Monday, March 27, 2017
The Joy of Flowers
Spring is here, the flowers and trees are in bloom (and have been for quite some time here in the South), and that annual layer of yellow pollen covers everything, my dog's feet included. Irritants aside, Spring is the time of year when flowers, in all their vibrant glory, seem to especially command our attention, both in their natural habitats and indoors, where they add bright notes to our homes' interiors.
Today, many of us limit our houses to a vase or two of peonies, a potted orange tree, or even a ubiquitous fiddle-leaf fig, but back in the early part of last century, the enthusiasm for indoor plants and floral bouquets was unabashed, so much so that plants were often incorporated into interiors in inspired and splashy ways. Take these 1933 House & Garden images, for example. It was not uncommon for flowers to be the main decoration of a room- and this didn't only occur in expected spots like sunrooms. Below, you'll find a living room where a floral chintz banquette was crowned by a generous number of potted plants and flowers, lacing a large bay window. In another, a Chippendale-style bird cage and window boxes- so cheerful and gay, to use a popular phrase of the day- stand prominently in front of a window, which gazed out onto a rather stifling view of neighboring high-rises. Even a dining room was made to feel like an indoor garden, this time with an imagined design of planters and trellis, built to flank a window.
In fact, flowers were such an important part of indoor decor that many homes had shelves built inside of windows, where plants had the luxury of basking in the sunshine, blurring the line between indoors and out. And while I think these indoor window shelves look a little dated, I appreciate the way in which they allowed plants to command a room's attention.
As Dorothy Draper once said, "It isn't enough just to love flowers- you do them an injustice if you don't make the best possible use of their beauty"- a sentiment obviously shared by the owners of the houses seen here. But beware of the predilection to decorate with a profusion of flowers, at least, according to the late decorator Michael Greer: "Too many flowers in a room imply the presence of a corpse and should be avoided unless there is one, and even then too many flowers can distress anyone of delicate taste."