Green is the New Black: I Woke Up in a Room with 200 Plants

Mon, 4 November 2019

Injecting a little nature into London’s concrete jungle, the UK’s first houseplant-filled hotel suites remind city dwellers of the restorative benefits of botanicals.

The houseplant industry is blossoming. Follow the #plantsofinstagram hashtag and your feed will sprout nearly four million posts. For millennials and Gen Zers, plant babies are the mode du jour (along with avocados, craft coffee and financial insecurity). We know our fiddle leaf fig and string of pearls from our chinese money plant and dracena. For context: I’m 28 and have all of the above.

It’s no headline-grabbing news that more nature usually means more happiness. But the cruel truth is that a few token succulents on a windowsill will rarely cut it when we need a real boost. So on a miserable late-October evening, my mood tainted by advancing winter blues and too many deadlines, I make my way to Whitechapel, where Leman Locke hotel has taken biophilic design – that inspired by our natural environment – to the next level.

In collaboration with nature-loving platform The Joy of Plants, the avant-garde aparthotel has transformed three studio suites into verdant, multisensory environments in an attempt to remind city dwellers of the therapeutic benefits of plants. Dreamed up by Grace & Thorn founder Nik Southern, designer and architect Oliver Heath and This Morning’s “Mr Plant Geek” Michael Perry, each suite is designed to stimulate a different mood – one to aid work, another to be calm and a third to ignite passion.

I’m staying in Heath’s delightfully eccentric Productivity Suite. As I step inside my eyes are drawn to the windows where, in the recesses, spider plants curl their fingers towards the floor. I brush past variegated monstera and deep-purple prayer plants as I explore. My kitchen counter is a sensory bounty of rosemary and sage. In the bathroom, I struggle to see myself for the zesty Boston ferns reaching across the mirror.

Is it Instagrammable? Yes. Against a palette of muted greys and brass, a carnation-pink sofa is fringed by trailing devil’s ivy and dwarf mountain palms. Beside sturdy rubber plants, blonde woods cut mid-century shapes. I’ve stumbled into a Pinterest board.

Yet as my evening unfolds, this plant-filled suite proves to be much more than a PR stunt. I’m prompted to interact with my new roommates. The natural movement of delicate, trailing leaves – English ivy, string of hearts – alleviates my strained eyes from bright screens. I learn that the sword-like mother-in-law’s tongue shields against negative chi (life force) while releasing oxygen and removing airborne pollutants – it’s for this reason that Nasa uses these West African plants in its space station.

My minibar is a plant-based powerhouse, offering CBD-infused snacks, okra chips and herbal teas. I enjoy a binaural audio experience – the latest soundwave therapy that mimics natural rhythms to sharpen focus and spark creativity – and make the most of the in-room iPad and artsy notebooks. Getting work done here is a breeze.

Deadlines smashed, I pass a screen of plants that separates the living area from a calm bedroom space strung with lavender. As I wind down, a small book enlightens me on how to recreate a forest-bathing experience at home and offers biophilic hacks that include using jasmine to stimulate memory. The perfumed air feels clean, the ambience is peaceful and I drift into a deep, remedial slumber.

Leman Locke’s other installations also harness the power of nature. Nik Southern’s Romance Suite encourages guests to get passionate among the pilea with a botanical bed canopy and a dedicated plant ASMR channel. Meanwhile Michael Perry’s Tranquil Suite decked out in bromeliads benefits from a meditation space and a rug made of living moss.

In the morning I wake to a world in soft focus, light filtering through feathered fronds and fishbone cacti. It’s a boon for my mood and circadian rhythm a pamphlet tells me, though it doesn’t need to. I know because for the first time in months I reach for a (complimentary) yoga mat and hang out in downward dog before finding the headspace to meditate semi-successfully.

After a jasmine tea and hemp-enriched energy ball, I head into the office where three colleagues comment (unprompted) on how I seem happier and… blooming. Had I discovered the joy of plants?

It turns out that you don’t have to schlep to the sticks to reap the benefits of nature. London’s concrete-clad East End may not be the most likely destination for a dose of green, but these installations have proved that the humble houseplant can be much more than a decorative object. Breathing life into homes and workspaces (and, indeed, hotel suites), they can boost happiness and health and sow the seeds of wellbeing and creativity. Just don’t forget to water them.

Guests can book one of The Joy of Plants suites at Leman Locke until 10 November.

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