Bursting With Plants, a 1910 Portland Foursquare for a Florist and Barista

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From where I sit as I type this, I can count 14 plants in my home surrounding me — some big, some small, but all bringing me such joy. Plants make any home feel inviting, and Alea Joy’s is no exception. In fact, it may be the most beautiful example of a home that marries indoor and outdoor living that I’ve ever seen!

Alea is a florist and proud owner of the plant shop Solabee Flowers and Botanicals in downtown Portland, OR. Her passion for teaching people how to successfully integrate plants into their spaces is one she definitely brings home with her. Over the four years spent in her home, the first few as a renter with a roommate, Alea has perfected the art of unifying the outdoors and indoors. And once her landlord unexpectedly sold the foursquare house to her, she was thrilled to finally be able to call it home for her herself, her fiancé Peter King (a drum-loving Barista from Chicago) and their cats, Dancer and Jude.

Since its conversion to a triplex in the 30s up until they bought it, their home has been a rental property. So while they weren’t surprised to discover that it was in need of some serious fixes, they were a bit stunned by how intimidating the renovations were. They’re currently in the process of totally gutting and redoing their bathroom, but as Alea explains, “the list of projects [is] endless… redoing the front porch, and creating a back deck with a french door exit off the kitchen are up next.” Regardless of the hard work ahead of them, their home already oozes with comfort and feels open, earthy and inviting. It’s host to big family dinners with Peter’s massive, loving family, their travel souvenirs and mementos, two happy felines and plentiful greenery! “I am just thankful to have a home to call our own. A place to just be ourselves,” Alea says, “We feel very fortunate in our humble surrounding, but are also extremely grateful for the space to grow in the years to come. It’s just the beginning for us!” With a wedding planned for October on the horizon, and a honeymoon to Ireland and Iceland shortly after, the couple is excited to get away and look forward to their return home as Mr. and Mrs. —Sabrina

Photography by Jaclyn Campanaro

  1. Lauren says:

    This is one of my favorites to date. I love the warm caramel tones with all the plants (and cats!). It is so earthy and soothing. Thank you for sharing!

  2. Karla says:

    Look at all those plants! I love it…they remind me of my Grandparents house and how my Grandmother always had the house so nicely decorated. I have never had much luck with indoor plants…maybe some day. This is such a lovely home…thanks for sharing!

  3. Summer says:

    This is one of my favorite houses features so far! I am always so grateful that folks allow us to see inside their homes; it’s such an inspiration. The plants in this home are incredible and I hope that more local little plant shops pop up; I’m saddened that locally, the only places I’ve found for houseplants are the large home improvement chains. Perhaps persuading local nurseries to carry houseplants would be good!

  4. Rachel says:

    The whole house looks so peaceful – I would love to live here. Can you please tell me the paint color in the living room?

  5. Nicole says:

    I love plants and am simply amazed at the number and variety of stunners here. Together with the cozy furniture and great light, this house just feels right (even if the owners see lots of projects. I know that feeling.) Definitely one of my favorite sneak peaks.

  6. Emma says:

    What kind of plant is this? I love it!

  7. L says:

    This home is so warm and inviting! It’s so thoughtful and stylish, yet still seems so functional, comfortable, and effortless. The rainbows are so so wonderful.

    We love plants and cats, too, but haven’t found a way to discourage the cats from nibbling on some of our plants. They don’t bother philodendron, jades and other succulents, snake plants, or rubber plants, but they destroy everything else…what has worked for you to keep all of your plants looking so good? Thanks!

    1. I’ve had cats and plants together in the house for most of my life. I’ve found that the ones that are supposedly “safe” for cats must also taste good, because I can’t keep them in the house – things like spider plants, palms, and dracaenas (although the latter are on many of the toxic lists.) Some plants I have that my cats aren’t interested in chewing are hoya, ming aralia, schefflera, pachira aquatica (sometimes known as money tree,) pedilianthus, and various ficus. I also have a number of others in the house that they will occasionally nibble on, but only a few leaves – pothos, philodendron, snake plant, pleiomele. And of course, they don’t seem to like chewing on cactus, and other succulents, either.

  8. carlene says:

    Oh, ha, now that I look I think it really *is* her former home…

    1. amber says:

      It’s so interesting that you noticed this! Great eye!!!
      Today I listened to NPR’s TED radio hour about originality, and I think that there is something interesting about this example that you’ve made, that their houses look so similar. When I was flipping though these pictures, I was thinking to myself, “wow, these people have really curated a space that fits exactly who they are”. I was struck by how honest, non-contrived it seemed. Then I looked at the photos of Anne’s house, and there is was, all of the “originality” of styling I thought that I was seeing in the these photos. It only stands to prove that our only form of originality is building on and customizing something that already exists. It seems to me that Alea has built, respectfully, out-of and on-top of the spirit of Anne’s house.

