'They're in Charge': Plants Thrive in a Tom Ford Perfume Bottle in This Hawaii Home

Courtney Monahan of Paiko in Honolulu shows us how to up our greenery game.

When one thinks of indoor plant styling and Hawaii, a lush, jungle vibe might spring to mind. Instead, Courtney Monahan, the owner of Paiko, a plant store in Honolulu, incorporates island style but tempers it with eclectic and vintage pieces—with a good dose of grandma thrown in.

“I like clean lines but a lot of my things are grandma-y,” she says. “The furniture is my grandma’s, the chair belonged to my friend’s grandma.” As a result, her home is filled with pretty, fresh moments that are ripe for inspiration.

But indoor plant styling is more than just picking a plant and plopping it down wherever you want it—you gotta be flexible. “If your plant doesn’t like where you put it, you gotta try someplace else,” Monahan says. “With plants, they’re in charge. They tell you where they want to be.”

Monahan’s home, meanwhile, serves as a living reminder of what her customers are trying to achieve. “My desk is alive with plants because they lift my mood, and remind me when I’m working and sending emails why I own Paiko—it’s so other people can have the knowledge it takes to own plants,” Monahan says. “Everyone who comes into my house says they love it, and I try to remember that this is what the customers want, too.”

Courtney Monahan at her home in Manoa. The varying heights and hues of a ric rac cactus, a bamboo palm, and a cobra fern under the desk add depth to the room.

Indoor Plant Style Tip No. 1: Botanical Prints Play Well with Plants
Oncidium orchids and botanical prints draw the eye, but so does Monahan’s rattan and leather bag from Miuccia Studio. “Even the TSA lady at the airport wanted to know where I got it,” she says.

Monahan’s bedroom wall features a collection of vintage botanical prints that lift the plant theme onto the wall. (One was a gift, one is from a local Hawaii art show, one a garage sale score.) A vase is filled with oncidium orchids along with peperomia cuttings from her yard, while a fiddle-leaf fig and baby-mounted staghorn fern complete the look.

She’s not afraid to be a little sentimental, either. Dried leis play up the tropical theme. (“When someone picked 300 flowers and then delicately strung them, it’s something you save,” she says.)

Indoor Plant Style Tip No. 2: Put Plants Where They’ll Be Happy (Even If It’s a Perfume Bottle)
Spanish Moss, which some Hawaiians call “Pele’s Hair,” adds botanical drama to a light and airy bathroom.

Monahan hung Pele’s Hair, which we mainlanders call Spanish moss, over her showerhead, where the light is perfect. “With a plant like this, the light and airflow are important,” she says. Since she lives in a humid valley, she doesn’t have to water it, but in a drier climate, she recommends getting the entire plant wet a couple of times a week.

Plants are arranged in a composed display on the bathroom shelves: A spotted begonia cutting is growing happily in “the Tom Ford perfume bottle that I will never get rid of,” Monahan says. A Pilea peperomioides, or Chinese money plant, sits in a hand-painted pot by a local artist. Moa—a native plant that was used medicinally by early Hawaiians, and also in a wishbone-like game that involves squawking like a chicken—peeks out from a vase.

Indoor Plant Style No. 3: Repeat the Pot, Not the Plant
A turntable gets a new spin with monochromatic white pots filled with plants in various textures and sizes.

To create a display around her sideboard and record player, Monahan used white containers in varying heights. “The monochrome pots help you see the plants and lead to moments where your eyes can rest on the greenery,” she says. Meanwhile, baskets and a wooden sideboard add warm contrast.

For this look, Monahan recommends using different plants with varying textures, rather than repeating the same few plants over and over. (This display alone includes seven different plant species.) A Philodendron narrow keeps the eye moving with its jagged leaves, an African spear plant (Sansevieria cylindrica) is cylindrical and to the point, while Hoya obovata and Hoya kerrii spill out of baskets mounted on the ceiling.

Indoor Plant Style Tip No. 4: Indoor Plant Styling Takes Patience
Monahan’s store, Paiko in Honolulu, is named after the area on the island where she grew up.

While it would be nice to think one could just walk into a plant store and walk out with Monahan’s well-styled home, she reminds us that plants require patience, as does building a meaningful collection. “I think the biggest thing with home design and plants is it takes time,” she says. “The fun is seeing how they grow into the space.”