Green house: at home in Chalk Farm with Ian Drummond
- Credit: Ian Drummond
Plant sculptor and author of At Home with Plants Ian Drummond on celebrity plants, decorating with dreams, and why he’s firmly rooted in north London
House plants are having something of a moment, but for Ian Drummond they’re a way of life. One of his earliest memories is being given some seeds by his dad at just four years old. He planted them in the window box of their council flat in Chalk Farm, and he’s been living with plants ever since.
Drummond’s lifelong passion is also his career. He’s the director of Indoor Garden design, where he creates living sculptures for clients ranging from the British Library to Elton John. He’s an RHS Chelsea flower show winner and committee member, and he’s just co-written his first book At Home with Plants, with Kara O’Reilly. The book is a practical guide to sharing your home with plants, combining practical knowledge and advice with inspirational styling pictures.
It couldn’t have come at a better time. House plants are hot, not that Drummond knew that when he started work on the book last year.
“We’ve been very well received. I think at long last I’m fashionable!” he laughs. “I’ve been in love with houseplants all my life.”
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Drummond practices what he preaches, sharing his home with his partner and some thirty houseplants.
“I’m a true north London boy,” he tells me on the phone from his house somewhere between Kentish Town and Chalk Farm. It’s where he was born and bred, but it’s the connection to nature that’s cemented his loyalty. “We’re absolutely spoilt for green spaces in north London, hence why I‘ve never moved away and never will!”
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When he moved into their new home 18 months ago it was the plant collection that took precedence with the interior design.
“They’re planned in right in the beginning, they’re never an afterthought,” he says. Once the right place has been found for each plant, the furniture has to fit in around it. In the living room a majestic fiddle-leaf fig takes pride of place next to a peaceful white orchid, accessorised by an Eames chair.
“On a simple level they are just beautiful things to look at,” says Drummond, who also extols to me the heath benefits – both physical and mental – of living and working surrounded by plants. “I think that having plants close to you in your home especially in a city such as London is a lovely way of connecting with nature.”
It’s not just the aesthetics and getting back to nature. Each plant also holds a special memory for Drummond. “When you look at them you’re watching things grow, but it’s also ‘Oh you won me a medal at Chelsea!’ or ‘You were at Elton John’s party.’” he says. “They’re a good talking point as well – I’ve got some celebrity plants!”
He takes the same approach to furnishing and accessorising his home. There’s no painstakingly assembled ‘looks’ here, each item is selected for its emotional resonance.
“The way I look at my home is that it’s filled with memories and dreams. They’re all from my travels, connections with people or projects I’ve worked on,” he explains.
“Everything is quite sentimental to me. Rather than just buying pieces I like the look of, it’s more important for me that they’ve got a personal association. It creates a real personal refuge.”
His house is full of well travelled furniture, from a traditional Chinese wedding cabinet to the colourful Sri Lankan masks that hang on the walls, along with pieces from Kenya and the Greek Islands. Getting the pieces home at the end always requires a bit of wrangling. “I’m always the annoying person with lots and lots of hand luggage, surrounded by fragile pieces on the plane,” he laughs.
Drummond is used to caring for precious cargo. His work sees him creating vast sculptures made up of living foliage and flowers, and when it comes to events such as London Fashion Week getting in and out with his plants intact requires a lot of quick but careful manoeuvring.
Afterwards, he makes sure the plants never go to waste. “We can create a sculpture using hundreds of lavender or rosemary, and we would then unplant the sculpture into the client’s garden,” he explains.
The really sentimental ones take up permenant residence with him, but he also donates them to schools around north London and makes sure the Marie Curie hospice in Hampstead is always overflowing with flowers. “We always find them a home.”
At Home with Plants, by Ian Drummond and Kara O’Reilly, £20, is published by Octopus Publishing.