Collecting from Nature – Designer Style at a Fraction of the Price

Do I love stores like Arhaus, that feels like beautiful European style coupled with some kind of magical fairy land? Yes. How about Pottery Barn that strikes a perfect balance between high style and lived in? Check. Yet another, Restoration Hardware, that incorporates natural materials with sleek, gender neutral design? Any day of the week. Does my budget love these stores as much as I do… not so much.

One commonality that I find between a lot of the stores that I love to go to, if not just for ideas, is their use of natural materials. Yes, you have the main furniture in all the catalogs, but what you also see is greenery, wood, rock, etc. These materials transcend styles and fads. They soothe use and remind us that even when inside, there is a world of beauty out there.

Personally, I am a collector. When I’m on a trip, there are a few things that I may look for, but always ALWAYS something out of nature. I have had the privilege of collecting sea shells from lake and oceans, from America, from Europe and the Caribbean. I’ve even collected rocks… bear with me here… cool rocks from the great lakes up north. Drift wood, Birch bark, it doesn’t matter – I love it all! Once I have scrambled to find something to contain my treasures, lug them home and wash them off, that’s when I, like most of us get stuck. Now what am I going to do with it?

One idea that I had was to combine my sand and sea shells in glass jars. The glass jars came from Home Goods (ahhh… what a happy place) for about $3-7 each. Then of course I needed something to label each set, so I picked up some vintage looking labels in the scrapbooking aisle of a local craft store. For less than $30, I have lasting memories of many beachy days.

Ok, now for the rocks. I know it must be hard to imagine how exciting those could be. I had collected an assortment of rocks from Lake Superior ranging from blues to purples to reds. I also had a fake succulent from our wedding that I never could decide what to do with. After a bit of thinking, I came up with the idea to create a hardscape with moss ($3) from a craft shop and a few extra (fake) succulents ($15). Then of course you need a container – so I found a great option for under $10 from Hobby Lobby. I arranged the rocks the way I wanted them, added a layer of moss and then placed the succulents in the rocks on top. Another way to have a great reminder of vacation for less than $30.

Aside from sand, shells and rocks, the northern shores also had plenty of birch bark that had blown off the trees and was just rolling around the beach. For anyone who has a little girl and has visited dreamy boutique garden shops, fairy gardens seem to be all the rage. For me, I set out to do a bit more grown up version with a few flameless tea light candles from ikea. The candles came in under $5 and I used a little Spanish moss that I had lying around to create a miniature forest effect. Last but not least, I added a trimming from the Christmas Tree stump that I had saved from the first year of marriage.

Another way that I came by some birch, was after a family member had to cut down a birch tree and gave me the branches. For those who aren’t so lucky, they can usually be found at Crate and Barrel, or at home improvement store like Home Depot, for slightly less. Birch branches can be stuck in a basket by a fireplace or tied together with twine and placed in a corner. I ended up utilizing a Home Goods vase that I already had since the size was right.

Let’s say you love the natural elements but don’t have access to finding them in the wild. My favorite place to find accents is at a floral shop. Often times florists also sell home decor, and if you wait until the end of a season, chances are that you can get a wonderful deal! I came across an these unique dried sea creatures at the end of summer and threw them in a wooden bowl I had. I have seen similar bowls at World Market for about $25.

Although sometimes it’s easier to pay $99 at Pottery Barn for a beautifully pre-arranged faux succulent garden, hundreds for a wooden bowl at Restoration Hardware and $60 at Arhaus for a hollow rock… chances are you already have the materials at home. Now all that’s left is to arrange them.

Try thinking outside the box today – happy curating!

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