      1. Jessica says:

        ha, it actually is Anne’s former home – she and Alea were roommates :)

      2. Alea Joy says:

        Anne and I were roommates for 3 years! Hence the similarity in the space from her photos, it was shared and some of the objects are still there. Thanks for noticing. If you’d like to see the difference check out the New Boho Book by Justina Blakney, we’re in there with the shared space. A wonderful meditation of space as it grows and develops.

        1. Carlene says:

          How funny. I love all the photos of Anne’s home, and I love your version, too.

  9. Dana says:

    Love it but will also second the question of how to keep cats from eating the plants. My cat’s favorite thing to do is wake me up at 5 am munching on the leaves of my houseplants. It has really put a damper on my houseplant aspirations!

  10. janeray1940 says:

    Everything about this place is just lovely, but I’m curious about the combination of plants plus cats. Perhaps Alea can share her knowledge or resources with regard to plants that are cat-safe? Lists I’ve found online often contradict each other and I’ve pretty much concluded that everything is toxic to plant-nibbling cats like mine, as there doesn’t seem to be a single definitive list out there.

  11. Stef says:

    I was curious if Alea could pass on the name of the rainbow artist? Thank you!

      1. Deneen says:

        @AleaJoy, I adore your style, plants & home. So glad to have discovered you via someone on Instagram & Justina Blakeney’s book. I adored rainbows years ago as a teen … Love that the rainbow artist you mentioned is still thriving!

  12. Simone says:

    Truly inspirational! My favorite sneak peek so far. Thanks to Sabrina and Alea!

  13. Julie Wylie says:

    Beautiful home! I am in love with all of the plants. That’s exactly my plan for my home. Gave me some ideas of new plants to get!

  14. earthakittens says:

    Lovely home, and such incredible plants! Out of curiosity, do you have more information about the duvet cover/bed quilt?

    1. Alea Joy says:

      It was an Ebay find, just searched for indigo bed covers and loved this one. It is a block print batik.

  15. Kerry says:

    Where do I find this rainbow man? I would love to have one!

    1. Alea Joy says:

      I put his link down on a couple of the same questions above. Enjoy!

  16. The quilt in the guest room is gorgeous. I wonder if you wouldn’t mind passing on where it’s from?

  17. Raj says:

    Plants make home to look peaceful. Really Loved it..

  18. Danielle says:

    Loving all these plants. I’m envious as I don’t have much of a green thumb.

    1. sarah says:

      I too would like to find the ‘rainbow man’ …would love one for my little persons space.

      1. Alea Joy says:

        Thanks for the question. I would be remiss to claim to know. In my store we air on the side of caution. If you fall in love with a plant, it is worth it to take the time to do a little personal research and see. The decision is a personal one, since your cat’s behavior is known best to you. There are things out there! Good luck and best wishes cultivating your indoor garden, the balance exists out there!

  19. Abbi says:

    Where are all the pictures of the cats chewing on the plants? Or is that just my cat…?

  20. Sarah says:

    Yes please! Who makes the duvet / quilt in the guest room?

    1. Alea Joy says:

      See above for the answer! Thank you!

  21. Caroline says:

    lovely light, lovely colours, the plants and the flowers are so restful. and the furniture is fab too, thanks for sharing

  22. yp says:

    the little shelf on slide 11 is great! next DIY post? overall adorable place they have here

  23. miamaus says:

    Would love if Alea did a guest spot on all her plants and maybe also incorporated what is cat-friendly and what her cats seem to leave alone. All the blogs show the same few plants over and over again. Ferns, succulents, and cacti have been great. They’re safe, but I have to put them high so they don’t get chewed. I’m definitely looking for some larger, floor plants to decorate with that are relatively cat safe.

    1. Grace Bonney says:

      Hi miamaus

      We’ve done posts on this topic in the past in the Home Ec section of DS. There are sadly no plants that are guaranteed to repel your pets or be uninteresting to them. It’s mainly about seeing what your pet is interested in or not. I just linked to a spray above (please see my response to the previous commenter) with a natural spray we use at home (safe to spray on plants and grass) that discourages pets from eating, scratching and pawing at plants. I’ve used it indoors and out with great success.

      Grace

  24. Alea Joy says:

    For all the questions about cats and plants, I sadly have not been able to crack the code of our mysterious feline friends. I have talked to so many who have cats with a plant fascination and many who have cats that never lay a paw on them. A common thread still alludes me! My cats are luckily the later, and we live in unison with the cat and plant relationship. The cat and cat relationship is another story, sadly we’ve got a stormy situation there.

  25. What a magnificent place! All of the plants really make this space feel like home. The rugs are really beautiful as well; the one under the dining room table and the coffee table. Their pottery collection is astounding too. Gorgeous!

  26. Annabelle says:

    I’ve always thought that it would be wonderful to hire a “plant consultant” to tell me what I can and can’t grow in my apartment (and how to care for my plants). This post just inspired me to go around and check on the scraggliest of my specimens. Black thumb, sigh.

