secret garden

designing with nature in mind: tips & tricks from elisa chambers

Bringing a touch of the outdoors in and integrating greenery into the home can instantly bring life and soul to a space.

As interior designers, we know the importance of showcasing outside views when designing a home by allowing the outdoors to provide bursts of color through a changing seasonal backdrop. Although rooms with stunning views and floor to ceiling windows allow the natural world to truly shine within a home, creating gorgeous outdoor views is only part of the process. When designing, we always find thoughtful ways to bring the outdoors inside by incorporating plants, floral arrangements, and flowering branches into a home.

For our founder Elisa, having a garden has always been an essential part of her home. She developed a love of gardening from her mother, a National Horticultural Judge with a serious passion for growing flowers.  Learning floral tips and tricks from her mother, Elisa’s interest in gardening has continued to grow stronger throughout her life. After moving to Jackson, Elisa longed to be surrounded by the California botanicals of her youth. Through trial and error, she found ways to grow those plants in Jackson while incorporating Wyoming’s abundance of wildflowers, lilacs, tulips, and exotic grasses into her garden. During the long summer days in Jackson, Elisa’s garden flourishes with a stunning array of floral varieties: climbing roses, peonies, mint, and lavender, to name a few. With this bounty, she creates simple and elegant floral arrangements for her home.

We chatted with Elisa about her own gardening history, how growing flowers helps her feel connected to the earth, and about the importance of designing spaces with nature in mind.


Tell us about your garden! What do you grow and how does it look? Paint the picture for us.

I grew up with a mother who was a National Horticultural Judge. She judged prestigious flower shows, including Philadelphia’s. From a young age, I gardened alongside her. Growing up in California, I was spoiled with an overabundance of plants and flowers. We had gorgeous gardens, filled with every flower imaginable. When I moved to Jackson, I tried desperately to grow some of those varieties. Over time, I discovered that if you orient your house toward the south, you can grow the same perennials in Wyoming.

My garden has beautiful echinacea, lilacs, and at least 250 peony plants—it’s filled with vibrant colors and pungent smelling flowers. Not only are they incredibly beautiful, they thrive in the Jackson weather and sunshine. Peony bulbs love freezing temperatures, so they do exceptionally well with our cold winters. I have tulips, which are a favorite of elk and deer. They pop the blooms off, just like they’re eating M&M’s!

My garden attracts dragonflies, butterflies, hummingbirds, and bees. Under my back window, there’s a dwarf lilac hedge, which I love so much. It’s the first thing to bloom, right before the peonies burst into full color. Climbing roses grow like crazy. I have an eight-foot-tall, hot pink rose bush surrounded by a hedge of blush peonies. I like to create an overwhelming floral explosion in my garden by growing different plant varieties together. Throughout the summer, I cut flowers from my garden every day. 

What are the various seasons for florals in Jackson Hole? The soil and the great mountain air in the Tetons seem exceptional for florals and plants. It seems to be a place where wild things can grow.

Absolutely! The mountain air, rich soil, and the gorgeous sunlight create something magical here. On the east coast, there are four distinct seasons. In California, it’s almost like one continuous season. In Jackson, winter comes and provides a reprieve from cultivating the garden, which makes the spring and summer bloom feel even more spellbinding. With appropriate care, you can stagger the blooming flowers to blossom from the spring through the fall. As you cut one plant back, another plant will blossom. Year to year, I always step back and take a breath and think—yay! It’s all working!

On the west side of the Snake River, plants grow differently than where I live on the south side of Jackson. Because the mountains don’t block the sun, I have a few more hours of daylight, which creates a longer growing season. As much as I enjoy the winter, it’s difficult to watch it come. Although I visit my family in California each winter to revel in the natural beauty, I still find Wyoming surreal and extraordinary during the winter months.

How do you integrate the outdoors into indoor spaces?

When I design homes for myself and clients, I love integrating lots of windows that open into gardens, so you can enjoy the plants as soon as possible. We have about four months of blooming beauty and then we have white, snowy beauty! It’s important to soak it all in.

We love using serene color schemes inside so the interiors can contrast with the beautiful seasons on display outside. Each season brings a different color palette, and, as a designer, you try not to compete with that.

As the seasons come and go, how do you continue to integrate elements of the outdoors into your home?

As the seasons keep turning, everything changes color. Just this week, I can tell there has been a cold snap. It’s starting! I saw a yellow leaf the other day on a tree—just one little yellow leaf, and I knew that things are moving forward.

From summer florals, to fall leaves and winter snow—every season has something special. During the colder months, I order many varieties of cut, flowering branches to display inside my home, including cherry blossoms, apple blossoms, flowering quince, and other favorites.

What do you typically like to use for floral arrangements?

I love to decorate a space with found things, such as old wooden bowls, books about Jackson, cups, and vases. Found objects with a story are wonderful for holding flowers. Sometimes I’ll put an old glass vase into a vintage copper pot to hold arrangements. Other times, I’ll use an old wooden toy from one of my kids, or something silly that just holds meaning for me. My brother recently sent me a bag of colorful marbles that he saved from our childhood, and they will go into a gorgeous clear vase beautifully!

When I design a home, I love to place indoor plants and trees in beautiful old pots. Not only do they look fabulous in a space, they also help improve indoor air quality. In the winter, I display dried magnolia and holly branches with berries in various pots and unique vases. Berries dry beautifully and look great for weeks. Succulents are also amazing in the winter because they can be made into a beautiful wreath or put in a big gorgeous bowl to add a hint of color and vibrance to a space.

