Rachel Young’s love affair with houseplants is multifaceted. She loves their resilience, the fresh start they symbolize, and the fact that they’re a tangible reminder of her beloved grandmother.
“And also, they’re just pretty,” Young said. “They’re so pretty.”
When Young officially opened The Living Room Dec. 14 on East Rio Grande Street, the former office building “was so dusty in here you could hardly even see,” she said.
“I got a shipment of plants in the next morning and the air was more breathable. People walk in here and they’re like, ‘I can breathe — I can feel the oxygen.’ I think it’s good for your mental health [and] your overall health.”
The store lives up to its name and its Instagram tagline: “Ran out of room in my house for plants so I had to open a store.”
A customer described The Living Room’s aesthetic as “modern bohemian,” and Young tends to agree with that assessment. Hardly a square inch of the storefront is left untouched by plants — from a table overflowing with orchids, to the snake plants hanging from the ceiling’s high beams, to the bromeliads sharing shelves with Young’s favorite gardening books.
“It’s very much my personality,” she said. “The day before I opened, I was really nervous, because this is just me. I felt very vulnerable about it… [but] it’s been so warmly received.”
Everything in Young’s store is for sale “a la carte style,” she said, from the plants and their pots to the macramé art decorating the bookshelf.
“Everything is for sale, because I just think it’s crazy that you go somewhere [like] an antique mall and their display is not for sale,” Young said. “I’m like, ‘But I like the cabinet that you have it on — why can’t I buy this?’”
Local artist Sundae Congleton’s garden-inspired paintings add personal touches, and two couches in the store’s far corner invite visitors to sit and enjoy the foliage. One customer comes in periodically to knit in that corner, Young said, and a writing group has already held several meetings there.
“It’s nice to create a space that people really like to be in,” Young said. “I love to decorate and I like to make a space feel welcoming. I think it’s so important to have plants and books in your house to make it seem like you love to be there.
“It just brings life to your home, and it gives you something to take care of and to watch grow — it’s fun.”
Plants are in Young’s blood. Her first job as a teenager was working at her family’s greenhouse in Pennsylvania, and her brother now owns Dutch Heritage Gardens in Larkspur.
Young initially indulged her green thumb through pop-up garden centers she set up around town each year from Mother’s Day to July 4. Last year, however, she realized that while plant lovers did not want for garden centers in Colorado Springs, there was no place in town dedicated exclusively to indoor houseplants.
“A lot of the garden centers around town have houseplant sections and they’re lovely … but there’s not a specific houseplant store,” Young said. “So I thought that would be a really great idea.”
Houseplants are not unlike pets, Young said, in that their needs must align with the owner’s lifestyle.
“I kill succulents all the time because I’m always like, ‘You need water’ — no, they don’t,” she said. “They want to be left alone, but there are other people [who] really, truly just want to ignore the thing and not deal with it for months on end.”
For the inexperienced plant owner, “I would start with something very basic and simple so you would feel confident in your ability to have houseplants,” Young said, “because there are certain plants that will make you feel very sad about it — like, ‘I can’t even do it.’”
“I would ask you about what type of light you have in your home and … your life situation, like how you think you would do with watering and if you’re going to pay attention to it,” she said. “And we just find a plant that works for your lifestyle needs.”
After only two months in business, Young already has established a faithful customer base, and she loves helping them cultivate spaces that reflect their personalities and help them relax.
“Honestly, my customers are so wonderful,” Young said. “It’s just very encouraging to know that something I’ve put a lot of time and effort into has made so many people very happy.”