Photo: Natasha Sidhu at Forest London
As much as we love being surrounded by nature inspired spaces, we also love being surrounded by nature inspired people. This is why we invited Natasha Sidhu to tell us more about her beautiful work on interiors and nature decoration. Get ready for an inspiring and encouraging view on home decor, mindset and even on life itself, on this heartfelt interview at Forest Homes.
Natasha, also know as @la_sidhu on her beautiful Instagram channel, is a very bold and authentic girl living in a small and humble, but incredibly nature inspired space in London. She reinforces her boldness with learnings from her everyday favourite plant, cactus. Daniela Rodriguez, Forest Homes founder, had a great and fun conversation with Natasha, and this is what they confessed each other. Read along for our full interview with Natasha.
Daniela: Tell us know that bit more about you. What we can't see in your Instagram account.
Nathasha: So I actually only started my influencing full time in January this year. I was a corporate in the city and worked for a cosmetic clinic for nearly 10 years. As a passionate creative, I was never really fulfilled or at peace with what I was doing every single day - I craved colour, space, nature, texture.
At that time, I was doing my creative stuff on the side as much as I could in the free time that I had to try to gain as much creativity release as possible. I used to have a vintage stall, which was a mixture of vintage fashion and homewares.
Most of my possessions at home, are second-hand. Lots are from different flea markets have been to around the world on my travels, charity shops, car boot sales; different things like that. It never really comes down to price, I’m extremely visual so I I tend to just see something and know straight away if it’ll work in my world.
Last year was where my life overhauled. My job was just getting really stressful and I had been dreaming of breaking free and following my creative dreams for so long, but I just didn’t know how, or which path to take. Then towards the end of last year, my two-year-old niece got diagnosed with Neuroblastoma cancer - one of the most aggressive forms of childhood cancer. We were advised around December that we needed to raise 200,000 pounds to get her the treatment she needed, which was only available in America.
Around that time is when my work was really getting on top of me and I was feeling so trapped and scared. Do I give up a really well paid job and semi security but stay unhappy? Or do I take a risk and try to start a life I’d always dreamed of?
My work had wanted to promote me, but to change roles and structures inside the business, that would have massively affected me. Inside my head, I was thinking: this is not what I meant to be doing, I need to get out of here. But obviously being an adult, you have bills to pay... And the situation with my niece made me realise I can't keep thinking: One day, I'll finally be able to do what I have dreamed of, and be happy in what I'm doing - life is too short to always think you have endless time on your hands. So I just took the plunge. I saved up a bit of money to give myself a little bit of time to focus on my own projects and to begin working on what would be 7 months of hard, non stop fundraising for my niece’s charity cause.
Just before I left my job, I remember one day being upset at work because I just felt so suffocated and unhappy, and a friend just telling me to write a list of all my passions and loves, to try and get some guidance as to where I should go with my life.
It was hard because I was never just fixated on one role or one skill - I’ve always liked variety and creativity, and I just couldn’t work out which role existed that would allow me to incorporate them all.
I remember writing my list; photography, styling, plants, fashion, travel, interiors and thinking: There's no way that there’s a job out there that includes all of them!
Once I eventually handed in my notice, I had more time to myself and that enabled me to focus on my Instagram. Within weeks I was beginning to grow and build a following. I’m pretty sure I only started this year with about 2000-3000 followers. Its always been essential to me to post about things I genuinely love or appreciate. I never post anything just for the money - it has to be genuine and honest. Within a few months, it all just went a bit wild!
Houseplants have always been popular, but there has been an almighty surge in the green game over the last couple of years and people are enjoying experimenting and decorating their homes with greenery more than ever! So, I wonder if I maybe just came out at the right time.
I was able to incorporate my love of styling plants, and not just using plants as plants, but actually using them as a form of decor as well. If you actually look at a lot of my images, there's very few accessories apart from the plants. They’re used in an art form,
I really enjoy working with a lot of natural materials whether it's rattan, wood, concrete, stone... I find that it's promoting a very good sense of well-being as well.
For me, our jungle home is a kind of tranquil paradise. If you step outside the door, you're back into normal crazy life, whereas when you come inside it’s just has a sense of calm and peace.
When I left my job, I was in quite a mess really, I was stressed, run down. Being able to be around the plants a lot more, and being able to spend more time looking after them, care for them, watch them grow; definitely had a massive positive increase on my mindset as well.
