Mark D. Sikes on Decorating with Greens

California designer Mark D. Sikes extols the virtues of creating a natural connection between house and garden with color, motifs, and plant materials
The brick patio is laid in a herringbone pattern. Black metal patio furniture with simple lines and blue cushions, as well as boxwood topiaries, surround a white plaster table at the center.
At Sikes’ own home, a terrace becomes a natural extension of indoor spaces with its blue-and-white furnishings and accessories, and ficus-covered walls.

Gardens are a passion of mine—I love the endless colors, textures, and tones of plants and flowers. Two of my favorite gardens are those of Bunny Mellon (a self-taught botanist and horticulturist) and my dear friend Bunny Williams; I’m drawn to the way Oak Spring Farm, Mellon’s famed Virginia estate, and Williams’s beautiful home in Falls Village, Connecticut, incorporate natural elements into their décor. Garden stools, straw baskets, iron furnishings, stone benches, and treillage playfully mingle in their houses, creating a seamless passage between indoors and out.

My own garden is a lush, leafy escape whose natural elements and design also inspire the décor in my home. When the glass doors from my kitchen and living room are open—as they often are—the garden becomes another room and its peaceful energy, beautiful color palette, and the soothing sounds of the stone fountain flow into the rest of the house. Thick ficus “walls” make the space feel cozy and protected, while climbing fig ivy creates a lattice-like pattern that echoes the effect of a scenic wallcovering. Both contrast beautifully with the brick stairs, blue-and-white ceramic accessories, and the robin’s-egg blue cushions of the garden furniture. The pairing of deep green with a lighter blue mirrors the naturally occurring contrast  between plants and sky—a look I love to re-create indoors.

Garden-inspired chinoiserie panels decorate the entryway of a California home. A pale-blue tableskirt with olive trim combines the colors of sky and garden.
Garden-inspired chinoiserie panels decorate the entryway of a California home. A pale-blue tableskirt with olive trim combines the colors of sky and garden.

Indeed, any verdant hue—from the palest summery aqua to the most intense garden green—can bring the joyous carefree spirit of nature into a room. I adore simple greenery—ferns, boxwoods, potted herbs, ficus alii, green hydrangea, and myrtle topiaries are the plants I use most often. (I especially love how these plants look when displayed in one of my signature blue-and-white ceramic vases.) Like Mellon and Williams, I often work elements typically found outdoors, such as moss-covered terracotta pots, iron tables, wicker furniture, and lattice-backed chairs, into indoor rooms as a way to evoke the casual elegance of a well-tended garden. Hand-painted wallpaper depicting birds or botanical scenes is another wonderful, whimsical way to bring the outdoors inside, as are textiles printed with branches, blossoms, and other floral motifs.

Another thing I love about garden-inspired décor is how versatile it is—these motifs can be brought into homes of any size or style, and the rooms in this chapter range from a casual family home to a grand Beverly Hills estate from the 1920s. The cheerful, comfortable qualities of gardens enhance the atmosphere of any room, and are one of the very few references that is universally appealing. From pillows in a mix of bright green prints and a sofa covered in garden-inspired chintz in a cozy breakfast nook to framed hand-painted botanical scenes hanging on trellis-inspired wallpaper in a formal entryway, bringing nature indoors has a magical feeling that pairs beautifully with all styles of living.

Because of its strong association with life, renewal, and springtime, green is a happy color that is perfect for any home where you want to welcome the outdoors in.

book cover for © Beautiful: All-American Decorating And Timeless Style by Mark D. Sikes (Rizzoli New York, 2016). All Photographs © Amy Neunsinger.

Excerpt © Beautiful: All-American Decorating And Timeless Style by Mark D. Sikes (Rizzoli New York, 2016). All Photographs © Amy Neunsinger.