I’ll confess that I’ve always been a country boy at heart, having been reared in the Tidewater area of Virginia where, as a boy, I spent most of my time outside and barefoot at that. So, it was a real transition for me when I went to college and lived in a third floor dorm room and couldn’t just swing open the door and feel the lush softness of grass under my feet.
Now as I contemplate a transition from a single family residence with a yard to a top-floor condominium in a five story building, I have one particular concern: how would I adjust to living without my own outdoor property? I began my adult life in a series of apartments and townhouses in New York City and Boston, so at least I was not completely new to the notion of my home being “in” a building, but the decades of living on and tending to my own homestead made me feel deeply connected to the outdoors.
And I know I’m not alone. I’m working with a retired couple who is in contract to sell their home and making the hard decision of whether to move to one of two styles of condominium: one with a front and back yard, the other in a building with just a Juliette balcony. The former affords many of the same outdoor pleasures of single family home ownership, but bears the responsibility of maintenance, if only for some flower beds, which the husband doesn’t mind, but the wife does; the latter is maintenance-free but lacking that connection to nature, except for the views from oversized windows. The couple is still pondering.
As for me, I know I could be happier in new digs without a yard and be content with an elevated view of trees and surrounding hills to greet me each morning, especially in this extraordinary region of ours. However, the days have grown darker as we approach winter, and soon many of us will be leaving home for work before the sun rises and returning again after dark. So much for the nice view.
Especially for the winter months, here are some ideas to bring a bit of the outdoors in, at least throughout the chillier half of the year.
One no-fail option is to fill your home with plants, and literally have a part of nature alive in your home. The volumes written on the choosing and care of houseplants can fill a wall of shelves, but the basics remain the same: observe how much light a room gets, see which plants grow best with that amount, select the hardier specimens – especially if you are a beginner, and from that group pick what pleases you most.
If potted plants aren’t your thing, use the decorator’s secret and source out some convincing artificial plants. They may not replenish the air like their genuine counterparts, but I am convinced that they have the same soothing effect on the psyche. From a delicate orchid to a tall, potted palm, artificial plants can give you any look you want without the need to match plant to environment. My wife Margaret is particularly clever in mixing artificial blossoms with real cut stems to create bountiful centerpieces, especially during holidays. Sometimes she and our guests make a game out of trying to guess which blooms are real and which aren’t.
If it’s the smell of real flowers you miss, you can try to bring fragrance into your home through aromatherapy, potpourri or scented candles, but do take care that they are low in chemicals that you may not want to be breathing in.
But plants and flowers aren’t the only way to bring the sense of nature indoors. An organic feeling can also be built through the various textures of wood, stone, and other surfaces. You may be lucky and have these built into the structure of your home already, be they unique wood floor planks, exposed ceiling beams, or a stone fireplace. Otherwise, you can use smaller elements to the same effect.
Consider a line of seashells along a mantelpiece, or a hand-carved wooden bowl that still retains the irregularities of the original tree. One deluxe option, which includes the element of water, would be one of the new designs of vertical indoor fountains, where water flows down over a wall of copper, slate or pebbles.
While we are on the subject of flowing water, let’s not forget the element of sound. There are machines advertised that generate the sounds of ocean waves, rain or birdsong. Now you can also create the same soundscape with the use of an app or a streaming music service.
With such diverse options available, I do not need to lose the feeling of being in a verdant landscape of my own creating, no matter what the season is outside.
Bill Primavera is a Realtor® associated with William Raveis Real Estate and Founder of Primavera Public Relations, Inc., the longest running public relations agency in Westchester (www.PrimaveraPR.com). His real estate site is www.PrimaveraRealEstate.com, and his blog is www.TheHomeGuru.com. To engage the services of The Home Guru to market your home for sale, call 914-522-2076.