THE TOP 10 INDOOR PLANTS

Plants instantly rejuvenate an indoor space. And provided you find the right spot for your indoor plants and resist the temptation to over water them, they are relatively easy to grow.

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When it comes to growing indoor plants, there are two main tricks for success:

  1. Choose plants that are suitable for indoor environments

  2. Find the right position for each plant 

There are a variety of indoor plants, with some being easier to care for than others. In the guide below, we have included a number of low-maintenance plants that will be happy enough with minimal water and light. For the best chance of growing success, take note of the different spaces in your home, their aspect and the amount of light they receive each day. Then when you visit your local nursery, look for plants that suit the lighting conditions.

As you read this guide, you will notice that many of the plants have large, glossy leaves. That’s because plants suited to indoor conditions are typically found in shaded tropical environments. Flowering plants need plenty of sun, so it’s uncommon to find houseplants that produce flowers – and those that do are likely to flower less frequently or not at all.

From hanging plants with delicate leaves to those with large foliage and eye-catching geometric shapes, these ten indoor plants will suit any number of decorating schemes. 


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SEVEN GARDENS THAT SHOWCASE WHY LANDSCAPING SHOULDN'T BE AN AFTERTHOUGHT

What’s the secret to getting the most out of your landscaping? Start planning early. During a build or renovation, landscaping is often an afterthought, but this limits what you can do with your outdoor space and can also increase the cost of elements such as drainage and fixed structures, which are far easier to install during construction.

When building or renovating your home, there is a lot to think about and it makes sense that you may want to put landscaping on the back-burner. But while there is a lot we can achieve after a build or renovation, you will get the best design results when your landscaping is integrated into your initial planning. By consulting a professional landscaper before finalising your building plans, we can help you realise the full potential of your outdoor area and offer suggestions on how to maximise your use of the space.

Landscape design involves a number of practical considerations that must be accounted for, including:

  • Drainage

  • Access for construction

  • Aspect of the outdoor area

  • Creating flow between indoor and outdoor spaces

The process is often far more complex than you may have anticipated, but with good planning you can achieve outdoor bliss. The nature of these requirements also means that when your landscaping is integrated with the construction process, your budget will go further.

From indoor courtyards to striking entrance gardens and enhanced natural views, these seven spaces show you what’s possible when you plan your indoor and outdoor spaces in unison. 

1. Form and function

Concrete House by Auhaus Architecture. Image via desire to inspire.

Concrete House by Auhaus Architecture. Image via desire to inspire.

Every garden has requirements such as drainage, soil quality and access to taps and power points. It is far easier to have these issues addressed during construction rather than calling in tradespeople again when you are ready to install your outdoor area. This is especially important in small spaces such as this one, where restricted access can be a costly challenge to address after a building project is complete.

2. Indoor/outdoor connection

Image via Decorfacil

Image via Decorfacil

Integrated indoor/outdoor living is a great way to enjoy your leisure time at home and fully reap the benefits of increased contact with nature. To achieve a space such as this, planning must be done before construction, as courtyards can pose the greatest logistical challenges in terms of access (especially if you are planning a feature such as the plunge pool pictured above).

In this space, the indoor area integrates seamlessly with the outdoor space, with details such as level flooring, material selection and the open kitchen all adding to the cohesive flow between the two spaces. At the planning stage, order materials for indoor and outdoor spaces at the same time. This is cheaper and will ensure there are no discrepancies in colour and patterning, as your materials such as tiles will be coming from the same batch.

3. Natural lighting and views

Image via archiproducts

Image via archiproducts

This home is a clever example of what can be achieved even when outdoor space is limited. By planning the vertical garden at the same time as the rest of the home, the designers were able to integrate floor-to-ceiling windows into the kitchen to maximise natural light and provide an eye-catching view out to the garden. So even though the overall outdoor area is limited, the occupants are still making the most of the space. On a practical level, allowing more natural light into the home will reduce the lighting costs for the home, while vertical gardens such as this one are great for absorbing noise from the city or neighbours.

4. Rooftop gardens

Image and design by Marco Carini

Image and design by Marco Carini

A habitable rooftop garden or green roof needs to be designed in the planning stage of a build or renovation, as these spaces have a number of extra considerations including structural support and waterproofing. You will also need to understand how much weight your rooftop can accommodate and if your plans need to be submitted to council, it is easiest to have this done at the same time as the rest of your building approvals. 

5. Internal courtyards

Image and design by William Dangar

Image and design by William Dangar

Have you considered an internal courtyard? When outdoor space is limited, an internal courtyard becomes a relaxing central living hub. They are also an ideal solution for allowing more natural light into your home and increasing your exposure to nature. To get the planning of an internal courtyard right, you need to consider any overhead voids, planting and drainage. These spaces add value and impact, and can also make your home more energy efficient by allowing more natural light inside. 

