the thoroughly modern tilly

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photos by MB Maher

Mitch has been tagging along with Josh Rosen (the airplantman) to check out some of his custom installation work to get a sense of how Josh’s tillandsia-specific designs work in situ. In this home in the Pacific Palisades, the classic powder-coated Air Plant Frame has been stacked four high in narrow floor-to-ceiling windows — a sleek, “airy,” translucent take on a green wall without the complicated irrigation system. The frames can be removed for once-a-week drenching or are easily handsprayed. And after talking with Josh about tillandsias’ cultural requirements (here), I know these windows either face north or east, their preferred light exposure indoors.

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The ongoing renaissance in indoor plants comes with a design savvy that I’m pretty sure wasn’t there in the groovy, heavily macramed ’70s. Figuring out where and how to stage plants has become as much a design imperative as a horticultural one. (And I’m so glad that “black thumb” nonsense is getting less traction as more and more of us just dive in and see what works — see, as in pay attention. That’s really all it takes.)

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Other stuff tends to accumulate to support our green habit — tables, hangers, shelves, trays to collect water. A space can easily tip from warm and eclectic into a direction that minimalists just don’t want to go. For those who love plants and sleek interior spaces too, the airplantman has an answer. Actually, lots of answers.

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the classic Air Plant Frame

And of course the airplantman’s answer to living with plants indoors involves tillandsias, the epiphytic, tree-hugging bromeliads numbering over 600 species that he fell in love with over a decade ago. For Josh, their rootless, soil-less ways are an inexhaustible source of design inspiration.

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En masse the spikes and tufts literally hang together thematically, but up close each tillandsia has its own unique personality, leaves and flowers.
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More options — Air Plant Vessels come in travertine, wood, steel, ceramic
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Felt kokedamas are some of the newest designs
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Epiphytic plants like rhipsalis, unlike tillandsias, need a small amount of soil to thrive and are great candidates for kokedama
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heading outdoors, the Air Plant Lantern is “perfect for courtyards, terraces, and hanging from trees.”
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the Air Plant Lantern at an outdoor summer concert at UCLA’s Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden
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working with tillandsias, the sky’s the limit

As a landscape architect, by necessity Josh works from the ground up. Now, with his design work and fabrications inspired by tillandsias, I’d say he’s pretty happy that’s no longer always the case.

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5 Responses to the thoroughly modern tilly

  1. Hans says:

    Very elegant. I especially liked the travertine bases and hanging lights decorated with airplants. The initial shot with the stacked hanging plant frames feels like a piece of modern art.

    We have a small collection of airplants hanging in the kitchen and quickly discovered that our cat is their worst enemy – we must keep them out of her reach.

  2. Kris P says:

    I love them all, especially the window display – now, that’s my kind of privacy screen!

  3. hb says:

    The windows are beautiful, looks like plant-patterned sheer fabric or window film. Makes a wonderful shadow pattern on the floor.

    Excellent photos as well.

  4. Elaine says:

    I have never been that impressed with the dried up looking specimens seen in a basket at the garden center. Just shows how a little imagination and lots of creativity can make these little plants come to life.

  5. halina says:

    Wonderful ideas here, very creative, especially the window treatment.

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