I really like to create a positive space to live in whether that’s using injections of nature, or pre-loved treasures and second hand buys that come with a history or a story attached.
Photo: Natasha's Living Room Section
Daniela: Yes, I can see that. When you were at your past job, did your home use to look like this? Did you have time to make all these beautiful arrangements?
Natasha: It was on its way, slower than I would of wished though! I can be a little impatient, but when I get an idea I can ant to run with it as soon as possible. My old job meant I would be working weekends and evenings sometimes too so I felt everything was taking so much longer,
When we brought the house two years ago, I had already been collecting treasures for about five years before that so when we moved in we had some belongings - but hardly anything practical. More like big antique frames and hanging chairs!
When you look at my house, there's no kind of set theme. I don't go: That can't go there, or this can't go there; because if it works, it works. Simple, I'm forever changing things around as well and experimenting with different positions and layouts.
Homeware accessories and plants are a fantastic way to keep easily refreshing the space and alternating it to create something new and visually pleasing.
Daniela: Definitely. This style for plants, these lovely plants, have you had it for a long time or it was something that recently came into your life?
Natasha: Well, it's definitely grown! My dad's got an amazing garden, at my mom and dad's house. So I've grown up watching my dad really taking care for his garden and dedicating a lot of time to it. That's more external based I know, but it’s still about appreciation of nature. I've always had an affiliation with the cactus too, I just love them! I just find them quite funny, unique, and intricate characters - I just love the way they grow.
I remember my best friend bought me a house plant as a welcoming present and I added it so happily to the few I already had. I just got so much enjoyment out of watching them grow, moving them around, styling them... It sounds funny but they're kind of like friends in a way. When in my house, you're just surrounded by a lot of positive energy, a lot of light, a lot of nature. To me, that way of living is the best way to be.
The Link Between Her Decor and Her Wellbeing
Daniela: Do you notice that being surrounded by these plants, namely cactus and its attributes, makes you feel a bit more like them?
Natasha: They have that saying “be a cactus in the world roses”, I guess a lot of people think flowers are so beautiful and pretty, but the cactus is different, it's unique. People sometimes shy away from it, they don't see that it's a beautiful creature because it’s perhaps not perceived as standard beauty whereas for me, I like that it's different and flourishes freely. That's beautiful in my eyes. I find them such quirky, interesting characters.
I think the reason I kind of resonate the most with cacti is that they're soft on the inside, but they're strong and structured on the outside. I just think it's great how they don't need a lot in life. They thrive on their own, on the smallest and most basic conditions.
I definitely see the link between how a person can be and their plants. It’s also just how you are together as well, It's like a little family. I don't know what will happen when I have children and I've got about a thousand prickly Cacti to also contend with! (haha!)
Daniela: I guess it's something that you don't think about much, you're just surrounded by these things. But if you if you're conscious about your plants attributes, then you get to this point, which you are now, where you think these little plants are not just decor but they can also teach us something about ourselves.
Natasha: Yes, it's very good as well for a sense of release. I buy a lot of my plants and homewares from flea markets, antique places... So for me, an ideal afternoon is to go plant shopping, maybe go to a flea market, and then have a nice potting session, which sounds so old I know - but it’s so perfect to me! Potting and planting is a really, really therapeutic way to spend some time and you get something great out of it as well!
Not only do plants look great, but I also consider the health factors and benefits that they bring into your living space.
I'm not into a lot of colour as you probably know from my Instagram feed, I'm more into tones and textures but they do say that green is the most motivational colour. For instance in our jungle bedroom, the wall that I look onto is a vibrant live wall of plants. The first thing you wake up to in the morning is the colour green but also thriving, flourishing nature as well. I think with regards to a positive mindset and health benefits, it contributes massively. It's such a gorgeous sight to wake up, it's living, it's motivating, its vibrant...it's a good boost in the morning.
Photo: One of Natasha's Looks at home
Daniela: Absolutely. I think it would be a good idea to have a 360 tour of your home.
Natasha: That would be fun! I think people would be surprised at how small the space actually is. I removed all the doors in my house except for my front and back door and my bathroom, I just love the free flow and continuity. It allows big jungle leaves to overhang from each room to merge the space together. It just adds a great natural link and free flow.