6. Entrance gardens

This striking entrance is a great example of a challenging outdoor space. Not only do entrance gardens have practical elements such as driveways and paths that need to be considered, but this landscape design also had to overcome the challenges of an uneven site. When a space needs to be built up, it’s not always possible to incorporate a lot of greenery and this home is a great example of alternatives such as water features, which still foster a sense of connection with the outdoors.

7. Plunge pools and water features

Image via My Pool Guide

Image via My Pool Guide

Even in a small space, it is possible to enjoy your own private pool. Accessing small spaces to install a plunge pool and the necessary drainage can be difficult and should be planned prior to construction. In this space, the pool has been cleverly raised, which limits excavation costs and makes installation easier. Similar considerations should be made for ponds or large water features.

Explore 45 pages of garden design ideas by downloading your free ebook, Small Spaces, Big Ideas.

We believe in giving credit where credit is due, so if at any time you see work that is improperly recognised, please send us a quick note & we’ll gladly update the information. Thanks for inspiring us!

HOW TO DESIGN AN OFFICE THAT IMPROVES STAFF HAPPINESS

The way we work is changing and, in response, so too is office design. As employees start seeking meaningful work and employers begin to focus on metrics like staff wellbeing and job satisfaction, we are seeing workplace design become more considered and inviting. 

The average Australian puts in almost 41 hours of work each week. That’s a substantial amount of time, so it makes sense that the design of an office will affect whether an employee wants to work for an organisation. In the report The Global Impact of Biophilic Design in the Workplace, a third of respondents said that office design affects their decision when accepting or declining a job. For many people, a well-designed office is not only a pleasant space to work, it also assures them that the organisation cares about its staff. 

So how can you make your workplace more conducive to staff happiness and productivity? One way is through biophilic design – a principle of integrating natural elements into the built environment. Research compiled in The Global Impact of Biophilic Design in the Workplace found that the calming presence of elements such as plants, natural materials and sunlight helps employees to better cope with stress and pressure, in turn improving their productivity. 

The report found that plants and other natural elements had the following impacts on staff: 

  • Creativity improves by 15% 

  • Productivity increases by 6%

  • Wellbeing is reported to increase by 15%

To show you ways to introduce more greenery into your office, we have put together ideas from inspiring workplaces around the world. 

Install a green wall

Image via Inhabitat

Image via Inhabitat

At Airbnb’s head office in San Francisco, an impressive 1,226 sq ft green wall has been installed in the main atrium, creating a living piece of art. The green wall scales three floors of the office, while the design of the atrium allows natural light to filter in. The sets a calming tone as staff and visitors enter the office and the green wall can be viewed from many of the workspaces and meeting rooms within the building. 

Related reading: Vertical gardening – the ultimate spacesaver

Add potted plants to the office

Image via designboom, photography by Toshikyuki Yano and Michael Feather

Image via designboom, photography by Toshikyuki Yano and Michael Feather

One of the simplest ways to introduce greenery to an office is using potted plants. In Tokyo, the office of tech company LivePerson cleverly uses plants as a way to break up the space. The office is located in a single room and rather than building walls or dividers, the company allows its staff to arrange the office as they please. All of the furniture and plants can be easily moved, which gives the organisation greater flexibility to rearrange the office as the team grows. 

 

Use natural colours and materials  

Image via Breathe Architecture, photography by Peter Clarke

Image via Breathe Architecture, photography by Peter Clarke

When international tech company Slack set up its new Melbourne office, they called upon Breathe Architecture to create an inviting workspace. The abundance of plants adds a sense of serenity to the space, which is complemented by a green and grey colour palette and the use of natural materialssuch as recycled timber. The effect is incredibly calming, with employees reporting that the workspace has a Zen feel to it. To ensure that the effects of the design are not disturbed, employees are required to take phone calls in meeting rooms, rather than at their desks in the open-plan work area. 

 

Embrace natural vistas

Image via Inhabitat, photography by Iwan Baan

Image via Inhabitat, photography by Iwan Baan

If your office has a view out to trees, parks, water or another natural setting, make this a focal point of its design. In Spain, architecture firm SelgasCano has fully embraced this design idea, building its office in the woods of Madrid. The glass wall takes full advantage of this natural setting, providing views out to the forest floor and allowing sunlight into the office. This design means that artificial lighting isn’t necessary during the day, which reduces the company’s power costs and makes the office more sustainable. 

 

Choose low-maintenance plants 

Image via designboom, photography by Peter Clark

Image via designboom, photography by Peter Clark

When it comes to choosing plants for an office, it’s wise to select hardy indoor plants that can handle the conditions of artificial lighting and ventilation. Birkenstock in Melbourne is a great example of this, where mother-in-law's tongue/snake plant is used throughout its new office. These plants are easy to care for and don’t like too much water, which means less upkeep is necessary. The repetition of this plant creates a calming effect and is a pleasant way to divide each workspace. 

