The Natural (and Totally Free) Touches That Will Cozy up Any Room

June  8, 2016

Adding a natural element is almost always the last thing I’ll do when decorating a space. I’ve hung frames, stacked books, placed objets, whatever—and something feels off. Usually it feels too sterile, or too careful, too “look at this considered vignette.” What it needs is something organic and imperfectly perfect, to break up all the man-made right angles and loosen up the look. And it’s always a piece of nature.

Photo by Liz Johnson

Over the years, I’ve amassed a collection of foraged flora and fauna bits. They remind me of vacations, walks, seasons past. But also they’re utterly unique (and free) ways to infuse my home with the sort of cosy-minimal-casual-sophisticated vibe I’m going after.


Photo by Liz Johnson

Branches are a good place to start if you’re just now dipping your toe into the “decorating with nature” waters. Whether you live in the city or the country, whether it’s summer or winter, there are bound to be branches nearby. They’re a great way to fill a space in a way that still feels airy and not cluttered. A few corners in my home have tall vases filled with three to four sculptural, bare branches. I’ve also walked out to my backyard, and cut a leafy branch of nothing-special to use as filler in a bouquet or centerpiece.


Photo by Liz Johnson

A little more of a weight and space commitment than branches, larger pieces of driftwood can lend a comforting heft when layered behind mirrors, on mantels, or shelves. The one pictured above brings some warmth to our black bedroom, and keeps our mirror from disappearing totally into the wall color.

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I also like balancing a single, smaller piece on top of a framed print, as below—the organic twistiness plays nicely off of cleaner, more graphic images, like these stamps. I’ve also been amassing a collection of long, rounded driftwood pieces to make a mobile with one day.

Photo by Liz Johnson

Nests & Feathers

The nest below was found on a recent walk, and given a new home in our den (after making sure it was abandoned, of course). Tucking it into a little corner makes it feel like it might have been built there. It’s grouped with a rose from our garden, and a single feather.

Photo by Liz Johnson

I went back-and-forth on whether or not to include the feather—I’m always careful not to have too many elements from any one creature or environment, or else the whole thing starts feeling heavy-handed.

Pressed Greenery

I have no idea how to properly press flowers or leaves; I’m sure there are countless tutorials available online. But there’s really nothing to lose if you already have a frame laying around. These four ferns from my parents’ home in northern Michigan were tucked in between book pages for a few weeks, then framed.

Photo by Liz Johnson

Our house is filled with gold and yellow accents, so I love that they’ve oxidized into their current shade. I could see this working well with flowers or leaves - especially something large, like an elephant ear leaf, or a grid of similar small specimens. It reminds me of those old scientifical botanical prints, but the charming irregularities and wonky spacing give it a little more personality ( what I tell myself).

Ongoing Collections

Photo by Liz Johnson

Since I live in North Carolina, most of my finds come from the many nearby forests. I imagine if I lived closer to the coast (or a desert, etc.), the vibe would be slightly different. Whenever I travel, I look for natural souvenirs from these other corners of the country: a sun-bleached seashell, a smooth stone, even small animal bones. When I take walks through the neighborhood, I keep an open eye for twisted branches, or weird seed pods. And I continue to feather my nest.

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1 Comment

sarah June 10, 2016
In my also black bedroom I have a few animal skulls I found on walks in the forest on my black dresser. In my room of black, red and beechwood, furnished with seventies furniture (inherited) I feel like it adds a bright (and slightly morbid) twist in a surround likely to feel stuffy.