Houseplants 101

A customer recently came into terrain looking to purchase a few houseplants. She appeared sort of lost–a feeling I know everyone feels at times when shopping–so I approached her to ask if she needed any help. She said, “Do you ever read Apartment Therapy?” to which I replied “Yes, all the time!” She continued, “The rooms on that site are all so beautifully decorated, and I’ve noticed that every picture I’m drawn to has plants in it. I want to try and do that.” I jumped with joy as I showed her around the shade house, pointing out different kinds of plants to determine her interests. I mean, plants combined with interior decorating ideas?! Swoon.

That customer inspired me to write this post. I helped her understand the different kinds of indoor plants (trees vs. ferns vs. succulents, etc.), while also figuring out what kind of care she was willing to give her new plants. Below are some things to think about if you’re new to houseplants or want to learn more.

Questions to Consider

  1. How much time do you have to care for your plants?
  2. Do you travel often?
  3. Do you have pets? (If yes, click here.)
  4. What amount of light does your home get?

How to Create “That Apartment Therapy Look”

1. When browsing for new houseplants, it’s important to find plants of varying sizes. 4-inch pots are great, but don’t forget to look for plants that are 8-12 inches in diameter. Larger plants–that can sit on the floor, rather than a table or a bookshelf–add serious personality to a room. While these plants might be more expensive, they are a sure-fire way to achieve the Apartment Therapy look.

2. Acquiring plants of varying sizes will naturally lead to this next point: Place plants at differing heights in the room. For example, have plants on the floor, a coffee table, on top of a bookshelf, hanging down from the ceiling, or on a windowsill. This will make a difference in the room’s overall “feel.”

3. Don’t overlook the pot! Pot purchases should receive just as much attention as plants themselves. They do make a statement, after all. Find a pot that complements the plant, either in color or texture or both. Terra cotta is certainly a great option not only for its natural, organic look, but also because the porous ceramic allows the plant to breathe. If that’s not what you’re interested in, browse your local nursery, hardware store, or IKEA. They all have great options for pots in various sizes.

4. Speaking of texture, here’s my last tip: Choose plants that have contrasting textures, shapes, and colors. This can come in the form of different colored flowers (if your houseplant blooms) or varying leaf sizes or colors (hellooo, tropical plants!). Even if you want only green houseplants, there is an entire spectrum of leaf colors, ranging from neon to forest green. Choosing these different colors, shapes, and textures will add visual interest.

The Details: Lighting

Plants that do well in low light: dracaena, ferns, heartleaf philodendron, lucky bamboo, ponytail palm, pothos, prayer plant, orchids, sansevieria (mother-in-law’s tongue), spider plant, zamioculcas zamiifolia (zz plant)

Plants that do well in medium light: African violet, begonia, ferns, hoya, ivy, mother-in-law’s tongue, orchids, ponytail palm, pothos, split leaf philodendron, succulents, umbrella plant, watermelon peperomia, zz plant

Plants that do well in bright light: aloe, angel vine, citrus, ficus, mother-in-law’s tongue, norfolk pine, oxalis, ponytail palm, rubber tree, succulents, yucca

The Details: Plant Care

If you travel often, look for plants that only need to be watered 2-4 times a month. These might include aloe, ficus, jade, pothos, succulents, and zz plant.

Plants that need higher humidity: ferns, orchids, norfolk pine, citrus, and ficus. Any plant that is native to a tropical environment will require higher levels of humidity. Place a tray filled with water and pebbles beneath the pot, or use a spray bottle to mist the leaves each time you water to help the plant thrive.

Regarding watering, I find it easiest to choose a day of the week and stick to it. I water my houseplants on Saturdays so that I have time to enjoy it and know that each plant is receiving care. Obvious exceptions to this would be succulents, zz plant, and fiddle leaf fig (which usually need to be watered less frequently), and angel vine (which needs watering every other day).

Have I convinced you to go out a find yourself some new houseplants? Or to rearrange the ones you already have? Anne and I have about 15 houseplants, and I am always on the lookout to acquire more. We have plants in every room, including the bathroom. Next up, I want to add a plant to our shower. I just need to decide if it will sit in a suctioning shower caddy or hang down from the ceiling…  Decisions, decisions. Plants bring such life into a room, and sometimes even purify the air! (Read NASA’s Guide to Air-Filtering Houseplants)

Do you have any tips or tricks to caring for your houseplants? Any other suggestions for getting “that Apartment Therapy look”? I will leave you now with one of my favorite poems. I like bringing these “wild things” into our home.

