How to Decorate Your Home With Plants

Artist turned plant whisperer and author Hilton Carter transformed this historic Baltimore loft into a lush oasis.
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hilton carter surrounded by plants

Hilton sits on his studio’s “plant throne,” a comfy chair enveloped by layers of plants. Tall tropical varieties make up the back, while small colorful ones hold court up front.

If you had asked Hilton Carter what he’d be doing after finishing art school in 2006, “plant stylist” wouldn’t have been his answer. In fact, he was a late bloomer (ahem) to the greenery game, making his first big purchase, a fiddle-leaf fig tree named Frank, only five years ago. But once he saw how warm and inviting Frank made his space, Hilton was hooked on houseplants.

He has since collected hundreds of plants and made a career out of caring for them and helping clients decorate with them, faithfully documenting that process on social media (@hiltoncarter). Hilton and his wife, Fiona Vismans, live with three pets and almost 200 plants in an apartment in Baltimore. But it’s his nearby studio, affectionately dubbed the Jungle by the Falls (it’s close to the Jones Falls River), where the magic happens. Think 1,000 square feet dedicated to making art, hosting friends, and tending to another 100 plant babies, give or take. But who’s counting?

hilton carter sitting on leather couch with laptop

With soaring 20-foot ceilings, large windows, and original wood flooring, the old mill turned studio space certainly had good bones. So Hilton enhanced those features with quiet gray walls and vintage pieces that look like they’ve been there for decades. Take the living room, where a 1970s leather sofa is paired with a custom coffee table featuring a brass inlay. “The vibe is Steve McQueen meets the rainforest,” he says, referring to his mix of furniture and foliage: a ponytail palm in an empty corner, cut monstera leaves on the bookshelf, and succulents clustered on large windowsills.

When it comes to plants, Hilton is not a minimalist, which is even more apparent in the dining area, home to another fiddle-leaf fig tree, a bird-of-paradise, a Rojo Congo, and an apple cactus. Ultimately, the studio is all about experimentation. “This space lets me try out styling ideas with plant combos and layering techniques,” says Hilton. “I’m not just about decorating with plants—I’m about really living with them. The feeling and energy that plants bring into a home is far beyond any other piece of furniture or object.”

plant cuttings in green container on coffee table

"My space is made up of small vignettes with big ideas," says Hilton. "It's not just about plants on tables or in pots on the ground. I like to place plants at different levels and on unexpected surfaces."

creative plant container arrangement glass lamp terrarium

The studio features several creative DIY projects, from a Target glass lamp turned terrarium to what Hilton calls the Cradle Wall (below).

plant cuttings growing on custom display living wall

A true “living wall” (a wall completely covered with greenery) was over budget, so Hilton designed hanging vessels for displaying cuttings. “This way, we can use vertical space to continue growing our plant family, and guests can pull from the wall to add to their own collections,” he says.

portrait of hilton carter smiling

"You know what kind of a plant person you are," says Hilton. "My setup takes hours of watering a week, but you can find easy-care varieties. Ask for advice I figured things out by trial and error and talking to nursery employees."

pink velvet dining chairs marble table

Hilton wanted a “softer, sexier” feel in the dining room, so he mixed curvy velvet chairs with a round marble table.

hanging planter above palm plant

A hanging planter is a great way to fill an empty corner.

potted succulents

Room to Grow

wild at home plant book by hilton carter

Plants add life to interiors, but certain kinds are better for your place and your personality. Hilton Carter shares a few favorites from his new book, Wild at Home: How to Style and Care for Beautiful Plants.

three illustrations of plants snake peace lilly and fern

Peace Lilly (left)

This flowering beauty lives its best life in bright indirect light. Give it some sun and it’ll help remove icky pollutants from the air.

Snake Plant (center)

This hearty, low-light desert plant can actually help you sleep, giving off oxygen and taking in the carbon dioxide you breathe out as you catch z’s. Just don’t overwater it.

Macho Fern (right)

Fond of fronds? Then this eye-catching big, burly guy is for you. A fern likes lots of TLC and moisture, so skip it if you aren’t willing to put in that work.