone) with a little character (a thrift shop find, say) and left to slowly diffuse. Or it can be poured into cotton sachets to be tucked behind picture frames and in between clothing (advisory: let the oils dry out before contact with fabric).

    Be it from Dominican friars or your own tailored blend, organic potpourri is a turn away from synthetic scent, toward celebrating the cycle of decay and reaping its olfactory benefits.

    For those drawn to dried flowers, see our posts on Fennel Seed Harvesting and Dried Hydrangeas, Two Ways.

    Another way to bring fragrant flowers into the home? Babylonstoren's Tussie Mussie for the Bath.


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    I need a raise. You need a raise. Who doesn't need more money? According to researchers, one fast track to success is putting a green plant on your desk.

    Having office plants can make you nearly 50 percent more creative and 40 percent more productive at work, British researchers reported recently. The findings come on the heels of an earlier study, by scientists at Texas A & M University, that concluded that workers in offices with live plants like their jobs more and feel better about the work they perform.

    How do you measure increases in creativity and productivity? Researchers from the University of Exeter set up an experiment at last year's Chelsea Flower Show, creating four typical office settings in which 350 participants performed the same tasks. The results showed a marked boost in well-being, creativity, and productivity in workspaces that included live plants.

    In Texas, horticulturalists at Texas A & M surveyed 450 office workers, asking them 80 questions about their satisfaction levels with their performance, supervisors, and coworkers. Office workers in workspaces that had live plants and window views reported feeling much happier at work.

    I'm convinced. We all need an office plant. But which plant? Here's a list of 11 office plants we recommend. If we've forgotten your favorite, let us know in the comments section below:

    Pothos and jade office plants via Brass Tacks Garment ; Gardenista

    Above: A pot of pothos tumbling from a mantel and a potted jade plant; photograph via Brass Tacks Garment Co.  

    No. 1: Pothos. There's a reason Golden Variegated Devil's Ivy Pothos ($10.99 from Amazon) was such a popular houseplant in the Seventies; it's a hardy plant that tolerates low light, and it will reward you with cascading growth if you just give it a little water once in a while. 

      Mother in law's tongue sansevieria ; Gardenista

    Above: A Mother-in-Law's Tongue via Time of the Aquarius.

    No. 2: Mother-in-Law's Tongue. Basically, this is A Houseplant You Can't Kill.

    cactus office plant on desk via my paradissi l Gardenista

    Above: Cactus at work via My Paradissi.

    No. 3: Cactus. A single potted cactus looks adorable. A Tabletop Cacti Garden of different shapes and sizes is even more striking.

    Re-potting? We've rounded up 65 of our favorite Pots, Planters, and Plant Stands in our Gardenista Shop.

      paperwhites and hyacinths on a desk office plants via Ikea l Gardenista

    Above: Paperwhites (R) and hyacinths under glass on a desk via Ikea.

    No. 4: Paperwhites. Forced bulbs are a seasonal treat, and January is high season. Buy a few Paperwhite Bulbs from a local nursery, and pot them yourself. Here's a foolproof DIY: Paperwhites.

    jade plant via My Paradissi l Gardenista

    Above: A jade plant on an office bookshelf via My Paradissi.

    No. 5: Jade. It's a succulent. It won't mind if you forget to water it. If you're a tactile person, dust off its leaves from time to time. We love the way Jade Looks at Home With Companion Plants.

      Fiddle leaf fig tree office plant l Gardenista

    Above: A desk-size fiddle leaf fig tree via The Nester.

    No. 6: Fiddle Leaf Fig. We recently discussed How to Keep a Fiddle Leaf Fig Tree Alive; this desktop version would also be right at home in an office.

    Topiary olive tree in a pot ; Gardenista

    Above: Sized for a desktop, topiary as indoor accessory. Potted olive trees via Bo-laget.

    No. 7: Olive tree. Yes, we agree; Tabletop Topiary Olive Trees are irresistible. Or Shop all our favorite Potted Topiary.

    pencil cactus houseplant by Erin Boyle ; Gardenista

    Above: A pencil cactus in a west-facing window; photograph by Erin Boyle.

    No. 8: Pencil cactus. The New "It" Office Plant is a pencil cactus. And with good reason. Euphorbia tirucalli owes its popularity both to its good looks and its hardiness.

