How Mother Nature can inspire your home

Amy MayFocal Point

I moved to Seattle eight years ago to escape the harsh winters of Chicago (if you’ve been through one of those, you know that even the gray, rainy stretches here aren’t all that bad).

While I had heard about the beauty of the Emerald City, I was not prepared for the abundant mountain views—including glorious Mount Rainier towering over the city—and the never-ending coastal waters.

I quickly realized my design approach in the Pacific Northwest would have a different focus: maximizing Mother Nature from both inside and outside the home.

Organic Elements


By incorporating organic elements in a space, you set the mood to allow for a connection on an emotional level. This includes mixing materials, textures, finishes, and colors—just like in nature, which brings countless things together with rhythm, balance and harmony.

Have you ever seen a serene, peaceful meadow with a jagged, snowy mountain just beyond? Those types of juxtaposition have a place indoors, too. Combining extreme elements, such as a classic patterned tile with a modern, minimal cabinet style, helps the personality of the space shine through and provides striking visual interest

Architectural Elements


Stairs are the artery of a home, a connection between levels and spaces—I love designing them! To me, similar to lighting, stairs serve as functional art and should not be overlooked.

They are more than merely physical, because they also transport you to another place mentally, like when you ascend the trail on a hike.

Most of the stairs I have designed have been inspired by my clients’ experiences outdoors, and not necessarily in the wilderness. For instance, a trip to Paris with images of the balconies, or a waterfall fountain in the middle of a sculpture park. One of my favorite sets of stairs was created using an abandoned warehouse as our inspiration; it had an old barnwood façade and large timber beams reinforced with metal straps. Reframing these ideas and images into a “sculpture” for the home can be challenging, but it’s invigorating and exciting when it all comes together!



Everyone interprets nature differently, and it’s the same with art. There are no rules—it is nondiscriminatory in that you can have a completely different view than your friends, family, or even the artist! The beauty of this is that a piece of art allows you to create your own story, and then relive it when you walk by it each day in your home. For some, that story evolves and changes over time, which is magical. For others, it remains frozen in time, like a fossil or a petrified tree..

What “art” is depends solely on what you think it is. It can be a slab of wood you found in your back yard, a painting by an artist you love, even something like a bright, colorful scarf you acquired on your last vacation. You can leave things as is, or transform them: The scarf could be framed and hung on the wall, that barn door could be fabricated into a door or bench by your entry. Open your mind, and your heart, and follow both!

I believe your home should reflect the personality of you and your family. And because art presents infinite possibilities to find what’s right for you, I think it’s by far the best way to achieve this expression. (Check out this post for more tips on adding personality and character to your home.)

I love helping my clients find art that speaks to them—and there are many wonderful galleries and brokers in the area. If you’re looking to explore original pieces of art for your home, two of my favorite local resources are Gray Sky Gallery and Seattle Art Source. Check them out!

Grounding A Space – Rugs


Think of a lush patch of grass in the middle of a clearing, or a burst of wildflowers that add color to that corner of the park. Inside the home, rugs help define and enhance areas within an open floor plan to create a cozy, inviting gathering space. (They anchor the furniture and provide acoustic benefits, too.) Rugs also are a great way to set the mood: Natural rugs add an organic element, a solid texture provides a warm and cozy feel, and vibrant colors and/or patterns can create an interesting focal point.

With any of these options, the most important factor when selecting a rug is the size. Always err on the bigger side, because you want all of the furniture in the space to be on (or at least touching) the rug. Think of when you have a picnic; you want everything to fit on top of the blanket. For dining rooms, the rug should extend at least 2 feet beyond the table in all directions, as this allows your chairs to be pushed away from the table while still remaining on the rug.



Drapes are functional and decorative, adding softness to a space—somewhat like a leafy tree that blocks the sunlight when needed, but also provides visual beauty. I like to use drapes to draw on the height of a room, frame a view, and add a level of casual elegance.

They don’t have to be heavy and fussy, though; that’s the most common misconception with drapes. Linen drapes, for instance, are a favorite of mine thanks to their light, airy appearance that maintains a casual feel. And velvet drapes in a bedroom can create a luscious, cozy feel for maximum relaxation.

Typically, drapes should be mounted close to the ceiling and barely touch the floor. They can remain stationary to provide a decorative layer, or you can draw them closed to add privacy or block glare.

When you’re looking for inspiration online, or even in someone else’s home, take notice of the drapes. They just might be that perfect finishing touch for one of your rooms.


As in the natural world, my goal as a designer is to enhance the environment, not impose my own wishes upon it.

My process is focused on collaboration—interpreting your thoughts, ideas, and personality to help you create a home that is Modern. Authentic. Yours.

-Amy May