ROOM WITH A POINT OF VIEW
HOW ‘OUTDOOR ROOMS’ CAN
EXTEND YOUR LIVING SPACE
By SHAGORIKA EASWAR
There’s much talk of extending one’s living space by creating “outdoor rooms”, by taking the indoors out.
Erica Tanov shows how to work the reverse beautifully, by bringing the outdoors in.
The colours and shapes of leaves, the jagged bark of trees... she shows how we can incorporate patterns and motifs from nature, as well as actual elements from the natural world into simple ideas for decorating the spaces we occupy.
With topics ranging from embracing imperfection in your home to scoping flea market finds to displaying your collection, Design by Nature encourages readers to transcend fleeting trends and find their own enduring personal style.
This is not a how-to book, writes Tanov, but one that encourages you to trust your instinct and surround yourself with objects you love and that hold a special meaning for you.
A quote by Vincent Van Gogh leads one into the book: If you truly love nature, you will find beauty everywhere.
Another by Marcel Proust defines the philosophy of the book: The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.
Where we see bark and leaves, Tanov finds inspiration in the texture and patterns created in shifting light, creating wondrous fabrics and wallpaper designs.
She traces her love for nature to hikes she went on as a little girl with her sister and father. And shares a lesson she learnt from him after a visit to a flea market with her aunt.
I remember once finding a sack of old embroidered linens. Although they were stained and riddled with holes, I beamed with pride over my purchase because I’d paid only a few dollars for the whole bag. Looking at the doilies, my dad commented that I should seek out quality over quantity.
She took the lesson to heart, but remained fascinated with old fabrics, “the history they held and the stories they told, stains and all”.
Tanov also showcases the work of several designers – weavers, dyers, mixed media painters – and the fascinating worlds they create.
I am entranced by the photograph of a room – I imagine it is her home studio. The desk houses the tools of her trade, pens, paints, twine and glitter in an eclectic collection of cups, bottles and holders. The large windows overlooking trees are shaded by split bamboo blinds that we knew as chiks.
She incorporates many other Indian elements. Mukaish embroidery on a table runner, for one. Or textiles created by the Banjara, each a work of art with its applique work, dense embroidery, mirrors and cowrie shells. I spot a book on one of her shelves, New Delhi, New Wave.
She uses the tonal colour palette of natural woods in unusual pairings of fabric that seem so natural when you see them together.
Raw silk, reminiscent of birch trees, perforated leather representing wood-pecked holes, a dotted jamdani cotton capturing the dappled light that peeks through the fluttering leaves...
I see beaded, tasselled necklaces hanging from door knobs and succulents like hens and chicks in apothecary bottles.
The many moods of water appear in her work in diaphanous gauze curtains or indigo-dyed pillows. She designs clothing that moves with the same ease as a flowing stream, writes Tanov.
A collection of picture frames and trinket boxes displayed against a turquoise-teal wall reminds me of lost treasures one might discover on a beach.
Mismatched pots bursting with greenery – all different plants – hang against a white wall. Each different, creating beautiful harmony together.
There’s a section on decay.
A bouquet of flowers slowly wilts on my nightstand... stark whites become elegant creams.
I am struck first by the fact that I have never thought of putting flowers on my nightstand. My arrangements, if they can be called that, are always in spaces where they can be seen by others, never for my enjoyment alone. I gather a bunch of leaves and late mums and place them on my nightstand. Thank you, Erica!
Then I read what she has to say about ageing beauty: We are taught to worship the new but I find myself repeatedly pulled to things that show signs of age and time. Things in a state of disrepair. There is so much beauty to be found in objects that have naturally changed course.
Tanov used the pages of a vintage book that was falling apart to wallpaper the powder room.
If I needed another reason to love Design by Nature, I find it in the section on weeds.
A weed is just another unwanted plant, which means any plant, really, can be considered a weed. I love the idea of something that’s unwanted being a source of beauty.
I think of the bunch of dandelions gathered for me by a little one, arranged in a smoked glass given to me by my brother years and years ago and smile.