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If 2020 has taught us anything, it is the power of looking to the things we love most to bring us joy, peace and, in the case of quarantine, something to do. In the midst of this common reality, Shayla Owodunni decided to double down on her love of and personal experience with plants to create the Plant Penthouse, an online destination that is focused on nurturing a vibrantly styled life and offers interior styling insights, plant parenting support and more. We chatted with her about how the Plant Penthouse came to be, what advice she has for first-time plant owners and why she chooses flora to play such a crucial role throughout her living spaces.

Photography provided by Plant Penthouse

How did the Plant Penthouse come to be?

Surprisingly, the Plant Penthouse almost did not become what you see today. My condo has a very industrial vibe, and when I was first dreaming up a design theme for my space, I admired the modern/minimalist/monochromatic styling I’ve seen in various design magazines and set out to emulate that in my loft. Realizing that style trend is the furthest from representing who I am, I abandoned that plan and started curating an environment that ushered in unequivocal joy. I have a passion for travel and wanted a constant reminder of the vibrancy and peace I felt during a vacation to Southeast Asia in the spring of 2019. This meant a burst of color, pattern and, you guessed it, plants!

At what point did your love for plants come into full bloom?

I would say there were seeds planted in my childhood that blossomed while living in Washington. I can still remember the meticulous care my parents gave to gardening, landscaping and the many indoor plants we had in my home growing up. I honestly looked at them like crazy plant people, but it was not until my move to Seattle and a re-introduction to plants by a good friend that a true zeal for plant parenting took root. My first Seattle plant purchase stemmed from a desire to decorate within the parameters of city apartment living; that has since bloomed into a hobby I never predicted.

What is some advice you’d give to new or wary plant owners?

My biggest piece of advice for new plant parents is to take the time to understand your space. Does your room resemble Bali sunshine or maybe closer to a storm cellar? This detail matters. Taking a survey of your dwelling is crucial, because if you can’t give a cactus the sunshine it needs to survive, I would recommend keeping the relationship in the admiration phase at your local plant shop. Every plant is not meant for every home, and that is OK. By first taking the time to acknowledge what you’re working with, you are setting yourself up to give these plants the best chance of survival. Also, knowing your environment can help your local plant shop make recommendations most relevant to your space.

Another piece of advice: It’s OK to start small. My first plant family consisted of a bird of paradise and a golden pothos, and we were perfectly content for at least a month or so before I started to expand. Starting with a plant or two helps you learn about the needs of your plants and boosts the confidence factor when you are ready to add to the party.

And lastly, have fun on your plant parenting journey! I have held many plant funerals over the years, so know that plant death happens at the hands of the best of us. Dust your shoulders off because each plant provides the opportunity to learn, grow and do better next time. (Unless it’s a succulent; no guarantees for me on those.)

How would you describe your style?

I would describe my style as eclectic global bazaar with an element of eccentricity. I was the boisterous child who demanded to wear neon knee-highs with printed dresses, so my inner adolescent quirkiness is very much alive and well.

I am forever inspired by travel and the colorful vibrancy of my Nigerian heritage. In 2019, I spent time in Southeast Asia and wanted to infuse the same vibrancy and energy I felt in Thailand and Bali into my condo, which definitely carries me through the cold Minnesota months.

What is your favorite room in your home?

Without hesitation, my favorite room in my home is the living room. All the natural light has provided the ability to go wild with plants, which ultimately give the Plant Penthouse its signature look. With the installation of larger plants in the living room, I truly feel like I’ve landed in my own tropical oasis. Lastly, it is also a space in my home that I have infused with the most color and print variety, so I feel completely energized and in my element every time I walk by.

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