The Outside, In

Nature Coll Dk BrnHere’s a quick interior design quiz: When a seven-year-old lives in your home, what decorating feature dominates each and every room?

Think about that while I tell you a story.

A few weeks ago, I received an email from a retiring couple who were getting ready to move cross-country, from New England to Colorado, to be closer to their children. For three decades, they had lived on a refurbished dairy farm. One had been a librarian, while the other had a long career as a lapidary. They both were gardeners.

They knew my daughter was an explorer, a mud and grass stain enthusiast and a collector, visitor and climber of rocks. Over the years, they had accumulated quite a collection of geologic wonders, large and small, and weren’t going to haul it all a thousand miles. There were two options.

One, take the collection and scatter it into the woods behind their home.

Two, give it to Little Bean.

So, off we went, not knowing what to expect but excited at the possibilities. What awaited us was beyond our imaginations. In the old barn, the couple’s collection encompassed nearly an entire wall. There were dozens of boxes of fossils, petrified wood, geodes and crystals of all sizes and shapes. And shells as well. And feathers.

“Daddy…” My daughter was frozen in place, a tiny Indiana Jones unable to comprehend the wonders in front of her eyes—like those old adventure movies where the explorer stumbles into an ancient cave, stacked with gold and diamonds. “Daddy, what do we do?”

“They are yours if you want them, baby,” I said. “We can give them a good home.”

Upon returning to our house, we carefully laid out the boxes of treasures, generally sorting the items, picking out particularly beautiful ones and thinking about a strategy for how to deal with such an immediate, overwhelming collection.

So, remember that question I asked you way at the top? Little Bean had an answer. Her answer, as always, was to bring the outside in. Nature-inspired interior design is, of course, nothing new.

“Study nature,” the great Frank Lloyd Wright said. “Love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you.”

Frank never met my daughter.

Coupled with a wife who is a passionate gardener, the line between the outside and the inside is often surprisingly thin in our home. There is winter seeding. Acorns painted as kitty cats. Twigs in nearly every room. There are feathers and there are leaves. There is the impossible task of trying to keep dirt and sand off the floors. Shells simply materialize. Pockets must be checked and rechecked before laundry for flowers and seeds.

And of course, there are rocks, stones, and fossils and crystals, and they are everywhere. So prominent are geological wonders in our home that friends and family can be nearly guaranteed of receiving a “gift stone” as a present. I’m pretty sure her uncle has a whole drawer of them.

Little Bean even called her friends together for a geode party, and each of the kids got a hammer, eye protection
and their very own geode to crack open. (To be fair, that all took place outside!)

This is all fine, even despite the occasional indent in one’s foot from an errant rock on the floor. The concept that connecting with nature can improve your mental well-being, or biophilia, now spills over into home design as well. Why does a greenhouse have to be outside? Why not have a living wall?

As for my daughter’s biophilia, she’s spent some time creating a special place in her room, a bookshelf-like cubby where some of her prized possessions live. She sleeps just feet from a prehistoric shark tooth, a chunk of petrified wood, a bag of sea glass, a pile of bird feathers and a small baggie filled with what could very well be cat fur.

The best part of bringing the outside in is that it costs nothing. Give it a try. Walk outside now, shake some snow off that branch and bring it back in. Put it on your windowsill. Plant something in your living room. Don’t hide the rocks; display them like art.

If need be, if you need nature in a pinch but don’t have the time or ability to find some for your home, just reach out to us. We have plenty of rocks just looking for a place to live.

Categories: At Home in NH