Green living: design tips for indoor plants

The bigger our cities get, the more difficult it can become to stay in touch with nature. But you don’t have to have a national park on your doorstep as there’s something magical about filling a room with greenery; and we’re not just talking about their capacity to purify the air. Just find an area in your home with a smattering of natural light and let your imagination (and the greenery) go wild with some simple ideas.

And you don’t need much space. Construct a cool, contemporary wall in an instant using cheap and cheerful pegboard. Leave your living installation on show in a hallway, bathroom or living room, or give yourself something green and tranquil to look at while sitting at your desk in your home office. Air plants are especially suited to this kind of display.

You can also decorate with an array of pots and objects that you make yourself. Wrap hardcover books in coloured paper and place these on racks to create shelves for displaying small vessels filled with plants, pebbles and other organic ephemera.

Conjure up the charming atmosphere of a Victorian botanist’s study by displaying greenery in an antique cabinet, vintage shop fitting or other quirky storage unit. For maximum whimsy and nostalgic appeal, apothecary bottles and glass lab beakers make ideal containers. Scour markets for old gardening accessories to include in your collection.



Decorative foliage is often better suited and more adaptable to indoor environments than flowers. Select plants with various shapes, textures, colours and patterns for graphic effect. Group plants the way you would other objects and display them in a living vignette on a tabletop or shelf. Some suggestions:

  • Climbing: Philodendron scandens
  • Hanging: vanda or cattleya orchids
  • Table: staghorn fern, African violet, scandens stem
  • Leafy: Blechnum nudum (fishbone fern), Monstera deliciosa


  • All plants have general needs but it’s worth checking requirements for the optimal conditions for different species.
  • Ask your local nursery for a nutrient feed that’ll keep plants healthy.
  • Ensure all pots have proper drainage. A lump of charcoal will keep water sweet and plants happy.
  • Potted plants benefit from a mix of indoor and outdoor living. Allow plants that look like they’re past their prime to recover outdoors before moving them back inside.

See the beautiful bookshop built in the middle of a rice field

Off the coast of eastern China sits a beautifully-built bookstore in the middle of a rice paddy field.

The Xiadi Paddy Field Bookstore, dreamt up by the Librairie Avant-Garde is located in the heart of the Xiadi Village, Pingnan, Fujian.

aerial view of the Xiadi village, photo credit: Zhuo Yuxing

The building, once an abandoned residence, was transformed into a modern, architecturally-designed bookstore in by Beijing architecture firm Trace Architecture Office.

Design concepts, photo credit: TAO

Surrounded by lush rice paddy fields, the bookstore is designed to blend in with the area’s natural landscape.

Much of the new construction is hidden inside the remnants of the old house, making it appear as if nothing has changed from the outside.

Bookshelf stairs, photo credit: Chen Hao

“The remnants serve as a container that wraps around the new construction,” said the architects.

Concrete and steel form the basis of the construction, creating a dialogue between the contemporary and traditional.

Light coming through the ceiling in the reading area, photo credit: Chen Hao

Striking features include detached floor slabs that let light in through a skylight, and an enclosed book display formed between the new concrete and earth walls.

Second floor reading area, photo credit: Chen Hao

The building also features a theatre space and café from which visitors can experience an unparalleled view of the whole village and surrounding fields.