Icon - Arrow LeftAn icon we use to indicate a rightwards action. Icon - Arrow RightAn icon we use to indicate a leftwards action. Icon - External LinkAn icon we use to indicate a button link is external. Icon - MessageThe icon we use to represent an email action. Icon - Down ChevronUsed to indicate a dropdown. Icon - CloseUsed to indicate a close action. Icon - Dropdown ArrowUsed to indicate a dropdown. Icon - Location PinUsed to showcase a location on a map. Icon - Zoom OutUsed to indicate a zoom out action on a map. Icon - Zoom InUsed to indicate a zoom in action on a map. Icon - SearchUsed to indicate a search action. Icon - EmailUsed to indicate an emai action. Icon - FacebookFacebooks brand mark for use in social sharing icons. flipboard Icon - InstagramInstagrams brand mark for use in social sharing icons. Icon - PinterestPinterests brand mark for use in social sharing icons. Icon - TwitterTwitters brand mark for use in social sharing icons. Icon - Check MarkA check mark for checkbox buttons.
You are reading

Steal This Look: Miss Havisham’s House Plants


Steal This Look: Miss Havisham’s House Plants

October 29, 2012

"Once, I had been taken to one of our old marsh churches to see a skeleton in the ashes of a rich dress, that had been dug out of a vault under the church pavement.” You know and I know (because I just looked it up) that this is how Pip felt about Miss Havisham, lurking like a spider in her creepy mansion. At the risk of sounding melodramatic, may I say it also exactly describes the neglected bookshelves in my living room?

Luckily, I have some junk—make that "treasures" and "collections"—lying around which, with the help of a few super-low-maintenance house plants (God knows I'd never remember to water them with any regularity) really gussied up the place. It's a look I call Victorian Spinster. If you want to recreate it—hello, it's Halloween—here's how:

Photographs by Michelle Slatalla.

700 michelle s chair mill valley jpeg

Above: Let's have a look inside the living room, shall we?

Steal This Look Miss Havishams House Plants portrait 4

Above: My favorite house plant is one that doesn't need to be coddled, or even planted, for that matter. A Tillandsia Ionantha, like its other little air plant friends, can perch directly on a shelf. I trained a magnifying glass on it in the theory that might intensify the amount of sunlight it receives on the bottom shelf. So far this has not started a fire.

Steal This Look Miss Havishams House Plants portrait 5

Above: Do you have a bunch of old wooden mannequins lying around in a box mistakenly labeled "Nana's Tea Cups?" (That's where I found mine, when I unpacked after my last move.) If not, a similar 16-inch tall Sectioned Wooden Manikin (L) is $17.95 from Amazon; the color will darken over time. A Large Tillandsia Ionantha is $1.95 from CTS Airplants via Etsy.

700 miss havisham 11

Above: The most elegant succulent, hands down, is Senecio rowleyanus, also known as String of Pearls. You can drape it in macabre ways—over the edge of a bookshelf, say, where it looks eager to strangle that bird.

700 string of pearls

Above: Some people say String of Pearls is inordinately fussy. My friend, Stephanie, for instance, is always losing them. But I think that's because she coddles hers too much. My advice: Put it in a pot and ignore it. Every once in a while, stick a finger in the dirt. If it feels the slightest bit moist, go away for a few more days. Water it only if bone dry—String of Pearls is prone to rot. Makes you want one, doesn't it? A Hanging Basket Pearls Plant is $15.96 from Home Depot.

700 miss havisham 12

Above: That's my grandfather Elmer Wolverton (L) getting ready to head off to war. Unless the air plant gets him first.

Steal This Look Miss Havishams House Plants portrait 9

Above: I have boxes and boxes of old family photos; a cheap and simple way to display them is on Restaurant Menu Holders (L); $8.48 per dozen from A City Discount. A Tillandsia Bulbosa (R) is $5.99 from Twisted Acres va Etsy.

Steal This Look Miss Havishams House Plants portrait 10

Above: This whole "air plant" nickname is a misnomer, by the way. Tillandsias need water to live. Submerge them for a few minutes every week or so. Unless you're afraid they're going to crawl out of the sink and attack when your back is turned…

Steal This Look Miss Havishams House Plants portrait 11

Above: …In which case, you can mist their leaves every couple of days with a Nickel Plant Mister; it's $20 from Terrain. The mister would also look pretty good sitting on a shelf next to all that other quasi-scientific stuff—like old seashells and tarnished silver plate spoons—that was in the bottom of the "Nana's Tea Cups" box. I suspect the real Miss Havisham might have filled her mister with gin.

700 miss havisham 16

Above: Add to the display a few of those wobbly, misshapen ceramic bowl things the children are always bringing home from school.

Steal This Look Miss Havishams House Plants portrait 13

Above: If you don't have children, take heart. You can also mix in some non-wobbly, beautifully shaped small pieces, such as the Heath Accessories Bud Vase (L); in four colors, for $22 apiece. The Cafe Bowl From the Heath Chez Panisse Line (R) is $35 and available in five colors.

700 overall shelf 3

Above: In Great Expectations, Miss Havisham's dining room was also a pretty spooky scene, with "speckle-legged spiders with blotchy bodies" running around on her rotted wedding cake. Maybe next year.

N.B.: To go Goth with flowers, see DIY: Black Floral Arrangements.

Product summary  Item 7 137Item 8 138

Have a Question or Comment About This Post?

Join the conversation