“The Peace of Wild Things” by Wendell Berry

When despair for the world grows in me 
and I wake in the night at the least sound 
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be, 
I go and lie down where the wood drake 
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds. 
I come into the peace of wild things 
who do not tax their lives with forethought 
of grief. I come into the presence of still water. 
And I feel above me the day-blind stars 
waiting with their light. For a time 

I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

(Our houseplants, in the order that they appear: angel vine, zz plant, fiddle leaf fig, various succulents, mini orchid, ficus breeze, orchid, meyer lemon tree, jade)

How To Install Picture Ledges

The Pope came to Philly last weekend, and the whole city was on vacation (#Popecation). Highways, bridges, city streets, and most of the public transit system around here was shut down for three days. Anne’s school had a “cyber day” on Friday, and I was home from work. Although millions gathered to see the Pope and hear him speak downtown, we ultimately decided to go into full-on hibernation mode and work on our new apartment. There was a lot to be done!

In preparation for the Pope’s visit, Anne and I bought our first power tool: Ryobi Reconditioned 5.5-Amp 3/8 in. Corded Variable Speed Reversing Compact Clutch Driver. We know what approximately three of those words mean, but I now go by the nickname Ryobi-Wan Kenobi regardless. We were really excited about it because: 1) it came with a matching tool bag to store it in, and 2) we’ve wanted to put up picture ledges for a really long time. It never happened in our last apartment because our walls were practically cement, so hanging anything was always such a headache.

If you’ve been thinking about buying an electric drill/driver, but haven’t known what kind, style, or brand to get, look no further. The Ryobi we purchased from Home Depot was the perfect tool for our job, and we are really excited to continue using it for other projects we have in mind. It was incredibly affordable and easy to use.

DIY Picture Ledges

Materials:

Step 1: Gather all of the items you are thinking about displaying on your ledges. On the floor, test out possible layouts, and determine the height you’d like between the ledges.

Step 2: Choose what wall the ledges will be hung on. Use the Stud Find app to locate all of the studs in that region, and use washi tape to mark the found studs. Using studs to anchor your ledges, rather than just patches of drywall, will make them more secure.

Step 3: Make sure your couch, lamp, and side table, etc. are in their usual spots. Mark the floor with washi tape to know where to put the furniture back later. With that complete, decide how high above the couch you want to hang the lower ledge. Note that it should be at least 8-10 inches higher than the back of the couch.

Step 4: Align the three holes in the bottom ledge with the marked studs in the wall. Use the Ryobi to drill in the middle screw. Then, use the Level app to make sure the ledge is level before driving in the second and third screws. (This step definitely calls for two people. Invite a friend over to help, or work together with your significant other or roommate.)

Step 5: Test the height of your items on the ledge. Add 4-6 inches of wall space above the tallest item to know how high to make the next ledge. Repeat Step 4.

Step 6: Once both ledges are securely drilled into the studs, step back and congratulate yourself. You did it! It’s time to fill your ledges with frames and other mementos. Here are three tips Anne and I thought up to help create a beautiful display:

  • Choose a color scheme. With so many items close together, things can start to look hairy pretty quickly. We decided on black, white, and blue (with a few small pops of color). Common colors will help everything look a bit more refined and cohesive.
  • Choose frames with varying heights to add visual interest.
  • Layer your frames. They are begging to be layered! Set one frame slightly over another to create a more chock-full look.

This project took us three hours from start to finish. Not bad, all things considered! It was our first project with Ryobi, and I honestly can’t wait for the next. The Stud Find app is also a lot of fun to use. We found ourselves checking for studs all over the apartment, just because it was so fun to hear the “ding” go off. What a thrill!

We’re excited to have installed something permanent in our apartment that will allow us the flexibility to alter our display. I like knowing that we can always add in new finds, or swap items out for different seasons. Installing these ledges was a big first step in settling in here, and I can’t wait to see how they will change over time.

Cozy Fall Favorites

I’ve always said that fall is my favorite season, but it wasn’t until this past week that I pinpointed exactly why it’s my favorite season. For starters, I love the transition from long, hot summer days to slightly shorter, crisper fall days. Trees begin to change, and these vibrant colors are some of the best out there.