Daniela: Yes, exactly. It's like naturally dividing and changing the flow. Is this your first jungle/ plant paradise?
Natasha: Yes, it’s my first jungle creation! I’ve always found inspiration in other plant paradises over the years whether it be botanical gardens, plant shops, nature itself.
It’s funny because I get so many messages from people sending me pictures of their plants if something's wrong or if they need advice and I’m actually not massively clued up on botanics. I’ve always gone by trial and error myself and experimented and therefore I guess, learnt along the way. I always just think, if you love it then buy it and learn how to adapt to give your plant the happiest life possible.
Daniela: Yes, you look like an expert because you have so many plants!
How It All Started With Her Jungle
Daniela: Did you do any interior studies? Or does this come from a taste that was acquired?
Natasha: I've never done any interior studies before or as a job. From a very young age I was using my pocket money and persuading my mum to let my decorate my room, it just brought me so much happiness and contentment. Being surrounded by a beautiful space has always hugely uplifted me from a young age.
My job as a social media influencer has enabled me to now work within the interior and design industry and has opened up lots of amazing opportunities for me whether it be my photographs, being published in books and magazines, to writing guest blogs for brands, to being able to work alongside gorgeous products and designs day to day.
I think I’ve always had a very good visual eye and quite a strong mindset as to what I love and what I don’t. Throughout the years of sourcing items from flea markets, I’ve found I've become very good at seeing that one item and knowing exactly what I'm going to do it, where it's going to go. I can scan a packed area of items and within a few seconds pick out the real treasures for my own personal taste and aesthetic.
I'm a little particular and the worst person to surprise with a present because I know exactly what I like! The cut, the shape, the finish, the size - it’ll all be clear in my mind and then I’m fixated on that idea or design, whether it be with things I wear or have in my home.
I have a rule that nothing comes into this house unless I genuinely love it. It’s a way of keeping clutter free and not becoming overwhelmed with possessions that you don’t need or completely like that can take up valuable space. So for me is that rule “Do you 100% love it?” If it’s 100% then great! If it's not 100%, it doesn't come in.
Daniela: That's a great way of also owning things because when you have it, you won't get rid of it in the short time frame.
Natasha: Yeah, this is the problem I have. My mom and dad actually live very nearby, about 10-minute walk from my house..I didn't get very far did I(Haha!) and I have so much stuff stored there still. I basically moved out and I just took everything I needed because the house had nothing when we bought it. We had to buy everything, and there's literally a room full of stuff still at my mom's that she's like “Please get rid of it!” If I've lived without it for two years, it shows that those things are things I don't need. I just need to kind of get rid it all and start fresh and not feel guilt as I can get a little attached to older possessions. We don't have a lot of storage in our home here, so I really want to keep things as clutter free and fresh as possible.
Daniela: Of course, that's the best way. And I see a baby in your pictures, is that yours?
Natasha: No, that's actually one of my friend's lovely little boy. It’s funny actually because friends ask to pop over and I know especially if they have little ones that’ll it’ll turn into a full on jungle photo shoot within seconds! There’s so many fun props here so it all makes for a fab photo shoot setting.
Photo: Natasha's Living Room and some seating areas
How She Maintains Her Plant Space
Daniela: Do you get any help maintaining the plants or do you do it by yourself?
Natasha: Yes, I do it all myself. I live with my boyfriend of ten years, Ryan, who doesn't exactly share my insane love for plants. He likes them, but he's not crazy about them. So as most girls have to smuggle in shoes and clothes from their partner, I just have to smuggle in plants (haha!) He's not impressed by the amount that I keep bringing in, but it’s impossible to stop!
Daniela: Does he enjoy being there with those surroundings?
Natasha: Yeah, I think he likes it. He doesn't get the excitement to my level though unfortunately! We both love nature, though. We're always going out for long walks or down to the countryside for the weekend - The New Forest is our little escape from busy London life, and we love visiting botanical gardens too.
I don't think he gets the plants obsession as much as me, but he appreciates what I've done and the good thing with our house is that he lets me just get on with it. I think he knows by now if I’ve had an idea, I’m going to be giving It a go!
Daniela: That's the way it should be! If you want it, then you should have it! Do you actually notice, from the moment that you started decorating your home with plants, benefits for you and for your well-being?
