Decorating With Natural Objects
For those of us who choose to live off-the-grid, off the land, and off of the beaten path, it’s only natural that we would want to adorn our living spaces with natural objects. Ancient people did it and so can we. Natural objects are beautiful, educational, and artistic. Anyone who has ever spent time outdoors know this, but did you ever think to decorate with them? If you’re the reduce, reuse, and recycle type, you’ll want to take note of the following tips for decorating you house the "old fashioned" way and surround yourself in nature’s decorations.
I have always delighted in found items and dragged home many a fossil or animal skull, but who really decorates with these things? Well, I do. I would rather set out a basket of pine cones I’ve collected from all over the Southwest than a bowl of bobbles made of cheap plastic that have no meaning. Useless trinkets have no place in my space, but geometric Buffalo Gourds and spiny Agave stalks do.
My 5 mountainous acres in New Mexico are chock-full of fossils and other natural items. I leave most fossils I find in place on my land, unless it’s a great piece I must show off. To me, fossils give perspective to a twenty-first century room. They are the ultimate antiques ranging from thousands to millions of years old.
Likewise, I collect pine needles and juniper berries for potpourri, pine cones to give texture to a room, old Yucca and Agave stalks to lean in corners for accents, Cholla skeletons for conversation pieces, and deadwood for art. I have even collected the sloughed skins of Cicadas for art projects.
Other items I love to place on shelves and in nooks for decoration include found feathers and fallen bird nests, which bring softness to a room and remind me everyday of the beauty and skill of birds. Antlers offer a room a sense of renewal, as elk and deer shed them every year. Seashells, of course, have been a long-time favorite bathroom decoration and hint at the purity of water. Skulls and bones bring reality to space, while colorful rocks and minerals provide that earthy feeling you love in the outdoors. Multi-functional, you can use rocks as show pieces or door stops.
I enjoy harvesting seeds from wildflowers and displaying them in wine bottles until I plant them the following spring. Cattails with native grasses fill the void of your grandmother’s antique vase and autumn leaves provide a seasonal feel.
I have begun to experiment with casting animal tracks in plaster for display, which make great mementos of a much enjoyed hike.
Food items I proudly display in my cabin include beans, acorns and other nuts, corn, peppers and ristras, fruits, vegetables, wild rice, herbs, and spices. I place a bunch of mesquite beans in an old Mexican pail to be enjoyed visually until used in the barbecue.
Plants, wildflowers, and even pets are good for decorating. What’s more in tune with the animal kingdom than Rover sitting on your hemp futon?
Items made from natural material such as baskets, rugs, and wood furniture are best for this motif and the planet, but I do decorate with a few meaningful non-organics like artifacts such as arrowheads, bottles, horseshoes, and signs I found legally. On my wall is an enlarged framed photograph I took when I lived in the Mojave Desert of a Chuckwalla perched proudly on a rock. I think photographs from my travels are an excellent decoration.
When you go in search of natural decorative objects, be aware of the rules and regulations for collecting found objects and, of course, never vandalize, destroy, or harm anything in any way to obtain the item you are desiring. The only way this works conscientiously is if you have the item legally and guilt free. Although trophy hunting is done in many places legally, it contradicts the purpose of this article, which is to celebrate nature and the natural course of life.
If you can see beauty in nature and want to surround yourself in its fruits then you should consider clearing off that shelf of glass figurines and football memorabilia and replacing them with nature’s decorations.