Having Christen (Chris) Wrighter as a neighbor was a treat that came with many visual perks. Our shared patio area was under constant redesign, and the yard was always undergoing ever-updating improvements that I was baffled she ever even thought of. Her apartment itself was a homey art exhibit also in never-ending, surprising flux. Each day, I met her in the midst of two or three new projects.
Meeting up with her to chat about simple, nature-inspired home decor tips, I saw that nothing had changed—in that everything was different.
The energizer bunny of landscaping, home improvement projects and DIY crafts, she has a style that heavily highlights the natural beauty of our area. Not only are there actual plants everywhere—pouring out of large planters outside in beautiful arrangements, filling every nook and cranny inside her home and hanging from the curtain rod (which, she mused, she might replace with birch sticks) in place of curtains—but she also incorporates natural materials into her crafts and decor. By mid-summer, after they’ve had a chance to grow and fill in, those arrangements are serious works of art; as her former downstairs neighbor, I once had to relay to her that a passerby exclaimed “what a sophisticated color scheme” about one of them.
The most obvious new feature I spotted in her backyard was a makeshift covering for a segment of fence where her neighbor had built a composting station. With its unfortunate placement pointing right at Chris’s porch and hammock-area, Chris mended the sight (and some of the smell) with a covering made from the invasive jerk of the Delaware, Japanese knotweed.
She went in early spring and gathered pieces that were still standing in large patches of trampled sticks. The thicker, the better. Some were so large she had to cut two feet off of them, though the covering itself stands at over 4.5 feet. Transporting them home was interesting: “They were pointing out the back and passenger windows, moving around the whole way home,” she told me, but her car’s no stranger to having random materials poking out of it.
In her constant stream of yard work, in her own backyard and beyond, she comes across sticks quite a bit. Before she moved in, a large walnut tree had fallen in the back yard. It was a massive cleanup project that took her months, but it gave her plenty of materials to work with. With the bark of branches, she was able to cover up the unsightly space beneath the porch and use it as storage.
If you find yourself with too many sticks in your yard, take a tip from Chris: All it takes to spruce up a corner is a container filled with some sticks—she spray-painted hers white. (She loves spray paint.)
Did you take a hike and find a walking stick that you know was destined for greater things? Maybe it’s just the thing to fill that empty space over your bed. That’s where I first saw Chris’s biggest wall hanging, but they can be as big or small as the sticks (or tree branches) you find. Pick up the yarn of your choice and get tying! There are many ways to experiment to get different looks. Making a wall hanging with the thick, soft yarn will have a much different look than using something thinner. You can space the knots apart at the top or tie them on top of each other. You can add knots and play with length at the bottom—have the pieces meet at a V or go for a choppy look.
Chris makes the most out of the ordinary excess every day without trying. Being her friend for a couple years now, it seems that’s just how her brain operates. I’ve even seen her addiction to beautification span beyond her yard: She’s known to weed-wack beside the road across the street, mow down by the abandoned storefront and fill empty planters with flowers. People keep telling her she should do her creative landscaping thing for a living—she agrees, and she’s working on it.
Stay tuned for a website coming soon. Feel free to inquire about landscaping at email@example.com.