Related reading: Biophilic design at work – why we need greener offices

We believe in giving credit where credit is due, so if at any time you see work that is improperly recognised, please send us a quick note & we’ll gladly update the information. Thanks for inspiring us!

HOW TO CHOOSE OUTDOOR ART

Taking art outside is one of the most exciting ways to add character to an outdoor space. Outdoor art can range from large installations to more subtle pieces, and there are many ways to incorporate it into a garden, courtyard or balcony.

Image via Living Green

Image via Living Green

When choosing outdoor art, there are two things to consider: balance within the outdoor area and your own taste. Art is a very personal decision and there is no right or wrong when it comes to selecting a piece. With that said, you should consider the size and scale of a piece and where it will go in a garden. A well-chosen piece of art captures attention without detracting from other elements in the space.

In the image above, the rusted metal has an earthy feel that works well with the aesthetic of the space, and its scale complements the height of the trees and smaller plants. The shape is also important, as a piece with harsh lines or angles would have created too much contrast with the organic shapes of the path and planting scheme.

Whether large or small, a piece of art becomes a natural focal point in the garden, so your first step should be to identify where you want to position it. Then consider the following:

  • Look for pieces that will reference the colours or forms of your home or nearby architecture.

  • Ensure the piece is in proportion with the surrounding plants or built surfaces.

  • Consider how the shape of the art will contrast with the rest of the garden.

One thing to consider is that outdoor art doesn’t have to be art in the traditional sense. Using natural materials such as the basalt obelisk below is a great way to create form and function that is in sync with the flow of the space. Wendy Whiteley’s Secret Garden in Sydney is a great example of outdoor art positioned so that it feels like part of the natural landscape.

Image via The Small Garden

Image via The Small Garden

Less is more

Both of these pieces are subtle, yet they have the right amount of impact for their respective settings. The soft curve and colouration of the empty urn is an ideal complement to an unstructured planting scheme, while the form of the rock sculpture lends itself to a more structured style of design. The use of a white sculpture in front of a white wall is an interesting choice that carries on the more formal aesthetic of this space.

In both of these gardens, the surrounding plants frame the art and each piece of art is the right height and scale for its immediate setting. When positioning art in planted settings like these, choose evergreen plants to maintain year-round impact. Plants like grasses are ideal for complementing art that has movement to it, while more structured plants like hedges will bring form to a structured garden or more traditional piece of art.

 

Small space outdoor art

In small spaces such as balconies and rooftops, there are ways to integrate without sacrificing functional living space. Wall art is a simple addition for these spaces, but there are also other ways you can transform common garden elements into artistic features.

This small courtyard is another great example of less in more. The large potted tree adds height and scale to the space, which contrasts well with the metallic vessel and stools. The stools are not only functional, but they also become sculptural pieces when not in use. In spaces like this where there is a direct connection to an indoor space, positioning the art so that it is visible from inside is a great way to get more enjoyment from it.

Image via Architizer

Image via Architizer

On this rooftop in New York, the designers have cleverly transformed the built surface into a sculptural feature. This is a great solution for small outdoor areas, where you may not have the floor or wall to accommodate a piece of art. Likewise, this retaining wall is another clever example of how you can transform built surfaces into sculptural focal points.

Image via Archello

Image via Archello

This is a simple idea for a small space that transforms a potted plant into an artistic element come nightfall. If you spend a lot of time in your space during the evening, lighting an existing feature is a simple way to make a statement. This works best when the feature has a unique or striking form. If you do invest in outdoor art, lighting is something to think about when you install it, so that you can continue to enjoy it after dark.

 

Positioning art

Image via Amazon

Image via Amazon

When positioning a piece of art, place it in a spot where it won’t be competing for attention. Generally speaking, art should be allowed to stand on its own and if you do have multiple pieces, try to scatter them around the garden so they can be ‘discovered’ and admired individually. With this said, repetition does work well for pieces that are visually similar, such as the water features above or a series of sculptures that form a collection.

This tactic works in both small and large outdoor areas and is especially effective in spaces such as entrance gardens, where the art pieces can be arranged to lead people towards the building.  

We believe in giving credit where credit is due, so if at any time you see work that is improperly recognised, please send us a quick note & we’ll gladly update the information. Thanks for inspiring us!

YOUR TOP QUESTIONS ANSWERED: BALCONIES

Have you ever wondered if you could be doing more with your balcony or if it has the right furnishings? Recently we have noticed that homeowners have the same questions on their mind, so we have launched a new blog series where we share answers to the questions we are most commonly asked. To get you inspired to embrace your outdoor space, we are starting with balconies.

