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.