You lot really don’t need me to describe how red hot a trend greenery has been over the last couple of years, a trend which according to reports from Maison et Object 2018 shows no sign of abating. The phrase ‘bringing the outdoors in’ might be a bit done in the sense of simply scattering a few leaf covered cushions, but there’s a new challenge kids. Gotta a spade? Well, you better start digging, ’cause having a tree growing up through your house is the new fiddle leaf fig.
Granted, the average British semi would be ever so slightly dwarfed by a giant mango tree the size of the one in Brazil’s Casa Vogue, designed by architect Alessandro Sartore. Not much space for your sofa with a beast this size poking up through the floor. Bethany – yes, that is her actual name – requires a hole with a diameter of three metres. Three metres! There are whole British living rooms smaller than that.
However, Bethany aside, if you have a new build planned or a decent size renovation on the go, how about incorporating something living and growing and connected to the earth below, right in the middle of your house? Why the hell not? This is what I dreamed of when we started Moregeous Mansions and thinking back, it all stemmed from an amazing restaurant I visited in Edinburgh in my early twenties. Lush and filled with greenery, it was like dining in an orangerie. I adored it and my passion for house plants was born. Some, still going strong here, are twenty years old.
Let’s see some more inspiration.
Most of us only dream of owning a hallway this size and struggle to find room for a coat rack and console table, never mind a humungous pine tree.
Photo by Richard Powers
I also reckon British planners would faint at the idea of a hole that size in the floor, but not so the planners weighing up this home in Guadalajara, Mexico by architects Imanol Legorreta and Pablo Sepúlveda.
So let’s get a tad more realistic, maybe an Italian olive tree to bring life to your space? Noses Architects have done just this in the KOOK Osteria & Pizzeria below, framing the tree beautifully in elegant black casing. You’d need lots of light for a tree like this to flourish, maybe set within a large kitchen diner near bifold doors. Martini, anyone?
Photograph by Curro Palacios Taberner
The Pedro House in Argentina has the most exquisitely elegant entrance area, still, technically speaking, in the house. Willowy, slender trees clearly also work wonderfully indoors, though there is the obvious downside of autumnal leaf drop.
I guess that’s the main difference with house plants and trees, unless you choose an evergreen. In tropical climates, it’s perfectly acceptable to have holes in the walls / ceilings and in gallery like spaces with tiled floors, the odd leaf or clump of soil here and there is easy to clean up. Or for the cleaning team to clean up. I’m thinking maybe these home owners don’t spend a lot of time cleaning.
Uber Designer Marcel Wanders created this CGI for his Eden House and incorporated a relatively modest tree, as trees go. Can you even imagine owning this space? It’s the living room of my dreams. Maybe I’d choose more comfy looking sofas, but dreamy nonetheless.
Oh go on, one more to make us greenery lovers go weak at the knees. Having a) a bathroom this huge is a lottery win in itself but b) a TREE growing in your SHOWER? Shower goals well and truly nailed. Yes, yes we’ll gloss over that you’d need an atrium like space with soaring cathedral ceilings. It’s a bathroom to dream about.
It’s this sense which captivates me, the sense of the other-wordly as captured by Claudia Blonde on her Tumblr. The sense of naughtiness, something growing where it shouldn’t inside a building, a kind of Alice in Wonderland large inside small. The memories that this photo in an old orangerie evokes are those of that restaurant I visited years ago and the feeling of wonder I had, dining under the leaf canopy, whilst indoors. I wanted a little sense of that magic here at home.
So how did I manage it? Simple. When we first started building, when the floors were up and the walls were being constructed, I made the brickies leave a hole down through the floor to the earth below the house. Where the wires are dangling down in the background below, right in the middle of the picture, the grey, concrete block box under them forms a rectangular casing with a hole in the middle large enough to take a small tree.
Do make sure you have lots of light to the area you want your tree to grow. Trees need light, you really should know that. Don’t plant an oak tree in a hole the size of a silver birch. Do add lots of bonemeal and water frequently as your tree gets established. Don’t forget that most trees shed their leaves in autumn, they don’t forget to do this just ’cause they’re indoors. Do allow for height and spread. Trees grow, they’re funny like that.
Our little grey hole looked like this for three years. Just a box, unassuming and mostly unnoticed. Unlike many of the spectacular homes featured above, there wasn’t some enormous tree already in existence to be built around and we don’t have a lofty six metre high ceiling to take a newly planted giant. Just a little hole connected to the earth below, in the middle of the house. If you’re thinking of doing the same, you just need to create a sturdy perimeter and ensure whatever you’re planting hasn’t got the type of root system to do damage to your foundations. And you need to be sure you want a tree, ’cause concrete blocks are hard to move once they’ve been built into the fabric of your home and floored around.
In the last few weeks the dining room seating has taken shape, with everyone asking “What’s that hole for?” The tree of course, I reply, to eyebrows raising.If you’re thinking of doing the same, the box / tree hole should be lined with water proof sheeting so that the moist earth inside doesn’t damage the fabric of the building. We’ve used concrete blocks to build ours, which are pretty much water impermeable, but belt & braces is always a good approach.
I filled the hole with a mixture of good quality peat free compost from the garden centre and soil from the garden sifted to get it full of air and free of stones. Throw in a few handfuls of regular bonemeal mix with the soil and most trees or plants should thrive.As we don’t have the height for a full on pine tree, or the width for an olive tree, my magic is being created by a Dwarf Umbrella Tree (Schefflera Arboricola). Outdoors they can grow to over 15m high but I think I’ll be pruning mine before it reaches the upstairs bedrooms. There’s tonnes of low down foliage but the slender trunks can be trained up and overhead, giving the sense of canopy I’ve long dreamed of.
As I sit here writing this, I’m just in front of where those candles are above, sitting at the table. When I look to my right and see my new tree, it makes me smile to think that it’s not in a ‘pot’ as such. It’s like a little part of my garden is indoors, which is probably the feeling that all the people with the amazing houses above have too. It’s not the size of the tree that counts, ’cause I don’t think it’s possible for them to love theirs any more than I love mine.
Rocky’s intrigued too. He better not even think about it…..