There are a lot of arguments in favour of pets; all those pop-sci health facts that prove that people with pets are happier and healthier than those who live alone. Well, it’s a nice theory, but for those who have very busy professional, travelling lives, it’s not always practical. No one is going to feel particularly joyous or healthy about coming back to a skeletal dog if the dogsitter turns out to be the senseless stoner you suspected or your neglected cat has expressed her displeasure by taking her claws to your prized Le Corbusier chaise lounge.
Better to look to the plant kingdom. Less animated they may be, but living green things are also proven to have comparable health benefits to pets in terms of feeling better when we share our space with some other organic life –and, no, not the mould at the back of your fridge.
For one thing, plants tend not to keel over and die when neglected for a few days. This is obviously great news for those with busy travel schedules. And, there are no demands on your time for walkies, potty or other forms of attention that co-habitational creatures of the four-legged variety demand.
At this time of year, when the weather plays coquettish games with a few hours of sunshine, plant life in an interior can give the impression of a better climate. Furthermore, eco-conscious designers are making some very interesting interior habitats for green forms of life that do their own bit for the oxygen content on your urban abode. The musty image of houseplants and indoor gardens dripping with macramé (although, be warned even that’s a retro style on the comeback trail!) and dotty old women speaking to their geraniums has given way to a new generation of design companies bringing a new spirit of environmental friendliness that won’t cramp one’s style.
The questionable image of indoor plants has not always been so. For example, plants and the idea of the indoor garden were at the centre of a popular wave for modernism in the 1950’s. In the euphoria of the post-war economic boom that saw affordable suburbs proliferate across the USA, living with greenery was all part of the plan. Everything from snazzy streamlined pot plant holders to veritable indoor gardens were on offer.
In 1956, architects A. Quincy Jones and Frederick E. Emmons unveiled their design for the X-100, the so-called ‘experimental research house’ that was a model for the affordable ultramodern homes developed in the San Mateo Highlands, CA.
Riding the crest of the wave for all things moderne, this ‘house of the future’ was reported in the media across the USA and over 150 000 visitors actually drove out to the show house.
One of the central features of their steel and glass bungalow was the indoor garden where sections of the concrete floor were literally open to the earth beneath. The idea was that living plants – easily sustained given the natural light that entered- would break up the angularity of the construction; create natural divisions of space in the open-plan interior and connect the natural world without with the domestic one within.
Today, practically every aspect –from fixtures and fittings to the houses themselves–of Jones & Emmons’s design is a collector item. The current vogue for mid-century modernism has seen all forms of decorative objects and furniture from the period reaching records prices at auction.
So, if you’re someone who has a particular soft spot for mid-century modernism but doesn’t want to go the full distance of deploying an architect to reconstruct a 1950’s indoor garden in your home, you can achieve the feel with surprisingly little effort.
Why not stick your sansevieria trifasciata into one of the Retro Bullet Planters by Hip Haven? This natty reproduction of a classic 1950’s design in black metal and plastic is produced the Austin, Texas. It comes in a number of different sizes, for indoors and out, and some sixteen different colours, including all those zingy 1950’s pinks, greens and blues.