      Ming aralia evergreen shrub as houseplant ; Gardenista

    Above: The evergreen shrub Ming aralia.

    No. 9: Ming aralia. Native, to Asia, has feathery foliage. A Ming Aralia in a 14-inch pot is $185 from Houston Interior Plants.

    Tillandsia and a typewriter at Philpotts Interiors ; Gardenista

    Above: Tillandsia suspended on a wall grid in the San Francisco offices of designers Philpotts Interiors.

    No. 10: Tillandsia. You may know these hardy plants as air plants. But do you know How to Water an Air Plant?

      Desktop bonsai office plants l Gardenista

    Above: Photograph via Keshiki Bonsai.

    No. 11: Bonsai. There's an easy, modern way to create a tabletop landscape at your desk. See DIY: Grow Your Own Bonsai.

    Looking for the perfect office mate? Shop our Desktop Plant picks.


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    Keeping fragrant flowers in a communal office can be tricky. For some of us, it's a treat to have a fresh smelling arrangement to clear the air. But others might not be so keen on it. One way to keep everyone happy is to make the arrangement small and contained for a personal desk. Another more exciting way is to mix a floral scent with a more earthy, herb-y small—a foliage, for example, that is aromatherapeutic, and that most people find pleasant.

    I have a full-on obsession with geranium, you name the type; it's a serious love affair. The leaves have a citrus-y, bright smell, known to have a balancing effect on mood. And I haven't met anyone who does not like the scent of geranium. 

    For step-by-step instructions for creating a fragrant floral arrangement for the office, see below:

    Photographs by Sophia Moreno-Bunge.

    a fragrant bouquet | gardenista

    Above: For this fragrant arrangement, I decided to make a base of geranium, then added a few paperwhites—my favorite winter flower—and gardenia, for the true flower lovers. 

    a fragrant bouquet | gardenista

    Above: My materials. 

    You could try mixing your own choice of fragrant foliage (lavender, eucalyptus, pine) and whatever fragrant flower you like (and don't forget to look up their aromatherapeutic properties!).

    a fragrant bouquet | gardenista

    Above: A base of gardenia and geranium.

    To recreate this arrangement, you'll need a bunch of fragrant geranium, a bunch of paperwhites, a gardenia plant to clip (you can plant it afterwards), clippers, and a small vase (about 3 inches by 4 inches). First, fill your vase with water. Next, create a base of geranium stems cut long enough to allow the leaves to rest on the lip of the vase. Measure each stem by holding it up to the vase before cutting.

    Insert each stem diagonally into the vase. Turn the vase as you go, to make sure you cover every side of your arrangement.  You can choose to make your arrangement loose by adding fewer geranium stems.

    a fragrant bouquet | gardenista

    Above: A fragrant gardenia bloom.

    Next, you can add a few stems of gardenia (or whatever flower you choose). With gardenias, try not to handle the flower too much, because its petals can easily turn brown.

    a fragrant bouquet | gardenista

    Above: Nir Paperwhites have a more moderate fragrance than other paperwhites; a ten-pack of bulbs is $11.95 from Willow Creek Gardens.

    a fragrant bouquet | gardenista

    Above: For a final step, add paperwhites. I added them in a cluster, making it look as if they were growing in a little patch within the arrangement. 

    For more of Sophia's floral arrangements, see DIY: A Wild and Foraged Winter Bouquet.

    See also: Bottle-Fed Paperwhites and Get Your Paperwhites Drunk for Better Blooms.


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    Flyaway hair, the bane of winter, is upon us. A large problem formerly known as my bangs is standing on end, crackling with electricity, as I type. How can we be expected to work under these conditions?  The solution: moisten the air in your office. 

    We've rounded up ten attractive humidifiers (no, that was not an oxymoron) sized to sit on a desk where they can also do your cracked lips some good. Your droopy office plants will thank you too if you get the moisture level up.

    Mast desktop humidifier l Gardenista

    Above: Designed by Shin Okada and made of hinoki, a fragrant Japanese cypress tree, the Mast Humidifier is named for its sailboat shape. No cords or electricity required; to use, simply fill the "boat" with water. After the thinly sliced sheets of hinoki absorb the liquid, they will emit both moisture and a fresh scent into the air. Available for pre-order (with two weeks' lead time), the Mast Humidifier is $104 from White Rabbit Express.

