Excerpt from: The Manual of Interior Plantscaping
Author: Kathy Fediw (2015, Timberpress)
Plants can frame or screen a view
A plant can act as a picture frame, drawing attention to an object or destination. The usual way to frame such a focal point is by using a symmetrical arrangement of plants on both sides. For example, two identical palms, one on either side, of the directory in an office building lobby will frame the directory and attract the attention of visitors.
Similarly, plants can be used to frame a plaque, a doorway, an elevator, a staircase, an entrance, or even a significant piece of artwork, drawing attention and directing foot traffic to the area. A pair of plants can frame a spectacular view from a window or doorway, drawing people’s attention outside the indoor space and visually into the outdoor space.
Plants can also block a view that is less than desirable. In an atrium garden, they can hide the mechanics of a fountain, while in a restaurant, they can conceal the water station, or screen off a private dining room from the main dining floor. Plants can be used as drapes to shroud an ugly outdoor view without substantially decreasing the amount of daylight, maintaining the ambiance and feeling of spaciousness while obscuring the view of that ugly parking garage roof.
Change the acoustics and muffle sound
Plants help to reduce the amount of noise without altering the overall design of the space in several ways. The next time you’re in a noisy restaurant, look around the space. You’ll see a lot of hard surfaces—walls, floors, windows, furniture—without much cloth or padding to muffle the sound. Any noises reverberate and bounce back and forth, reaching into the corners. People talk louder in order to be heard, and the sound levels rise even more.
Research has shown that indoor plants are effective in absorbing sound at higher frequencies (which are more annoying than lower-frequency sounds), especially in rooms with a lot of hard surfaces and very little upholstery or cloth. Ficus trees, dracaenas, peace lily, arboricolas, and especially heart-leaf philodendron were particularly effective. In addition, the bark mulch on the soil surface was also found to absorb sound (Costa and James 1995b).
This research showed that plants improved acoustics by reflecting and diffracting sound waves. Plants with many small leaves, such as ficus trees, tend to scatter sounds as opposed to absorbing sounds, making the interior space less noisy and more inviting.
Create visual depth and delineate spaces
Large, cavernous spaces, such as building lobbies and shopping malls, can seem intimidating and uninviting. People can feel exposed in big, empty spaces, especially in unfamiliar surroundings. Introducing plants can interrupt that space, creating visual depth and breaking the space into smaller, cozier, more appealing areas.
Plants can act as room dividers, creating smaller, more intimate spaces within a building lobby where people can meet and review their notes prior to attending a business meeting. Plants can also be used as portable walls, creating collaboration spaces in an open-concept office without walls. Most plants in individual pots can be moved as the needs of the tenants and visitors change, something most walls cannot do.
Visually lower ceilings
Tall ceilings can also be daunting and make a visitor feel small and vulnerable. Introducing tall plants with a canopy of foliage into such a setting creates a “false ceiling” by visually lowering the space overhead. Tall, well-spaced ficus trees can turn a large lobby or shopping mall into an inviting indoor garden space.
For example, introducing a 15-foot-tall ficus tree in a space with 50-foot ceilings can visually bring the ceiling down to a more manageable 12- to 15-foot height. The heavier the canopy of foliage, the greater the reduction in perceived overhead space. Check out future blogs for more information on Interior Landscaping!