Focus on Nature
One of the benefits of lockdown for some has been a renewed appreciation of nature and the natural world.
In the first weeks when travel was banned, we were inspired to explore nature in our neighbourhoods. We refocused on our immediate surroundings and appreciated the small things which had previously passed us by. We discovered hidden snickets and lost paths. We asked, were the birds singing louder? (No, in fact ornithologists told us they were probably singing more quietly, thanks to less competition from traffic). Online sales of seeds and plants went through the roof.
As lockdown was slightly eased (but with traditional leisure pursuits like shopping and the pub still out of bounds), we took to the countryside in droves.
A wealth of studies have shown the positive effects of the natural world on our mental health. Time spent in nature is linked to lower stress, decreased levels of anxiety and depression, restored attention span and a balanced nervous system.
A traditional holiday abroad still seems to be off the cards, and, with many feeling squeamish about confined spaces like hotels, we’re looking again to nature for our summer break. UK campsites have seen a surge in bookings, and remote self-catering boltholes are in demand.
Under current lockdown rules, we’re still unable to spend a night away. For the clinically vulnerable, home confinement may potentially last much longer. Although there’s nothing better than immersing yourself in nature, it’s easy to bring the outside in.
DEPICTIONS OF THE NATURAL WORLD
Studies have shown that just looking at a picture of the natural world provides stress reduction and wellbeing benefits.The Chinese would often decorate furniture with depictions of flowers, birds and animals, many of which would be rich in symbolism. The antique sideboard shown above is a superb example, with colourful paintings that show parrots, peacocks, peony flowers, butterflies, lions and tigers. The sideboard is from Mongolia, with a classic palette of reds, yellows, greens and blues.
Shown above right of the sideboard is a lovely print showing a White Eye - a small bird native to China - sitting on a branch of cherry blossom. The print is based on a painting from the 19th century by an unknown Chinese artist. To the left is an illustration of a pair of swallows on a blossom branch.
You can almost hear the seagulls and smell the saltwater in this print from the same series, showing red pine trees on the shore of a lake with fishing boats in the distance.
All three prints are available either framed or unframed. You’ll find lots more wall art depicting the natural world, including painted antique panels and carvings, on the wall art section of our website.
NATURAL MATERIALS & TEXTURES
Natural materials like coir, leather, stone and wood are a sensual way to appreciate the world outside and are proven to have a calming effect.
The beautiful large Lama bowl (below left) is made in Indonesia from Suar wood and has a lovely colour and pattern. Each one is produced individually and would be perfect on a rustic kitchen table as a large fruit bowl.
Our Indra coil baskets (above centre) are hand crafted by rural craftswomen in an NGO supported project. Natural fibres are used to make up a series of rigid coils. The handles are made from goat leather, dyed with tree bark and vegetable extract then hand-stitched.
These River bowls (above right) are hewn from large stones from a river bed. The insides are worked to a smooth finish, which contrasts with the rougher outer surface.
SPEND TIME OUTSIDE
These Tussi Mara square cushion covers (below left) are handmade from wool and cotton and the mustard and grey tones of the tribal design really stand out against the neutral background. They’re ideal for lounging on in the garden while you appreciate the natural world around you.
The Odee outdoor coffee table (below centre) folds neatly when not in use and has a cross legged frame and slat top. The powder coating gives a tough finish (although we recommend it’s covered during the winter months.)
There’s no need to go inside when night falls. Our stylish Kabu woodern lantern (above right) is carved from sustainable mango wood in a curved pumpkin shape. The natural wooden frame surrounds a clear glass cylinder, designed to hold a church candle. Stay outside to gaze at the stars and hear the owls hunt.
If you’re after a really special piece, this butterfly-adorned antique wedding cabinet would be a stunning addition to any home. Butterflies were a common motif on Chinese furniture, as they symbolise the grace of the natural world as well as long life and a happy marriage.
These extraordinary carved panels are from Yunnan province in southern China, where they would once have formed an internal dividing wall in a traditional home. Each one is wonderfully carved, showing various flora and fauna. The carvings are expertly executed and beautifully detailed with interlocking, swirling curves. Used either as a divider or with hinges as a four panel folding screen, the panels would make a stunning feature in a modern space.