    1. You can find “plant consultants” in a city or town near you by looking for “plant care companies” in your area. Call a few of them, you’ll probably find someone who will make a housecall to help you with your plants. Or you can check this series of videos: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wQwBUWgcYjg

  27. Jen says:

    Love this so, so much. Thanks for putting a lot of the plant names in the captions – very helpful.

  28. Elissa says:

    Tell me about that fabulous turntable. Been looking for one of a similar sort for ages, but no luck……

    1. Alea Joy says:

      Peter’s boss gifted it to him in Chicago! Total score, but I do not have any other details on it right now.

  29. Laurel says:

    We closed on our first house last week and the very first thing I did to celebrate was head to the nursury to get some houseplants! I had to leave all mine behind when we moved across the country a few years ago. (We moved in a schoolbus, so space was too tight for 50 plants.) https://instagram.com/p/2ueMQqQT2r/

  30. Vivien says:

    Alea, I had a dream last night that I asked you over to my house to help me with my plants. Your house is lovely and it’s good to see you looking lovely and happy too! Great to see you on one of my favorite sites.

  31. Love the look of your lovely home, all the green plants do add a special touch that you cannot recreate in any other way. We have a lot in common, I am a florist too, even though I am not working as one, I still love to fill my home with flowers and plants too. And as to questions of cats and plants, I agree, some cats leave them alone and others can’t seem to do that. ( I have had both kinds). Good Luck with your renovations too, I hoe we will get to see those as well.

  32. Irum says:

    This apartment reminds me so much of my friend who moved to Portland except he is from St. Louis not Chicago! Those cats are quite lovely and the florist looks like a total dreamboat. She knows how to rock a bun.

  33. Alea Joy says:

    Irum, you’re hilarious.

  34. Cassy says:

    I love this apartment and all the plants! I keep coming back to this post and looking at all the pictures for inspiration.

    For those asking about plants and cats/dogs, the ASPCA has a comprehensive list of which plants are safe or toxic to pets! https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control/toxic-and-non-toxic-plants

    Unfortunately quite a few of Alea’s plants are toxic to kitties (all those gorgeous philodendrons, alas!), but having plants in the home definitely depends on your individual pet’s behavior. Our kitties love to climb all over and chew on plants, and have already managed to kill a dwarf palm by standing right in the middle of the leaves and squashing them down (playing who is queen of the palm? ;)).

  35. Bérangère says:

    Wow! Love this post so much! Plants, pottery, wooden surfaces! That purple rug! I must have looked at it half a dozen times! A few days ago I took all my plants outside for a bit of rain. It made our deck look like a jungle for a day to the delight of my youngest but our house look naked, empty and cold! I hated it. Plants give so much life to a space. So far, I have 22 big and small plants and they all mean so much to me. It does require a bit of puttering but it’s worth it and very soothing. I take the time every Sunday. Taking care of plants is like therapy. They are like my green babies and some even have names like: Béatrice my soft and wide Staghorn fern, Sally my carnivorous pitcher plant… :) My oldest one is a citrus tree that my brother planted from seed in the mid 80s (we’re in Québec, the seed was from a fruit from the grocery store so I doubt it will ever grow any but any tips to make this happen are welcome! :) Lovely, lovely space! Thank you for sharing.

  36. Rebecca says:

    Alea rents the third unit in her house, a teeny tiny one-bedroom unit on Airbnb. My boyfriend and I stayed there in December while visiting Portland and loved it. Her Airbnb unit looks a lot like her home, warm and beautiful yet casual, and filled with plants. We also visited her plant shop too and have a cactus from there on our coffee table at home. She was a very gracious host! We hope to visit again soon.

  37. kk says:

    Alea, could you please tell me where your leather couch is from? Your house is dreamy. Thanks!

  38. Bekah says:

    Alea, I am obsessed with your shelving unit on slide 12! Can you please tell me how you made it or where you got it from? Thank you!

  39. Chessia says:

    I love the large artwork in her living room. Any idea where that is from?

  40. I just love this home! I’ve also seen it in The New Bohemians and follow Alea on Instagram but I still can’t get enough of it. She definitely inspires me to incorporate even more plants into my home.

    1. Deneen says:

      @TiffiniJones, my sentiments exactly.

  41. Nicole says:

    Madly in love with the Philodendron Gloriosum and wondering where the pot that hold it is from?

  42. Emily says:

    Oh my this space is heaven! The color combos and plants are literally perfect! Looking forward to having a space big enough to actually design.

  43. Barb McMahon says:

    “… it is possible to make a living doing something lovely for the world.”

    I may just need to print that out and pin it above my workspace. Thank you for the inspiration!!

  44. Mani Wallig says:

    that leather chair in the bedroom is amazing! looks like sergio rodrigues’ poltrona mole. where did you find it? this is one of my earliest childhood memories from my grandma’s house and i would love to have one myself.

  45. gorgeoux says:

    there is a fern in perhaps two rooms (lounge, bedroom?), what is its name, Alea? thank you :)

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