The use of natural fabrics and other materials can make your home more comfortable and beautiful. Summer Thornton, owner of Summer Thornton Design in Chicago, said she prefers natural materials to synthetics most of the time. Thornton offers these tips and reasons for using items from nature to decorate your home. Natural materials are easy to incorporate. “Synthetics and man-made items have their place, but natural elements are usually softer, have more variation and subtleties and feel more comforting,” Thornton said.

The use of natural fabrics and other materials can make your home more comfortable and beautiful. Summer Thornton, owner of Summer Thornton Design in Chicago, said she prefers natural materials to synthetics most of the time. Thornton offers these tips and reasons for using items from nature to decorate your home. Natural materials are easy to incorporate. “Synthetics and man-made items have their place, but natural elements are usually softer, have more variation and subtleties and feel more comforting,” Thornton said.

A grasscloth wall treatment, stone floor or decorative elements such as rocks or geodes on a bookshelf can all add character to a room, she said.   

She also adds life to every project with plants or fresh-cut flowers.

 
“Truly, not much can be as big of an impact on a space as a few beautiful jade plants and some fresh-cut peonies,” she said.

They can be environmentally friendly. The website onegreenplanet.org provides several ideas for incorporating eco-friendly natural products into your home design. Bamboo, corn and coconuts are just a few versatile items from nature the website suggests.   

Thornton also recommends shopping locally to avoid the environmental impact of transporting items over long distances and using vintage pieces, whose environmental impact is next to nothing because they’ve already been manufactured.   

Natural paints can also help beautify the home with low environmental impact.

BioShield brand paints, for example, contain citrus peel extracts, essential oils and other naturally derived materials.   

They will get more beautiful over time. Synthetic materials may be more durable, but natural materials will age in such a way that makes them look better, Thornton said.

“I actually find the imperfection and the wear of natural materials that much more attractive,” she said. “There’s this great word I love that’s all about the way things age beautifully — it’s ‘patina.’ Things with patina have more character and charm than things without. In fact, sometimes age, imperfection and flaws can actually enhance the beauty of something.”

Natural country living can still be glamorous. The incorporation of natural materials can help make people feel at home in a room, but you can add small, sophisticated touches to make it look chic, as well, Thornton said.

“With a little glitz and the right curves and lines on furniture, it can still feel glamorous without being stuffy or pretentious,” she said.

She recommends a mixture of natural elements (wood, stone, etc.), crisp paint and a “hint of something shiny.”

“Try using polished Carerra marble stone for a countertop,” Thornton said. “It’ll have sheen but is still a 100 percent natural product.”