Easter, like the first flowers of spring, is symbolic of rebirth. We think perhaps most readily of lilies (what with that whole Jesus-to-King Solomon exchange about the rich king not being dressed as beautifully as the lilies of the field), but a lush, colourful bunch of just about any spring flower elicits some powerful feelings.
Flowers have also become a part of Passover Seder centrepieces too, with their spring positioning and the agricultural offerings that are among its mitzvot (commandments), such as bitter herbs and grains. Spring blooms aren’t just beautiful to look at — they make us feel good — at holiday time and beyond.
Now here’s the trick — embracing a love of flowery abundance without falling into that lavender-scented, old-school trap. Incorporating flowers into your home decor can sometimes be tied to grandmothers and days of yore — one step over the line and you’re living in a funeral parlour, or 60 years in the past.
Here are three ways to keep your floral fixations modern and magnificent.
1. Embrace death
Death is trending. Once the purview of bikers and chain gangs, skulls are now ubiquitous, and not necessarily dripping in blood with the handle of a dagger protruding from one shiny eye socket; you’re just as likely to see them festooned in flowers, vines and leaves. Art and fashion inspired by the Mexican Day of the Dead’s sugar skull tradition is everywhere, including tattoos. Art prints, beach towels, leggings — you name it. I’ll bet the Internet can find you a skull version. Take advantage.
The wild array of colours of today’s skull art lets you bring in just about anything as an accent colour, and because they do in fact depict fleshless bone-bits, they’re badass in a way a bowl of rose potpourri can never, ever be. Look for sugar skulls you can sneak onto a bookshelf or embroider onto a throw cushion, or hang a framed canvas print on the wall. In a pinch, take an empty bottle of Crystal Head vodka and slip a string of fairy lights into it, layer some coloured sand for a throwback boho feel, or fill it with rose petals while they’re pliable enough to get them through the bottle opening, and let them dry out once they get there. (Makes a nifty centrepiece too.)
Juxtaposition is always visually interesting. By taking a piece of furniture or an accessory that is inherently disassociated with bright, blooming life and flowering the dickens out of it, you end up with something eclectic that feels original.
Warning: This next idea is not for those who worry about making a good impression when their tea-totalling mother drops by.
One way to do this is to talk dirty. Use an old-fashioned medium such as cross stitch, and bring it hollering into the 21st century: pick your favourite profanity and embroider it surrounded by every colour of flower you can think of, frame it up and hang it wherever you dare. Another hot trend, adult colouring books, can be useful. There are now swear-word colouring books with the words in pretty fonts amid a riot of flowers blooming like an Easter bonnet. Use a page as a template if you’re handy with needlework, or just colour it and have it laminated on board.
Another way to use juxtaposition to liven up your decor with florals is to take a modern piece and replace the black leather upholstery with a Victorian chintz. The contrast takes the twee right out of the flowers. This tip works in reverse too — take a traditional piece such as a wingback chair, and have it reupholstered in a wildly coloured abstract floral print. Just make sure that the print is as modern as the piece is traditional.
3. Be subversive
Sneak flowers into your decor without upsetting the balance of an established room by using it in unexpected, even sorta secret places. Doing so has the added appeal of your rediscovering them in odd moments when even you may have forgotten they were there. For example, use a groovy, ’60s-inspired floral print wallpaper inside your dignified oak kitchen cabinets. One day there you’ll be, tired after working all day and resentful because you still have to unload the dishwasher, and you’ll open a cupboard and the whole world will be OK again.
To try: Use a bright print on the back of more subdued throw pillows so you catch mere glimpses; use a tone-on-tone floral print on a large piece — unless you’re up close, it will read as a solid colour; paint flowers on the risers of a staircase; wallpaper the inside back of a shelving unit; smash up some old floral china and turn the top of an occasional table into a mosaic.
As a last resort, you can always simply admit that you love flowers and try to compromise with your Harley-Davidson-loving honey by confining them to the bedroom (where a floral wallpaper behind the bed looks smashing) or bathrooms.
There is, of course, one more thing you can do that never goes out of style: Spend your fun money on copious vessels filled with real flowers, and enjoy the scent as well as the view.
Here’s a list of the flowers that bloom for spring