    For more about the Mast Humidifier, see The Poetic No-Tech Humidifier.

      Cloud and Co Bottle Humidifier ; Gardenista

    Above: It's in the works; Korean designers Cloud and Co plan to offer the Bottle Humidifier, which has a plastic exterior shell and a glass bottom, for sale in July. For information and pricing, see Elevenplus.

    chimney humidifier for desktop office l Gardenista

    Above: A Chimney Humidifier designed by Tokyo-based Takeshi Ishiguro doubles as a scent diffuser (just add essential oil) and is $200 from Design Within Reach. For more about it, see our previous post about the World's Most Beautiful Humidifier.

    Brookstone aromatherapy diffuser humidifier ; Gardenista

    Above: A Stadler Form Essential Oil Diffuser allows you to add scented oil to the water in its well; it's $59.99 from Brookstone.

      Middle Colors desktop humidifier l Gardenista

    Above: Takashi Hiroshi Tsuboi's Middle Colors Humidifier is available in two sizes: the 9-inch W model, shown here, emits a cool mist from an ultrasonic humidifying element, while the similar looking 12-inch H has a hybrid function: it sends either a cold or warm mist (through a built-in heating element) depending on room temperature. Available in 15 colors from Gizmine, the humidifier is priced at $119 to $179 depending on size.

    Marble humidity tray for plants ; Gardenista

    Above: A humidity tray with a 2-inch lip, a Polished Marble Tray is a low-tech evaporative humidifier. It also will house shallow-rooted house plants; $128 from Terrain. 

    travetta ceramic humidifier ; Gardenista

    Above: A ceramic humidifier designed by Patricia Urquiola fits on top of a radiator and can hold a potted plant, books, or office accessories. One of the Il Coccio collection of nine ceramic products commissioned by Fluvio Martini of Italian-based Martini Spa Home to "rethink the humidifier," it is designed to sit atop a warm radiator and evaporate water into the air. For more information and pricing, see Martini Spa Home.

    Roolen Breath humidifier ; Gardenista

    Above: A Roolen Breath Humidifier, available in white or black, emits a cool mist; $129.98 from Amazon.

    muji desktop office humidifier diffuser l Gardenista

    Above: An Ultrasonic Aroma Diffuser uses ultrasonic waves to vaporize water and produce a cool, dry mist. It is $119.50 from Muji.

     

    Crane Drop Shape humidifier ; Gardenista

    Above: A Crane Drop Shape Humidifier provides up to 24 hours of moisture and is suitable for rooms of up to 250 square feet; it is $49.99 from Target.

    Another way to be nice to your desk plants is to give them a spritz every now and then. If you're in the market for an adorable plant mister, we've found some: Glass, Brass, and Nickel.


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    The minute she laid eyes on the sun-lit, artist loft in Oakland, blogger-knitter-designer Emma Roberston, a recent transplant from LA, knew she'd found a new home for her business, Emmadime. With wall-to-wall windows, a soaring ceiling, and industrial details, the 395-square-foot studio was the perfect space for creative innovation.

    Taking her time to realize the total look of her new studio, Emma chose a classic black and white palette and iconic furnishings that complemented the industrial space, upon which she layered just enough whimsy to make it personal and fun. Of course our favorite touches are the plants. Here Emma seems to have expressed a bit of her wild side, using a varied selection of greens to infuse the space with a dash of color, character, and a little spunk.

    For a complete tour of Emma's breathtaking office, including her tips on design, see the original article in Rue Magazine

    Photographs by Eva Kolenko. Styling by Emma Roberston and Euro Style Lighting.

    Emma Robertson Oakland studio, Gardenista

    Above: Located in Jack London Square, the former warehouse that now houses Emmadime's corner studio boasts huge windows, perfect for plants. 

    Emma Robertson Oakland studio with stag fern, Gardenista

    Above: Adding a touch of lofty green above an industrial-sized ream of paper, a staghorn fern is mounted on the side of a rescued tongue and grove box. A similar Staghorn Fern is available in a 4-inch pot from Hirts; $20. For instructions on how to mount your own fern, see this detailed tutorial by Terrain

    Emma Robertson Oakland studio inspiration board, Gardenista

    Above: Also adding a bit of color to the space is Emma's lively inspiration board, featuring samples from her newly released book, Knitting by Design, available at Amazon; $17.95.