Fall is the season where we start our migration back into our homes after going out and being explorers for the summer–explorers in our gardens, towns, cities. We quiet ourselves as we embrace this change, and learn from nature just how beautiful a time of transition can really be. We indulge in simple pleasures, and refocus on what’s important. It’s our chance to turn over a new leaf.

When I write posts like this one, I tend to look outward for inspiration. This week, I thought I’d look inward. Scissors & Sage is two years old now, and I have a lot of really fun blog posts to show for my time here! Below, you’ll find a few of my favorite projects and recipes that embrace fall in all its cozy glory.

Nothing says fall like this trio: hot tea, ceramic mug, and knit coaster. Coziness is just oozing out of this picture! Learn to knit this coaster here. It’d make a beautiful gift set.

Looking to knit something wearable, instead? This cowl is a quick project with big results–perfect for fall layering.

It’s now okay to turn the oven back on. Wahoo! These mile-high coffee cake muffins are a real crowd-pleaser, and will provide a nice transition back into baking again.

Snuggle up with one of these homemade soy wax candles. They’re perfect for any room of your home.

Believe it or not, Halloween season is almost upon us. These spooky chocolate cake doughnuts are festive and pretty tasty.

It’s a perfect time to check-in with your recipe box. Mine, from Rifle Paper Co., fills me with a lot of joy. Start simmering those stews, people!

Let fall colors guide your crafting this season. These DIY leaf flowers make a beautiful centerpiece, and are a definite conversation-starter.

Felt is a great crafting material for cooler months. I made this two-pocket cell phone sleeve using gift packaging from Madewell!

There are a few more things on my mind this week:

  1. I recently discovered a company called Parachute. Have you heard of them? Their website and blog focuses on all-things sleeping. From selling luxurious bedding hand-crafted in Italy, to blogging about how to choose the right pillow, they’ve got it covered. And they cover it well.
  2. It’s time to try something new. I’ve got a few new crafting techniques and projects I’m interested in testing out soon, and I’m really excited about them. Our new apartment is the perfect blank canvas! Are you hoping to start a certain project soon?
  3. I don’t usually drink caffeine, but settling into a good book or knitting project with a chai tea latte sounds pretty excellent right about now. My favorite is Oregon Chai’s powdered mix.

What are you doing to get ready for fall? Are you excited, or are you already missing summer?

A Peaceful Abode In Brooklyn

One of my favorite things to read about on design and craft blogs is interior design. I am so interested in learning about how people live, and different ways to create a space that is simultaneously stylish, cozy, and inviting. One of the first times Anne and I ever hung out together, we studied for a psychology exam we drew up blueprints of our respective dorm rooms, and talked endlessly about the best furniture configurations for our spaces. I kid you not!

So, this week we are taking a closer look at my dear friends’ Brooklyn apartment. Brooklyn is special to me, and Heather and Maggie’s apartment is very much on my list of reasons why. They moved in together this past fall, and have been making their apartment a home ever since.

The photos and story below are from Heather, who is simply an all-around artist in my opinion. Her photographs do a wonderful job of capturing the tranquility and creativity that seems to flow freely from her and Maggie’s home. They are both actresses, and Heather is also a beautiful drawer, painter, writer, and baker. Her blog, See, Sort, File, is an incredible archive of her musings on daily life. (I especially like this post.) Anne calls her “a young Lorrie Moore by way of Walt Whitman.”

Below is Heather and Maggie’s story. I hope that you enjoy it, and that these two inspire you to do something creative this week!

From Heather: Maggie and I met when we were eighteen at NYU, where we both studied acting. In keeping with the nomadic New York City lifestyle, we’ve each moved six times in our eight years of living here. Sixth time’s the charm, because this past November we landed a home we both love (and our first home together!) in Bed-Stuy. These days we work as actresses and waitresses, and spend our time at home chatting endlessly, cooking, and moving the couch around. I hope to never, ever move again. (Wish me luck.)

Our new place is actually two blocks away from Maggie’s old apartment. It’s a beautiful thing to move within a neighborhood you know. Signing a lease can feel like a huge leap of faith, like opening a box that will be half full of what you ordered, and half full of something completely different (i.e. a roach problem and a crazy upstairs neighbor), so we were very happy to eliminate any possible unknowns.

