• UO Studio Visits: Lisa Munoz

    Brooklyn-based Lisa Muñoz is an interior plant designer — meaning she is a pro on converting any sized apartment into a bona fide greenhouse. We visited her at home for her top tips on bringing the outdoors in.
    Photos by Frankie Marin

    Can you share more about your background and what’s led you to what you’re doing now?
    My plant background stems from my my grandparents being devoted gardeners. I grew up with my grandparents having large gardens in their backyards where they grew their own fruits and vegetables. It was inspiring to see the process, their dedication, and the reward of having freshly grown produce that was abundant enough to be shared with friends and family. That said, I didn’t always have a green thumb myself so I set out to teach myself about plants and to take it a few steps further, enrolled myself in the Horticulture Certificate program at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden where I very quickly fell more in love with plant life. After working with a couple plant shops and gardeners in the city, I took a leap and started Leaf and June.  

    I have also worked as a freelance VFX Producer for 10 years and found that my experience producing has helped me tremendously in starting and maintaining a business. After 10 years of sitting in front of a computer, working with plants has been so rewarding and refreshing. There’s no shame in being a crazy plant lady. 

    What are your top five go-to houseplants for apartment living — specifically smaller spaces that might not get the best light?
    1. Snake Plant (Sansevieria trifasciata). Snake Plants are incredibly low maintenance and thrive in both bright and low light conditions. If you’re lucky, they may even surprise you with fragrant, small flowers on occasion.  
    2. ZZ Plant (Zamioculcas zamiifolia): ZZ plants are on par with Snake Plants in terms of care. They have somewhat of a splayed growth habit making them great specimens for corners. 
    3. Rubber Tree (Ficus elastica): Rubber Trees do great in medium light and are also easy to care for. Their dark foliage is beautiful if you’re looking for a clean pop of green to add to your space. 
    4. Satin Pothos (Scindapsus pictus): Satin Pothos are beauties with their silvery flecked, trailing foliage. They are great in low to medium light and look best in a hanging planter or up on a shelf where they can showcase their cascading leaves. Cuttings are also great to root in water and share with friends.  
    5. Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia reginae): Birds of Paradise do well in medium to bright light. They’re also easy to care for and cozy up a space with their broad, tropical leaves.  

    Do you have any tricks you can share for reviving a plant + bringing it back to life if it needs a little love?
    If a plant looks sad, it’s best to examine the foliage and the soil. Some basic signs of leaf stress can be seen from their color: Yellowing leaves are likely a sign that it’s overwatered. Brown, crispy leaves are often an indication that your plant is thirsty. Black or mushy leaves could mean root rot, which comes from overwatering and/or poor drainage. If the foliage is looking a little droopy, give your plant some water and it’s likely to perk back up. Feel free to trim off any yellow, brown, or black leaves and take a look at the soil next.

    Many houseplants require watering once the top inch of soil is dry so be sure to check the soil prior to each watering in an effort to avoid overwatering. Finally, check that your plant is getting the light it needs. If you notice that it’s reaching toward the sunlight, try rotating your plant regularly or move it closer to the sunlight. If your plant looks burnt with brown spots, try moving it a little further way from the window or use a sheer curtain to help filter the light. 

    What’s a favorite way to style or display a plant indoors? 
    I have a couple favorite ways to display plants indoors. One way is to play with varying levels and heights with plant groupings. Plant stands are great to give added height and call attention to the plant. I also love tropical leaf cuttings for those spaces with little to no natural sunlight. I like to use mason jars filled with water for cuttings and they typically last anywhere from one to four months. Cuttings are super easy and have more longevity than cut flowers — and if you’re lucky, they’ll begin to root making them ready for planting.  

    Can you share more about the benefits of bringing greenery into a home?
    Plants make a home cozy, warm, and colorful, and you can always play them up with a cute planter. Plants have also been proven to inspire creativity, motivate, reduce stress, and improve air quality. In a city like New York, plants are an important element to introduce into your home and office for all of these reasons but especially for filtering toxins from the air.  More plants means you’re breathing easier — mentally, physically, and emotionally. 

    What inspires your plant + installation concepts?
    Travel has been a huge inspiration for me design-wise. Experiencing plants in their natural habitat keeps me in tune with plant care needs and has introduced me to so many new plant species. It’s also been fascinating to visit different botanical gardens and study how/why they choose to display their plant varieties the way they do. Visiting places like Italy and Hawaii have been swoon-worthy travel spots for me in particular. Italians have balconies that are overflowing with succulents in classic terra cotta pots and there’s tropical plant life everywhere you look in Hawaii. 

    New York City serves as an inspiration as well.  There’s a reason it’s one of the greatest places on Earth.  Being such a densely populated city with limited space, New Yorkers continue to find new ways to bring nature into their lives.  The Lowline, The Highline, the Conservatory Garden in Central Park, and Brooklyn Grange are just a couple of great examples of that and how plants soften the surrounding hardscape of the city.  

    Follow Lisa's work on her website and Instagram
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