What is most fulfilling about having a garden?

My garden gives off such beauty and brings so much joy to my days. Looking at budding flowers makes my heart happy and makes me feel connected to the earth, which is truly an indescribable feeling. It is also a wonderful reminder of my mom. She was instrumental in helping me select plants and deciding where they should be planted. It’s funny because I’m a strong person, and she was a super strong woman as well, so she loved to tell me where everything should go and what was best for my garden space. I still get a chuckle out of those conversations then I walk around and see everything flourishing. I think to myself—well, she was definitely right! I also love to see my kids developing their own passion for growing things. In a difficult world, my garden is something that always offers peace and beauty. This is what life is all about. My kids are here, my husband, my dogs, my garden—it’s simply the best. At the end of the day, you nurture the garden and flowers, but they also nurture you back.

recipes for life

It’s easy to see why Elisa Chambers views the kitchen as the heart of a home. From birth, her family traditions and history have informed the person she is today. Her grandparents on both sides of the family were Italian immigrants who came to America decades ago. As a young girl, Elisa had aspirations of being just like her Italian mother who was also passionate about food.

“I always hoped I could one day be a fraction of what my mama was. In my case, she was such an intense guiding light,” she says. Her maternal grandfather was a winemaker and an amazing chef, who knew so many secrets of heritage Italian cooking. “My grandmother went to heaven a few days before I was born, so I am her namesake. Maybe it’s corny, but this is truly where my love of food was first cultivated.

When I was growing up, our food was created with love every single night. Family was everything to us, and cooking was an incredibly integral part of our lives.” In the evenings, Elisa and her family ate together and dinner was always thoughtfully prepared from fresh, wholesome ingredients. “My mother was very before her time, so to speak. She was an original granola hippie, always making homemade jams, breads, and pastas.” In their family, nothing was prepared ahead or readily made. She always had lunched packed by her mother with homemade jam, bread, nut butters, and fresh garden vegetables. “I had these gorgeous home-cooked meals, but I wanted what everyone else had. I dreamed of eating twinkies, wonder bread, and bologna. How crazy to think about!”

Ravioli, gnocchi, and pasta were Sunday treats that were shared with so many members of her extended family. They all dined together and everyone was invited to Sunday dinner. “My grandfather would always serve all of his grandkids a shot glass of a vintage wine that he carefully selected. This is where my love of food, cooking and treating your friends as family began — it’s my first real memory of sharing and gathering that’s centered around food.”

Later in life, Elisa had to modify her family pasta to suit her husband’s battle with celiac disease, so she learned how to take her traditional recipes and format them in a new way. “How brutal that was for an Italian! Really though, all you have to do is substitute a gluten-free flour for the conventional one — I promise, you’ll be fine!” Trying out many different methods, Elisa finally found a recipe that tasted just like the original gnocchi she enjoyed at her grandparents’ house as a child.

As a working mother, Elisa now finds it ultimately important to connect with her family through cooking in the evenings. “I segue into this with a glass of wine and while mulling over the day, I prepare dinner. My kids have developed their own love of cooking, and they enjoy finding and executing recipes. It’s a time to hear about everyone’s day and listen to them critique what we eat.

Cooking and kitchens have become such a fundamental part of life for Elisa. “The kitchen is the soul of your home. I design these spaces to be beautifully appointed without compromising functionality,” she explains. Traveling extensively throughout Italy and France, she’s taken note of kitchens that are both working and aesthetically pleasing. “Other countries use marble, even though Americans get so hung up on surfaces that etch or have imperfections. Italians have been using marble for centuries, and the patina is amazing — rolling out gnocchi on marble is heaven!”

She now works to create an environment where everything feels intuitive. “First and foremost, it always begins with listening and hearing how a family lives together, plays together, and eats together. Everyone is unique, so it’s important to understand the mechanics of a family. I try to create an experience, and a relaxed feeling. When you walk in, you should be arriving at a place that’s full of warmth and with every amenity that you need at your fingertips. Functionality, efficiency, and beauty are the key components to beautiful living.”

We sat down with Elisa in her own kitchen to taste her gorgeous gnocchi and hear more about her family heritage. Try this recipe for yourself at home! We suggest to add a table filled with friends, family, wine and lovely conversations. 


Elisa’s Gluten-Free Gnocchi Dough


3 cups gluten-free flour blend

2 eggs

1 lb ricotta cheese

1/2 cup water


Mix 2 cups GF flour and 2 eggs in a food processor. Add 1 lb of ricotta cheese slowly. Once the dough forms into a sticky ball, remove the mixture from the processor and transfer to a floured surface to knead by hand.

The dough will be very sticky so place some of your remaining 1 cup flour on the counter and try to dry it up a bit. Knead until the dough gets pliable or rubbery, about 15 minutes.

Just pour yourself some wine and get into it!

Once your dough ball is formed, take a piece off and roll it into a long rope. Cut the rope into 3/4 inch pieces. Take your index and middle finger and press into each piece against either your countertop or a gnocchi press, rolling gently towards you to make an indentation. Then flick the pasta away with the tops of your fingers.

No matter what it looks like, don’t worry! The taste will definitely be amazing, even if they’re not perfect. (We like the imperfections!) Continue until the whole dough ball is finished.

If there’s any wine left, serve it with dinner.