We love Bed-Stuy. We’re a five-minute walk away from a yoga studio that Maggie loves, a bakery where we buy foccacia and cacio e pepe sourdough, our favorite pizza restaurant, and a bar where you can usually get a seat and can always get a good drink. It’s an area filled with people of all ages and all ethnicities, with block associations and community gardens and a YMCA. I’ve always said that Brooklyn made me love New York. This neighborhood sealed the deal.

So. Our house! Decorating this place has been all about synthesizing our design sensibilities, which actually just means going through all of our belongings and figuring out what at least one of us really, really liked. We ended up furnishing our whole place with stuff we already had. Much of our furniture is actually from parents, grandparents, or families that I babysit for (!)–hand-me-downs acquired gradually over the past four years. I think the only piece of furniture we bought upon moving was our couch.

Our apartment is on the top floor of a brownstone. It is a 1.5 bedroom, which means that we have a little extra room attached to our bedroom to use as an office and guest room. (This arrangement was a bit de facto… Neither one of us wanted to sell our bed!) Hopefully our guests like very small spaces filled with office furniture.

The thing I think about the most when setting up a living space is how I want to feel inside each room. The living room should be conducive to socializing, the bedroom should be calm and peaceful, the kitchen should be warm and convenient. That, and displaying the items that just make us feel great, are the lines of thought that have driven our space. Maggie has a blanket from her dad that we keep on the couch. We have a little radio that we basically carry from room to room. I have a desk from my parents’ house that I sit at to write. I really believe that if your space makes you feel good, then that’s all that matters.

These things make our space feel like home:

One of the wildest things about our apartment is our view. Even though we’re smack in the middle of Brooklyn, we’re high enough up to see the Manhattan skyline. The sight of the Empire State Building, which towered above our acting studio in college, made this move feel like it completed a circle. These buildings have been with us all the while, and now they continue to accompany us as we change and grow, lighting up the sky with that same strange city magic.

Heather (left) and Maggie (right)

All photos taken by Heather Thiry

Bar Cart Tour

Since Anne and I moved into our apartment in Philly two and a half years ago, we’ve made an effort to put together a small bar cart with some essential components for making cocktails. It’s been an ongoing project, and has really evolved over the past few years. We’ve received some bar cart items as gifts and others we’ve purchased together. Today I’d like to take you on a tour of our little bar! Have you ever put together a bar cart? What are some of your go-to items?

The inspiration for this bar came when we first saw the cart in IKEA. (You can find if for sale online here.) I love that it sits on four casters, and can fit just about anywhere. For now, it works perfectly next to our sofa. Below you’ll see how we’ve divided the three levels into loose categories.

Spirits, Liqueurs, & Bitters

Spirits:

  • Clyde May’s Alabama-Style Whiskey
  • Journeyman Distillery’s Red Arrow Vodka (pure Michigan!)
  • Camarena 100% Agave Tequila

Liqueurs:

  • Triple Sec
  • Peach-Flavored Brandy (delicious in sangria)

Bitters:

  • Dram’s Citrus Medica
  • Bittermilk No. 4: New Orleans-Style Old Fashioned Rouge

This limited selection allows us to enjoy whiskey sours, Moscow mules, greyhounds, and margaritas, to name a few go-tos.

Tools & Books

Tools:

  • Shaker
  • Strainer
  • Jigger
  • Muddler
  • Stirrer, fork, garnish knife
  • Bottle and wine openers
  • Citrus juicer
  • Decorative straws

Books:

Glassware & Mugs

The bottom shelf holds a few different types of drinking vessels for various drinks. We use stemmed wine glasses, stemless flutes, and rocks glasses for almost all of our drinks — and we recently welcomed two copper Moscow mule mugs into our collection. They’re settling in quite nicely!

In The Kitchen

We keep a lot of bar items in the refrigerator, too!  Citrus, cherries, olives, seltzer, and ginger beer are great ingredients and garnishes for many a cocktail.

We love using this cart for hosting our friends and family. It undergoes changes as we learn more about cocktails and become inspired by drinks we enjoy out. While the supplies for a bar cart are somewhat limitless, we have found that our cart is a perfect mixture of essential and supplementary ingredients.

Next week, I am excited to host another guest blogger on Scissors & Sage. I won’t spoil it, but she is going to be sharing a delicious cocktail recipe with us! Cheers to a happy week!