two potted plants on a platter surrounded with large pieces of coral and a gas lamp

How to Decorate with Natural Materials

There is nothing quite like Mother Nature’s design touch in a room full of manmade things. Natural materials can help to awaken a room. Here are simple ideas for how to decorate with natural materials in your home.

Start by looking for the beauty all around you.

Sounds cliché, right? But try to slow down and notice the colors, patterns and textures in the natural world around you. Find beautiful places to go for walks. Look for the natural attractions your area has to offer. Then begin gathering natural materials that are beautiful to you. I live by a river and we often make our way to the shoreline in the warmer months to collect rocks and shells. I also always keep my eye open on walks at the park or in our neighborhood for beautiful natural materials.

Identify natural materials you would like to collect.

Narrow down a few natural materials that you would like to collect. Focus on items that would work well in your home décor.

For a modern look, collect:

  • gemstones, geodes and crystals
  • smooth monochromatic stones
  • slabs of marble and granite
  • bleach white skulls
  • large bivalve shells
  • monochromatic feathers
  • oyster and mussel shells with mother-of-pearl
  • large, unique pieces of driftwood
bird nest with bird egg fragments in a clear glass jar sitting on top of a stack of books

For a rustic look, collect:

  • dried stalks of cotton, okra, goldenrod galls
  • evergreen seed cones (pine, spruce, magnolia, hemlock)
  • bird and wasp nests
  • deer antlers
  • dried wildflowers – goldenrod, Queen Anne’s lace, grasses, teasel
  • acorns
  • turkey and pheasant feathers

These may be items you can find naturally in your area or it may be items you will have to purchase. I love large pieces of coral but I won’t be finding any in the great outdoors of Kentucky. I always keep my eyes open for coral at secondhand shops. Two of my favorite coral pieces were found at a Goodwill. There are lots of small businesses out there who sell natural materials.

Here are few to check out:

Group natural elements into collections.

Grouping collections of natural materials together is one great way to make a statement. At my front door there is an awkward narrow shelving unit that was built to cover a doorway. I decided it would make the perfect area for displaying nature collections.

On display I have:

  • jars of seashells
  • larger shells and sea creatures
  • jars of garden snail shells and freshwater snail shells
  • acorns
  • jars of flower petals
  • vial of small shark teeth
  • vials of different cocoons
  • gemstones and geodes
  • vial of broken bird eggshells
  • small rocks and pebbles
  • assorted small feathers in a pot
  • large bird feathers
  • coral
  • bird and wasp nests
white bookshelves filled with natural materials and books

Instead of mixing different natural elements together, try putting just one collection on display. This vintage metal shelving unit makes a great home for my bird nest collection. Over time, I have slowly filled each cubby with a nest. I love walking past and seeing these lovely nests in one big grouping.

green cabinet with multiple cubbies filled with bird nests and assorted flower vases

Or for a more subtle way of decorating with natural material, try adding small touches throughout your home. Bird nests are easy to tuck in with a stack of books. Line up a few rocks on a windowsill. Add a vial or two of nature items on a shelf. Display one statement piece like a large shell or unique piece of driftwood on the coffee table.

Display natural materials along with vintage items.

One of my favorite ways to decorate with natural materials is to pair them with vintage items. Think metal frogs with a piece of dried seaweed tucked into it. Small terra cotta pots filled with feathers. Vintage books topped with a bird nest. Old blue mason jars filled with smooth pebbles and fossilized coral.

paper wasp nest in large wooden bowl and two small bird nests in vintage ceramic vases
decorating with natural materials

Know the rules.

I would be remiss to not point out that rules and regulations do exist in regards to collecting natural resources. Be sure to check your state’s rules (search for your state’s department of fish and wildlife) and look into the Migratory Bird Act. This article from The Spruce is helpful in learning when it’s okay to remove bird nests. To be clear, I never remove active nests ever!

If you feel like your home needs a refresh, it’s time to decorate with natural materials! Here is how I go about using natural materials in my home:

  • Find inspiration in nature
  • Identify what you would like to collect
  • Group natural materials into collections
  • Intermix natural materials with vintage items
  • Always know the rules about collecting natural resources

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