Of all the planning and careful curation that goes into designing retail, hospitality, and other commercial environments today, a single design element can speak louder than most others: plant life. From succulents lining the register at a small retail shop to a two-story living wall installation in a luxury boutique hotel, plants communicate something about a brand when words fall short.
Companies and designers attuned to global movements surrounding health, wellness, and sustainability have been leaders in bringing plants into public spaces in recent years. The intention behind the use of greenery may vary—creating a sense of freshness, an acknowledgement of environmental friendliness, or a feeling of health and vitality—but the result is always a strong message to all who enter the space.
Growers and purveyors of plants and flowers have seen a surge in consumer interest in their products over the last few years. Reinforcing anecdotal evidence, in 2017 the U.K.’s Garden Centre Association reported an 11-percent growth in member sales year-to-date. This increase in the public’s admiration and knowledge of plant life has served to amplify its use in branded environments.
Interior designers and their commercial clients continue to seek unique, thoughtful approaches to incorporating plants into commercial spaces due to consumers’ affinity for greenery. However, even more so, living decor is being utilized as a method of communicating something central for the brands themselves.
Manufacturers have responded with an array of products, ranging from large self-watering pots to tables with built-in plant centerpieces and precision-manufactured and custom garden walls, all of which provide solutions for spaces—and budgets—both large and small.
fresh plants, fresh ingredients
As organic food, farm-to-table cooking, and plant-based eating continue to rise in popularity, we see restaurants using creative solutions to “green” their interiors and capitalize on the trends.
At Chicago’s Belly Q, where celebrity chef Bill Kim is known for amplifying Asian-inspired barbecue cuisine using locally farmed ingredients, a lush living panel stands as the restaurant’s centerpiece. Yes, the plants help with noise abatement and provide a great photo opportunity for diners, but they also communicate something about the fresh ingredients on the table that the menu descriptions cannot as effectively capture.
The same is true for “fast casual,” healthy food chain Lyfe Kitchen, which has locations in California, Illinois, Colorado, Nevada, Tennessee, and Texas. An indoor herb garden gives customers a sense of the just-picked freshness of the parsley on the roasted cauliflower flatbread or the cilantro atop the buffalo chicken salad.
Designing with plants makes a bold statement to restaurant patrons, regardless of the size or location of the space. The updated approach expands upon classic techniques used to exude freshness and signal healthy options, like utilizing shades of green in branded items.