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Nature-inspired decorating grows popular

By: Sara Kandel | C&G Newspapers | Published September 19, 2012

 Natural elements, like these pussy willows, can bring a touch of nature inside.

Natural elements, like these pussy willows, can bring a touch of nature inside.

Photo by Brad D. Bates

Her work ranges from the bold to the subtle, with pieces that add an organic touch and installations that define a space, with muted earth tones, seasonal colors and vibrant hues. She has something for everyone.

She’s been in the business for years, but it wasn’t until recently that people began to realize the full potential of her work for interior design. From twig-filled vases to moss topiary balls and driftwood headboards, her designs are popping up everywhere.

This year, Mother Nature is redefining the rules of design.

“Natural and nature-inspired prints are popular in design right now,” said Vicky Johnson of Decorating Den, an interior design company she runs in her Sterling Heights home.

“Stones in a bowl on a table can look elegant and organic, as can twig branches in a vase,” said Johnson, 52. “They even have really cool wallpaper now with twigs and branches running vertically in stripes.”

While Johnson’s business focuses predominately on window treatments and fabric work, she’s noticed a resurgence of rustic style.

“A lot of people are doing reclaimed barn wood and driftwood. There are many sources online where you can buy the wood, and then you can have a builder make a table or headboard or whatever you want out of it.”

Wild Birds Unlimited Novi owner Ed Kamaan has noticed an increase in natural designs being brought indoors. Kamaan’s Novi shop, which he runs with his business partner and wife, features an array of bird feeders, a handful specifically meant for indoor use as decorative items.

“There are some that just aren’t intended for birds,” Kamaan said. “They’re more whimsical and decorative and colorful and meant for use inside the home as a decoration. My mother-in-law has a whole shelf of them in her kitchen.”

While his store carries mostly outdoor items, such as birdbaths and feeders in addition to the decorative feeders, coffee table books and window feeders, he’s seeing a growing number of sales for interior use.

For avid nature lovers, he recommends the window feeders.

“The birds will come right up to your window all year round,” he said. “It’s a fairly inexpensive hobby. We have a variety of window feeders, and most run between $20 and $30, and they bring different birds right to your window each season.”

For those who like a more modern style or prefer to look but not have to deal with the actual feeding, Mark Graf Photography has a variety of animal shots ranging from up-close images of birds to up-close photos of bears and a whole lot more — much of it local.

“Some people like the abstracts, some the wildlife, some the landscapes,” Graf said. “I have a lot of Michigan landscapes. A lot of my shots are from Pictured Rocks. People like them because it either encourages them to visit there or they’ll recall a time they did and maybe saw that exact image in person.”

Graf sells his images online at His work has been showing up in homes across the country for almost two decades now, but recently he’s been doing a lot of work with art consultants in the medical community.

“They’ve done research, and it has shown that pictures of landscapes and flowers tend to create a more relaxing atmosphere,” Graf said.

He added that he has about 80 prints up at Henry Ford Hospital in West Bloomfield and dozens of others in medical centers, doctors’ offices and mental health facilities throughout the state.

He loves photography, and he’d be doing it even if his work wasn’t as popular as it is, but now that it’s possibly helping people, he’s more passionate about it than ever.

“I just hope people find some tranquility in it, even just one minute of it — then it’s worth it for me.”

Sometimes, decorating with nature doesn’t cost a cent.

Websites like and offer complete sections with tips on decorating from nature, like using oversized cut agates to add texture to a vignette or placing long twisted branches in a tin or glass holder to add dimension to a bare corner.

Decorating with nature can be cheap and creative. It can add a dash of organic flare to a modern room, soften sharp corners of shelves and even add to the elegance of formal space. The possibilities are as expansive as the great outdoors.