Image + design Terrasses Des Oliviers

Image + design Terrasses Des Oliviers

1. Help … what should I do with my balcony?

Let’s start this one with what you shouldn’t do with your balcony, and that is to use it only as a place for hanging laundry! Your balcony should enhance your lifestyle and ways to use it include lounging and entertaining, or as a balcony garden. There are a few things to consider with this question, so we have broken the answer down into individual tips.

Shift your mindset

The best way to see the potential of your balcony is to reframe your thinking. We often meet people who can only see what they can’t do with their balcony rather than what’s possible. In most situations, however, you can achieve your goals, just on a smaller scale. For example, if you want to grow your own produce, it may not be possible to have a veggie patch, but you can have a raised herb garden and even some potted citrus trees. Start small, focus on the opportunities and you will feel less overwhelmed.

Ask the right questions

The question to ask yourself is this: ‘What do I actually want to use my outdoor space for?’ It is important to think about this carefully – unlike other outdoor areas, it is more than likely that your balcony will only be able to serve a single purpose.

It often happens that people put a barbecue outside because that’s what they think they are supposed to use their balcony for. But if you only use that barbecue a couple of times each summer, you will probably find you will get far more use out of your balcony if you were to put an outdoor sofa there instead and use it as a space for relaxing.

As you are defining the purpose of the balcony, sketch the shape of your space on a notepad and work out how each part of the space will be used – this will help you to understand what’s achievable.

Get the planning right

Another reason that homeowners neglect their balconies is that they are put off by a lack of shelter, shade or privacy. Look at the size and aspect of your space and start to consider how you can address these issues (with respect to any body corporate regulations that may apply to your building). Thinking about these issues will make the space more liveable year round.

If you want to cultivate your own garden, you will need to be mindful that balconies are often exposed to more elements, such as wind and heat. Understanding which plants will tolerate these conditions will ensure the success of your balcony garden. When space is limited, you can integrate greenery by using hanging planters or installing a vertical garden. Not sure what to plant? Our list of top balcony plants features hardy plants that like being potted and don’t mind the heat and wind.

Less is more

Showing restraint is the key to creating a functional space. Cluttering a balcony will make it feel smaller and could inhibit the flow of movement between indoor and outdoor areas. This comes down to the furniture you choose – look for slimline pieces that will fit comfortably in the space.

When considering the decor, consider taking cues from your interiors to ensure there is continuity between the spaces. A sense of cohesiveness is an important part of feeling comfortable when you move between your indoor and outdoor spaces.

2. Will spending money on my outdoor space add value to my home?

In a nutshell – yes. But investing in your outdoor area won’t just add value to your property, it will also improve your health and lifestyle.

When you purchase a property, you are paying for every square metre, so it makes sense to utilise the balcony space you have. Doing so creates an outdoor room that maximises the liveability of your home, in turn elevating your lifestyle.

There is a growing body of research showing the positive connections between plants and people. When we have more contact with plants and the outdoors, stress lowers and this has a positive impact on both physical and mental health. So by investing in your outdoor space, you are making a commitment to improving your lifestyle as a whole. 

Image Design + Image Anthony Wyer 

Image Design + Image Anthony Wyer 

3. Should I invest in new outdoor furniture?

Whether to purchase new furniture or use what you have depends upon a number of factors. We understand that investing in furniture can be a significant expense, but if your furniture is too large for the space, it can be one of the reasons why you may not use your balcony as often as you would like.

This is generally the case for people who are downsizing from a larger home into an apartment. In these situations, it is often best to start again and invest in the best quality outdoor furniture that your budget will allow. Look for lightweight pieces, UV-resistant outdoor fabrics and furnishings that suit the scale of the space you have.

This is a good opportunity to rethink how you use your balcony. If you don’t have space for a full dining setting, for example, you may choose to purchase bar seating or a small outdoor lounge instead. Or you may even decide to build-in furnishings such as bench seating with storage, as this is a great way to maximise space.

When it comes to pots, once again quality is important. Heavy are generally not suitable on a balcony, as they retain more heat. Look for lightweight pots and use good quality soil and agents like Wettasoil so your plants don’t go thirsty. If you have large plants, put them on wheels so you can move them around to suit seasonal conditions.

Image + design The Small Garden

Image + design The Small Garden

Have a question for us?

Over the coming months we will be sharing more advice on courtyards, rooftops and plant selection – so if there’s something you would like to ask us, we’d love to hear from you! Email info@thesmallgarden.com.au or tag us on Instagram

We believe in giving credit where credit is due, so if at any time you see work that is improperly recognised, please send us a quick note & we’ll gladly update the information. Thanks for inspiring us!