Terrariums are seeing a stylish comeback
The Lower Mainland may have enjoyed the driest September on record, but in the foreboding words familiar to fans of Game of Thrones: winter is coming. As sunny days inevitably give way to leaden skies, the desire to curl up on the couch with a remote in one hand and a favourite comfort food in the other becomes increasingly difficult to ignore. The first few months of winter are often mitigated by excitement over the impending holidays, but come January, after all the eggnog, latkes, and assorted seasonal pomp disappear, so do cherished memories of what the outdoors looked, let alone felt, like.
If a beach getaway isn’t in the financial cards this year, one way to combat the impending Vancouver greys is to bring something green and summery indoors. But houseplants aren’t a viable option for many people, whether it’s because of pets, the lack of a green thumb, or purely aesthetic reasons. (When was the last time you saw a ficus in pride of place on the pages of Architectural Digest? Cut flowers, sure, but an actual live, growing green thing?)
With those proud pet parents, gauche gardeners, and imperious minimalists in mind, might we suggest a terrarium?
Like many other (and occasionally less welcome) hallmarks of 1970s interior design, terrariums have staged a massive comeback. Convenience is one reason: Terrariums are self-contained (pet-friendly) and low-maintenance (hard to kill) and, best of all, will fit in with your finely cultivated décor scheme, should you have one. As a bonus, terrariums make it possible to grow rarer, more exotic plants—a win for any aesthete.
“Many indoor tropical and subtropical plants enjoy higher levels of humidity than what we can typically provide them in our homes,” says Megan Branson, of Olla Urban Flower Project (235 Cambie Street). “Encasing humid-loving plants—air plants, leafy tropicals, carnivorous plants—in glass vessels helps to increase the humidity levels within them, helping them to thrive.”
A former business student who cultivated her green thumb at her father’s knee, Branson married both her worlds with her floral-design shop in 2010. Her personal aesthetic leans toward “simple, modest designs” that are “form-heavy and asymmetrical”. Accordingly, her individual ecosystems display an artfulness that complements the polished concrete and meticulous emptiness of even the most modern West Coast spaces. “Glass magnifies and frames plant design in ways that are beautiful, simple, and contemporary-looking,” she explains.
Using glass vessels from California-based housewares label Roost and vintage and flea-market finds closer to home, the Gastown shop’s one-of-a-kind creations now account for approximately 20 percent of its business. Last March, Olla began supplying hanging, teardrop-shaped terrariums as well as table-top “living containers” to West End housewares boutique Homewerx (1053 Davie Street), and public interest has increased so much that Branson and her staff now offer terrarium-building workshops in their Cambie Street retail loft.
Just a few steps from Branson’s boutique sits Old Faithful (320 West Cordova Street), where an entirely different take on the terrarium is also finding favour. Shelving along the shop’s far wall plays host to Matthew Cleland’s Arts and Crafts–inspired planters, sold under the name Score and Solder. As the name implies, the pieces are created using time-honoured stained-glass techniques that Cleland taught himself at home on Pender Island: scoring the glass before cutting it and soldering it into place with a lead-free mix of tin, silver, and zinc. The process may be traditional, but the results are anything but. Some planters wouldn’t look out of place in a New England saltbox home, while others lend themselves to more contemporary spaces.
Pyramids, geodesic structures, and lozenges are this former plumber’s stock-in-trade, but the interplay between harsh geometric shapes and the natural, miniature world they contain is his inspiration. “I just liked the idea of having a little ecosystem inside a container,” he tells the Straight. Score and Solder is a one-man operation, but that could be changing thanks to a growing list of retailers in Canada, the United States, and Japan, as well as Cleland’s hope to branch out into lighting later this year.
Meanwhile, Vancouver-based design superstar Omer Arbel has brought lighting and planting together for contemporary-design house Bocci with 38, a strange and wonderful new lighting structure unveiled this past spring at Milan’s Salone Internazionale del Mobile. Described on the company’s website as “surrealistically motivated”, 38 is a chandelier composed of glass spheres inset with random cavities that can house lighting elements as well as earth for planting succulents and cacti. The pods are linked by stiff, vinelike copper wire, giving the overall installation a plantlike effect. For an up-close experience, look no further than the recently opened Tacofino Commissary (2327 East Hastings Street ) or exclusive retailer Inform Interiors (50 Water Street).