Natasha: Yes, to me the most powerful important health factor is your mindset. Once your mind is clear, relaxed, or tranquil, that has a knock-on effect everything; how you carry yourself, your lifestyle, everything.
The main thing for me, is the feel-good vibe. That's what I hope you feel when you walk into our home. Most people will walk in and make a positive comment which always makes me smile, but for us both living here, I feel that caring and looking after plants gives you a positive focus and a great sense of well-being.
The plants I love the most are cacti and succulents, plants that don't need a lot of maintenance but are striking. They are free to grow however they like, all they need is a bit of water and some sunshine on their skin. They're the ones that I've always been kind of more drawn to. I don't really have flowers in this house or anything - not too much colour.
Daniela: Nothing too needy, then.
Natasha's Advice on Decorating
Daniela: Besides that challenge of maintaining the plants alive, what other things do you find challenging, if anything? Changing the style to innovate...?
Natasha: I don't really tend to follow things by the book when I do decorating or interior. When we first moved in, we had this kind of horrible beige wood flooring in the front room. And for me, I just I had this vision, since we moved in, that I wanted my house to be like an urban jungle warehouse.
I like the industrial side because I love all the brick, the concrete, stone, but then I wanted the urban jungle from the the greenery as well. I knew Instantly I was going to paint the floor - it's laminate flooring - and probably 99% of people said “theres no way you can do that, you'll ruin the floor!” Obviously I went and did it anyway, and luckily it looks fantastic! Just how I dreamed. It requires a lot more cleaning and dedication but it’s all so worth it for the visual.
The way I describe our house best is imperfectly perfect. If you take a closer look at things, you'll probably ask “what is that doing there?” or “how has she done that?”. I’ve done random things like paint the washing machine, radiators, taps, the shower. Our budget was quite limited when we moved in so we couldn't get everything done all at once, or exactly how we wanted it. Things like the taps in the bathroom - I just can't stand chrome - So I painted them copper. I think if you try things out and if it doesn't work then fine, but you've given things a go. I'm the kind of people that if I get an idea, I have to roll with it, regardless of whether other people say not to do it. I have to do it, and if it fails, it fails, but at least I've tried it.
Photo: Dark accents for home by Natasha
Daniela: Exactly, that's s the way to go. Sometimes we refrain, like: Oh, I don't know, I'm not so sure. But then deep inside, it is what you want.
Natasha: Yes, you know that I've got a dark wall in my front room that's got the hanging chair and the big gold frame on it? I get so many comments whenever I post about that, for example people will say “I wish I'd gone dark, I really want to try it but I'm scared..” and I'm always like, it’s just a pot of paint! If you try it and you don’t like it, get another pot of paint and cover it. It's not like you've knocked the wall down or something. It’s good for the soul to experiment and take risks - it makes life fun.
Nine times out of ten when people try it, they love it. I don't know why people are so scared to experiment with interiors. I understand if you're doing a lot of groundwork, knocking walls down or things like that, but when it's purely cosmetic you can change it easily if you don't like it. You’ll never know if you don’t give it a go! Go wild!
Daniela: Yeah, exactly. I like that, being wild (haha!) If you were to have an empty space, or start again all blank, and had someone ask you how to start to build like a little nature paradise, what would you advise them?
Natasha: I tend to have an item that I'm drawn to. Whether it's a hanging chair, or a big frame, or something like that. I tend to just find that one item that I love and picture where I want that to go and then I'll build a room around it. I play around with that focal point of the room a lot.
Daniela: Exactly, and in that sense, rooms would never feel dull because you have that something interesting in there.
Natasha: Yeah, and also just don't follow what's in fashion, what's on trend. Sometimes people go: Oh this month, it's got to be this ... Not necessarily, because you've got to live in that space and if it's not something that you love, then there's no point doing it just because that's what's in trend at the moment. Realistically, people don't change the house up as you change your fashion every few months, or seasonally.
If you just fill the space with items that you actually love, they don't have to go and that's what makes it a bit more powerful. It’s personal. In our hallway for instance, I've created a gallery wall for literally no money at all. It's basically just filled up of memories, or trinkets, or old family pictures that I've put together all in old antique frames. So the minute you walk through the front door, it's the first thing they see and its always a great talking point. Those items up there wouldn't necessarily mean anything to anyone else, these are things that are personal or relative to us. They are special to us, we're the ones that live here at the end of the day, so it's not always going to be to everyone else's taste. That's why I think don't follow trends. So my advice would be: Just do what you feel is right. What makes YOU happy.
