Un-Depressing a small grey lounge
March 8, 2013 10:20 AM   Subscribe

Suggestions for greening up an indoor space when I can't use real plants.

I'm trying to decorate an interior lounge area in an academic building to make it friendlier to humans. It gets almost no natural light and the artificial ones won't be on a lot of the time, so houseplants are out, and in any case there wouldn't be anyone reliable to water them. I was thinking of using vinyl decals to help bring in some color (such as these or these), but it would be nice to add a touch of nature. I was considering sculpture, or maybe dried branches... Do good fake plants exist? Any other ideas? Thanks!
posted by you're a kitty! to Home & Garden (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
If you're thinking decals, maybe a wall mural? Add a 'matching' fake plant (palm for a tropical scene, fern for a jungle, etc)...

I would avoid a sculpture like that one you linked, because it looks like a toy, and people using that space might have kids along.
posted by The otter lady at 10:24 AM on March 8, 2013

How about a couple terrariums? Because they're sealed, they'd take care of themselves and not need watering while bringing in a bit of nature.
posted by easily confused at 10:32 AM on March 8, 2013

Terrariums still need light and some tending.

There are some decent fake plants, but they cost. And you want to buy them in person because you want to make sure they aren't awful. Also FYI to look their best they require frequent dusting.

My sister was buying and tossing orchids after they lost their blooms, and I told her to keep the living orchids and buy a couple fake blooms to stick in the pot. She saves a load of money and no one notices because the plant/soil/catchpot are there. Then she got a fake silk tree and put it in a pot with real soil (actually, the bacteria in the soil more than the plant itself is what provides better air quality so win win) and a catchpot and that helps to convince people it's a real tree as well.

I think some sculptures would help. Or paintings. Or both. I work for the School of Art and the galleries in my university, and I've curated several shows in academic buildings across campus that want to bring art in. We get student work out into the community which is great exposure and resume content for the students and the building gets some nice artwork. Make sure if you do this that you communicate any restrictions (no pointy bits on sculptures? no nudity? etc.) at the beginning so you don't annoy the curator by having them accept and then have to turn around and reject submissions.
posted by vegartanipla at 10:41 AM on March 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

You'd be surprised how many stores and business places use fake plants so I say go for it. I've bought some good fake plants at Ikea. This blog gives you an idea of how good they look. You could also have a vase with some dried craspedia or billy buttons. Another option here. Or you could go for artificial succulents. My neighbor has a wreath made of artificial succulents and it looked real to me.
posted by biscuits at 10:57 AM on March 8, 2013

I'd get some bright, cheery, textural/dimensional stuff to cover up the gray... a few examples:

- Ivy-shaped modular wall art
- Groovy modernist paper wall tiles
posted by julthumbscrew at 11:00 AM on March 8, 2013

How about some paper flowers?
posted by pickypicky at 11:10 AM on March 8, 2013

LOVE billy buttons, they're so cheerful!

You could check out dried branches of various flowering plants, or dried grasses -- pussy willows are really lovely, and they remind me of spring. Ornamental rice is also quite beautiful.
I find dried eucalyptus and dried lavender to be fairly ubiquitous in rooms like the one you're trying to decorate -- they're fragrant and colorful, which is kind of the next best thing to an actual living plant; corkscrew willow branches are similarly common.

You could stick some dried/fake branches in wall-mounted bud vases to add an artistic/mobile element as well (tons more where that came from).

Also, Mudpuppy on Etsy makes lovely ceramic pieces and beautiful, sculptural holders that are made for air plants, but could be used with anything that fits.
posted by divined by radio at 11:16 AM on March 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Is there a couch or chairs?

I am imagining a bare, gray space - fabric would add texture and color. Wall hangings like this or this, for example, or pillows and rugs along the same theme.

Can you paint? Some colors of gray are not too bad, but some are just deadly, especially with no natural light. Worth it to ask.

You might experiment with some plants for dark spaces.
posted by bunderful at 11:44 AM on March 8, 2013

Re: "there wouldn't be anyone reliable to water them" - will someone be cleaning the room regularly? If not, I would avoid any kind of plant or sculpture that will collect dust.
posted by payoto at 11:48 AM on March 8, 2013

"Lucky bamboo" is often used in rooms like this. Doesn't need light and sits in a vase of water, so it can be re-filled as needed without need constant tending. If there's a Chinatown in your city, you'll find it there.
posted by dottiechang at 12:31 PM on March 8, 2013

Get your school's art or design department involved. Please. They'll love you for it.
posted by infinite joy at 7:33 PM on March 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

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