Sue Fan and Danielle Quigley take design inspiration from nature in their new book, Do Inhabit

© Jeska and Dean Hearne

The spaces we inhabit affect us — and those around us. They change how we move through our everyday life. Styling a space begins with how we want to live in it and, in essence, how we want to live. Addresses change and tastes evolve, but our home should always be a sanctuary.

Home is where we put down roots and connect — to ourselves and our families, partners, even our animals. It is a shelter for what and who we love. A place for our collections — the objects we pick up along the way that hint at stories and memories. Home is where we make space for our senses to come alive — and come to rest. Somewhere that is both restorative when we need to be, and inspiring when we need to do. Yet so often we settle into a place without considering how the things around us affect our mood and ability to get things done.

Surrounding ourselves with things that bring us joy, and that ground us, creates a sense and a space that invite serenity and awareness. Whether you live in a studio, a cabin, a city apartment, or even a boat, there is no size restriction to how a space can feel. So try and create a space where you can relax, entertain, and work, that contains the things you need to think more freely and express yourself openly. Wellbeing starts where you sleep, eat and live. And if you’re not sure where to begin, there’s plenty of inspiration to be found right outside your front door.

Bringing the outside in is at the core of our design style. Not simply because it’s beautiful, or can introduce great texture and tones, but because it keeps us grounded and connected to the earth. Surrounding ourselves and designing with beauty from the outdoors makes us happier, healthier and calmer. Noticing the colours, structure and growth of flora and incorporating that into our spaces can cultivate more than just creativity. It can cultivate style.

We make lighting from fallen birch trees and tree roots. We put seed pods in vessels and branches on shelves. We hang sticks from ceilings and walls. Tree stumps serve as our end tables and double as perfect solutions for outdoor seating. We style every space with the love of nature in mind. It is truly a wild habit. We work to incorporate nature into a space, but not overwhelm it. We are continually inspired by being outside.

Forest bathing

Shinrin-yoku is a Japanese term that means ‘taking in the forest atmosphere’ or ‘forest bathing’. Developed in the 1980s, it has become a cornerstone of preventive health care and healing in Japanese medicine. The aim of forest bathing is to slow down and become immersed in the natural environment. To use all your senses. A study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information compared a city walk to a forest walk. The amount of activity was equal, but researchers found the forest environment led to significant reductions in blood pressure and certain stress hormones.

So take yourself to a forest. Walk slowly. Breathe. Open all your senses. This is the healing way of Shinrin-yoku Forest Therapy, the medicine of simply being in the forest. If you do nothing more than pay attention, you’ll achieve a more creative and considered life. Nature is boundless. There are hundreds and thousands of cues to take from the earth. If you look closely, you’ll see a very delicate balance of how and where things grow, the patterns in all living things. There is no shortage of inspiration. The more in touch you are with nature, the more in tune you are with life.

So how can you apply this to your own habitat? Here’s a couple of suggestions.

Nature’s Rule of Light

One of the easiest rules to follow is to style from floor to ceiling, dark to light. We call this Nature’s Rule of Light. Keep the floor the darkest point (the earth itself), then as your eye travels upwards towards the ceiling introduce lighter tones so it becomes slightly brighter (through the trees) and lighter (towards the sky). Some rules are meant to be broken, but we love the basis of this one.


If you ever feel something is lacking, add a plant. It is the most affordable and beautiful way to add texture, shape and colour to any space. House plants breathe life into a home. Literally. Our go-to easy-to-care-for house plants include philodendron, dracaena, echeveria, aloe, ficus, cacti, and our new favourite, marimo balls.

Plants can be used as room dividers. Very large plants are a work of art in themselves, a living sculpture. Smaller plants can be mounted to a wall, clustered on shelves and treated as indoor gardens. Consider plants in bowls, vases or terrariums, consider aquatic plants, arrange multiple plants in a group, and mix and match colours, textures and materials. The green will tie them together.

The more we connect with nature, the more we will feel the urgency to care for it. As you gain inspiration from the beauty of the earth, be mindful of what you are taking and what you are willing to give back. Always forage responsibly, and when you bring home your treasures and perhaps put a lichen-covered stick on the shelf, remember that it was a life and now is living with you. Nature is quite generous with us. Let’s try to show the same courtesy.

In the end, the details are what will make your home complete. Stories you tell with your art, images, and collections. The natural elements you found along the way that make you pay attention to your surroundings. Styling the places you inhabit is not about trends, it is about creating a space that is meaningful to you. Less noise, more Earth; less house, more home.

Sue Fan and Danielle Quigley are photographers, designers and stylists based in the United States. They are the founders of Wild Habit, a lifestyle brand that takes inspiration from nature to design homeware, jewellery, and spaces with the guiding principles of respecting the environment and sharing the natural beauty of the world. Together they have created installations for large corporations, restaurants, studios, and homes; they have styled for the Do Lectures Wales and USA, and run their Wild Habit store in Oceanside, California.

Extract from Do Inhabit: Style your space for a creative and considered life by Sue Fan and Danielle Quigley. Copyright © 2018 by Sue Fan, Danielle Quigley. Published in 2018 by The Do Book Co.

Amazon (UK)| Do Books (includes free ebook download)

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Do Book Company

Publishing books to encourage and inspire

The Do Book Company

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Books that inspire action

Do Book Company

Publishing books to encourage and inspire

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