In the latest blog post in our spotlight series we headed over to The Plant Room, a botanical design studio based in Leeds.
Those who have been following along with this series will know that we normally use the feature to highlight some of Harrogate’s best independent businesses. This time, however, we wanted to spread our wings a little and shine the spotlight on a Yorkshire-based supplier we recently worked with to decorate our new coffee shop.
A deep earthy smell of plants and herbs embraces visitors to the two-room office of the Plant Room in Leeds, a short ivy creep from the City Railway Station.
Living plants, dried plants, cut plants, herbs, and cacti sit leaf by leaf, spike by spike on the floor and shelves in one room while Zosia concentrates on her next project in the other.
That project will consist of her visiting and getting a feel for the urban space where a botanical display of plants and greenery will do more than catch the eye and please the nose.
As Zosia explains, it’s the brain that benefits most from the installations that bring nature from the outside to inside offices and other workplaces, cafes, restaurants, exhibition and events spaces even libraries.
She says: “Humans need to be close to nature, it helps health and creativity and gives a sense of wellbeing. Heartbeats are calmer, the working environment changes and productivity goes up where greenery has been introduced.”
There’s a name for what The Plant Room does. It’s called biophilic design and Zosia has been bringing green oases to functional but bland interiors for more than three years.
She had another name for this creativity with plants when she first started. It was her ‘passion project’, begun after she read an article on those positive benefits for humans of being close to nature.
As it happened, at the time she had been thinking about her future. She explains: “I’d been working constantly. I was a community-based musician playing the saxophone in schools and organising multi-arts festivals and events.” “It was time for a pause,” she adds emphatically.
Inspired by what she read, Zosia, working with husband and business partner Mike, set up an exhibition that showcased botanical designs and highlighted those benefits to wellbeing.
The 2015 event also featured illustrators, furniture designers and ceramicists who were all inspired by nature. Afterwards, despite the hard work, Zosia said she felt “calmer” and the success of the event became the springboard for the business.
The timing was good, she acknowledges, as setting up as a botanical design studio reflected the strong environmental awareness of the younger end of the population who were working and living in cities.
She says: “The millennials are environmentally aware. They are living in rented accommodation and plants are movable as they move, plants bring rooms alive. It’s hip to have a plant,” she neatly concludes.
But the success of the botanical business is not just about tapping into the green zeitgeist of a particular generation, it was and still is also about Zosia’s own nurturing and how she wants to live her life.
She says: “As a youngster I was brought up to be in the garden and I had an allotment with my first home. I got to feel the benefit of digging, of hard labour. I feel I need to continue doing this, introducing plants into spaces, it’s my personal journey.”
Some major milestones have been reached on that journey; a successful prairie-style plant feature at the London Design Festival, a collaboration with Leeds Library on the herbology of Harry Potter with “real plants from wizardry”, a pop-up installation at the Harewood Food and Drink Festival.
Zosia acknowledges the commercial element to being a botanical designer resulting from the type of spaces in which they are installed. “We want to put plants in a space in offices, cafes and restaurants because it’s better for staff. We also support the brands we work with in creating experiences for their clients.”
Others have also seen the commercial potential for botanical designs because the number of plant suppliers in the UK is growing when once the sourcing was all done through the Netherlands.
The location of The Plant Room itself is not without irony, being located far from any greenery in Aire Street Workshops, a legacy of old brick-built industrial Leeds in the heart of the city centre surrounded by new buildings of glass and steel.
And while the plants and greenery bring botanical sights and smells, they do it without a sound. That’s not how it once was at Aire Street. The Plant Room office used to be the Lion Studios where artistes such as Annie Lennox recorded – very appropriate given Zosia’s musical background.