    Emma Robertson at Oakland studio, Gardenista

    Above: Sitting among the tools of her trade, the author, designer, knitter enjoys her new space.

    Emma Robertson Oakland studio sitting area, Gardenista

    Above: Acting as a subtle divider between the work space and sitting area is a simple philodendron. Small now, this tropical native may soon take advantage Emma's studio's lofty heights. Similar Split Leaf Philodendron (Monstera deliciosa) available at Pernell Gerver; $25 for a six-inch pot.

    Emmadine Studio with plants, Gardenista

    Above: On either side of another philodendron, a feathery Maidenhair Fern (available at Greenwood Nursery; $12.94 for a 4-inch pot) and a couple of cacti enjoy life in zinc boxes. An Instant Cactus Collection is available at Hirts; $20.

    Emma Robertson Oakland studio with plants, Gardenista

    Above: In an inspired, economical solution, Emma created a low cinder block shelf in the sitting area, deftly employing textured plants to add life to the industrial accents.

    Emma Robertson Oakland studio air plants, Gardenista

    Above: Emma proves that ornamental grasses such as carex also enjoy life indoors, and look especially lovely in wooden planters. Similar Carex Leavenworthii Travis (Leavenworth Sedge) is available at Plant Delights; $12. Cedar Succulent Planters on offer at Andrews' Reclaimed; $12.

    N.B. Want to get to know some more hardworking plants? See more office favorites that will help you Work Smarter.


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    Urban gardening meets office organization. Here are seven containers that effortlessly bring plant life (office plants help us work smarter - Michelle explains why) and office organization into your workspace.  

    Note that the vessels featured do not have drainage holes. Care should be taken to put a layer of pumice or rocks at the bottom, under the soil, to provide adequate drainage. 

    Cork Planter and Bookends at Canoe Online, Gardenista  

    Above: Designed by a graduate of the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), the innovative Cork Planter Bookend Set features water tight vessels nestled in cork. They can hold small plants or office supplies, while propping up books and acting as a miniature cork board; $50 for the pair at Canoe Online.

    Urbio Planter Organizer, Gardenista  

    Above: An office wall organizer with an adaptable design, the Urbio Wall Organization and Planter System is made of lightweight polypropylene plastic with ultra-strong neodymium magnets that are strong enough to hold your pencils, scissors and plants. Available in individual units to customize to your space or as a pre-designed set. The Urbio Happy Family Planter and Organizer with two wall plates and three vessels is $82.53 at Amazon.   

    Vitra Uten Silo via Vintage Spotlight, Gardenista  

    Above: A classic, the Vitra Uten Silo Small Wall Organizer can hold a desk's-worth of office supplies with plants or cut flowers comfortably in the water tight pockets; $395 at Design Public. Image via Vintage Spotlight.

    Ikea Asker Containers for Office and Plant Storage, Gardenista

    Above: Stoneware containers hang on S-hooks (a five-pack of Grundtal S-Hooks is $2.99 from Ikea) from a simple rail to lift supplies and greenery off the desktop. Photograph by Erin Williamson via Flickr.

    Wall Mounted Metal Buckets, Gardenista  

    Above: This Wall-Mounted Planter and Office Organizer by designer Eric Trine is no longer available. But, a similar effect can be achieved by hanging Socker Galvanized Plant Pots (79 cents each at Ikea) above your desk. 

    Michelle offers another Low Cost Idea to Re-purpose Ikea Cutlery Containers for plants or other items. 

    Hanging Mason Jar Planters by Oh So Very Pretty, Gardenista  

    Above: Hanging mason jars make great holders for plants and pencils. Karla Lim offers step-by-step instructions for this project on her blog, Oh So Very Pretty. You can purchase a box of 12 Ball 32-Oz Wide Mouth Mason Jars for $12.99 at Ace Hardware.

    DIY Desktop Organizer and Succulent Planter by Tessalene, Gardenista  

    Above: This hardwood DIY Desktop Organizer and Succulent Planter offers space for work essentials and a few favored potted plants. See Instructables for plans and instructions. 

    What plants to use? Succulents are a good choice for small indoor green garden (see Tips for Growing Succulents Indoors). Also consider Justine's Favorite Mini House Plants


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