Connect Your Home to Nature

From creating outdoor living spaces to bringing nature inside, use these 12 tips to tie your home to the cycle of the seasons.

beeswax candle

Craft unique home decor, such as these seashell tealight candles from Garden Therapy (gardentherapy.ca), but bringing elements of nature inside.

Photo by Stephanie Rose

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As nature enthusiasts, many of us would like to bring the peaceful feeling of the outdoors into our living spaces. Those first spring days—when it’s warm enough to fling open the windows and let in warm breezes, when the songs of robins and the scent of lilacs fill the air—are some of the happiest times of the year. How can we bring that elated feeling into our homes year-round? Try these ideas for keeping your home in harmony with the seasons every day of the year.

Decorate with nature. A former colleague of mine had a great habit: She put a large vase on her dining room table, and every morning when she walked her dog, she found something in nature to put in the vase. In winter, it might be bare branches or sprigs from an evergreen. In summer, it might be wildflowers from a field near her home or a bundle of herbs from her front-yard garden. Through bringing a daily piece of nature inside, she was tying her home to the changing of the seasons day by day, creating a visual reminder of a moment of calm, and adding a layer of mindfulness and appreciation to her morning walks.

Create a rotating nature gallery. Both pressed botanicals and leaf/flower prints are incredibly easy to make: Collect beautiful leaves, wildflower blooms, bits of seaweed or other botanical material, then either press it (you can buy an inexpensive press online or at craft stores, or simply press them between heavy books) or use it to make lovely prints with colorful paints (find instructions by visiting Remodelista and searching “leaf prints”). Display your items in frames (glass “floating frames” are particularly lovely for pressed botanicals); clipped on a string; or simply taped to the wall. As the seasons change, discard your seasonal art and make some anew. This makes a good excuse for a nature walk and craft project multiple times a year.

Use textiles to transform your home with the seasons. While overhauling our homes’ décor for every season may sound difficult, using relatively affordable, easy-to-store textiles can transform the feel of our rooms to help them match the season outside. Over time, build up a collection of mix-and-match, swappable textiles, including: two sets of window treatments, one light and sheer, one thick and warm; two or three sets of slipcovers for throw pillows—think red cable knit for winter, blue linen for spring and brightly patterned organic cotton for summer; a collection of warm throw blankets for winter; and some light, brightly colored or white fabrics you can drape over side tables or sofa backs in warmer weather. When winter hits, warm up your living space by hanging your heavy drapes and decorating with warm and useful throw blankets. When summer comes around, swap the heavy fabrics with light, gauzy ad bright options to make your space feel airier.

Bring in the plants. Houseplants have been proven to make us healthier and happier in numerous ways. There are few easier ways to make our homes feel alive and vibrant than being surrounded by plant life. Several options are easy to keep alive even for those with black thumbs. Read Reduce Indoor Air Pollution with Houseplants for a list of great houseplants, information on houseplant health and more.

Scent for the season. Delightful scents throughout our homes welcome us when we return from a busy day and have an effect on our moods. Use seasonal scents to tie your home to what’s going on outside—in winter, use warming spices such as cinnamon and anise; in spring, try floral scents such as peony, geranium, jasmine or ylang ylang; in summer, try basil, mint or citrus. You can make your own air freshener or room diffuser to disperse scents around your home, or make your own potpourri to stash in bowls around the house (sprinkle potpourri with essential oils periodically to refresh its scent) or to simmer on the stovetop during winter. Visit our Seasonal Scents collection page for instructions.

Connect with the light cycle. In the days before electric lights, our sleep cycle was determined by the sun. We awoke when it got bright in the morning, and settled in for the night after sundown. Today, artificial lights can keep our bodies buzzing 24 hours a day if we wish, but with deleterious health effects—for example, in the prestigious Nurses’ Health Study, researchers discovered that those who work overnight and are exposed to bright light late at night are at an increased risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease and more. Improve your health by staying in sync with the sun: When it’s bright outside, let light in and make your home bright inside. When it’s dark outside, follow suit indoors by dimming lights, enjoying candle or firelight, and reducing time spent in front of televisions and computer screens.

Grow green. Nothing signals spring more enthusiastically than growing greens. Wheat grass is incredibly easy to grow in just about any container and it sprouts in six days, making it an easy way to bring bright, growing green into the house. (It’s a great addition to salads and smoothies, too!) Many other greens, sprouts and lettuces grow easily and quickly in indoor planters, as well. Uncommon Goods offers two versions of its Micro-Greens Kits, handmade of recycled steel and complete with organic sprouts that will grow in just seven to 14 days. The “Spice” version includes Japanese mustard, daikon radish and edible chrysanthemum sprouts; the “Veggie” kit includes red cabbage, mini-carrot greens and ‘Tom Thumb’ pea greens ($48 each).

Extend the view. Architects have a trick to make small homes feel bigger by creating long views that cross multiple rooms. Employ this trick to extend your living space to the outdoors by placing objects of interest that will draw your view outside year-round. Try a colorful bird bath in the yard, a beautiful set of wind chimes on the balcony or pretty solar lanterns hung in a tree.

Design outdoor rooms. If you have outdoor space, encourage your use of it by making it feel like an outdoor room. Outdoor living rooms can include more than a couple of folding chairs: Pair some comfortable seats with a side table for setting drinks or reading material, an outdoor rug to anchor the space and a lighting option so you can enjoy dusk outside. (See how one blogger created an outdoor oasis on a budget.) If you wish to dine outdoors, carve out space for a table and chairs, then enhance the spot with an outdoor rug or a piece of weather-resistant art, candles, potted herbs or flowers, and even a set of outdoor speakers so you can listen to soft music as you dine al fresco.

Use repetition to tie the indoors and the outdoors. You can make your outdoor spaces feel like extensions of your indoor spaces by thinking about design continuity. For example, if you have a bright red rug in your kitchen, put a similar indoor/outdoor rug on the balcony outside. Likewise, if you have an outdoor room visible through a set of doors off the living room, use the same pattern on throw pillows inside and out to stylistically connect the two rooms. Or, if you grow an herb garden outside your kitchen window, put a few potted herbs on the windowsill to bring the feeling of the garden inside.


DIY Project: Create a Seasonal Welcome

A front-door wreath sets the tone for the season right when you get home. DIY wreaths make fun craft projects, and a quick online search will turn up ideas for every season and nearly any occasion. You can make the Simple & Stunning Living Succulent Wreath pictured by following the instructions at the blog Pretty Prudent. It’s perfect for spring and summer, and when it’s not in season, you can still keep this lovely wreath alive in a sun or garden room, where it will be beautiful year-round.


Cook in Season

When it comes to the kitchen, we often think about eating the foods that are in season, but we might not consider altering our cooking techniques to match the season, as well. In winter, we’re aiming to keep our homes warm, so cooking in the oven—then opening the door a smidge as it cools—can do double-duty preparing meals and bringing added heat into the home. In summer, we’re aiming to keep our homes cool, so it makes sense to eschew use of the hot oven and instead eat foods that don’t require cooking or to instead cook outside on the grill. Try grilling up a big batch of free-range chicken and saving it to eat throughout the week on salads and in tacos. When you do cook using heat, make enough to cover several meals—for example, instead of making scrambled eggs every morning, make a dozen hard-boiled eggs to enjoy alone, mashed on toast with salt and pepper, atop green salads or made into egg salad.