Her Best Achievements at Decorating Home
Daniela: What areas of your home, do you think you enjoy the most? The one that you rip the most benefits of, the one that you spend the most time in.
Natasha: So definitely, our jungle inspired living room, which leads out to our garden. This room for me, its heaven. I’m actually standing in it now and the lights is just pouring in and dancing around the room. I've got rid of all blinds and curtains in our house, which some people find very weird, but I just really like it. You wouldn't really be here and feel like you're outdoors or indoors. You've got that nice continual flow, again and the merge of indoors to outdoors and vice versa.
This room has a little bit of everything. You've got all the gorgeous greenery, the textures, the vintage bamboo hanging chair from our ceiling - such a great spot if you just want to sit with the back doors open, have a glass of wine, work on your laptop, whatever you got to do, really. There are different seating areas in here, which for a small space is quite unusual. This is the room that brings me the most happiest for sure.
Daniela: It's a very beautiful thing to have like different seating areas, as you've done.
Natasha: Exactly, I have an armchair in the corner, and then obviously the sofa. But even if I have all my girlfriend's around, we have so many cushions, throws... So everyone just sits on the floor, swings in the hanging chair, or just hangs out in the garden. In the garden when you first step out into it, you step onto outdoor rugs and textures so it creates a great natural transition from indoors to outdoors. Our garden is like a little hidden Moroccan riad, lots of bamboos, a big peacock chair, a gorgeous fire burner, and lots of plants and greenery when you first walk out. In this tranquil space you've also got a little rocking chair. So, my partner and I will go out in the evening and have a nice gin and tonic outside, or just have a chat. And then you've got the actual dining seating area, which we use a lot. At the back, there's just another two chairs that usually catch the sun towards the end of the afternoon. Again, it's a small area, but instead of leaving it blank or empty, we created different focal points and parts, and gave it a bit more depth.
Daniela: It's amazing, how many details in a room! You've created this space where you can always bring in something else.
Natasha: Yes, the problem with that is I'm always like: What can I do now? What can I change? We're actually in the middle of planning a garden revamp. I do love our garden but I want to experiment with some darker colour palettes and patterns. I still adore the Moroccan style theme but I’ll be injecting more of a jungle vibe into it too!
Photo: Natasha enjoys one of the areas of her nature inspired home
Daniela: That’s beautiful. Have you been to have you been to Marrakesh?
Natasha: No, it's my dream place to go. I personally I’d prefer to visit with my girlfriends instead of Ryan. I’m not sure he could handle several hours in the souks with me (haha!) Obviously this year it’s been rather manic with my poorly niece, and then with me finding my feet with what I'm doing now, I haven’t had a chance to look into it. It’s my 30th next year and a few of my girlfriends are really keen to go so perhaps that might be the perfect place! I love bringing home treasures from travels.
I'd say most of my stuff here is from Amsterdam. I used to have a vintage stall around various London markets and mostly I’d buy all my stock from Amsterdam. So every year about three times a year, my mom and I, who loves all of this as well, would fly over for four days, buy lots of stock, buy lots of stuff for the house, and then bring it back. My favourite place in the world for me is Amsterdam. I just love EVERYTHING about it, their lifestyle, their shops, the people... And also, you could probably get a flight, go over to Amsterdam, find such amazing reasonably priced things, and still save money compared if you were to go into London and buy it here.
Daniela: Hmm yeah, London can be quite expensive. Amsterdam has a very amazing style. You can find very authentic things.
Natasha: Yeah, which is why I like second antique and second hand shopping. I never want to have something that everyone has. I've never been that kind of person that goes “everyones got this, I've got to get it” Never, ever, even as a young child. I've never had that mindset where I've got to be the same as everyone else or follow what they're doing. That's why I think the flea market side of shopping works well for me because there’s so much uniqueness, so much character and Individual charm. Together it can all pack a serious punch!.
Daniela: ...and it also doesn't doesn't go out of fashion.
Photo: Natasha's nature inspired bedroom
Natasha's Environment-Friendly Views
Daniela: At Forest Homes, it is our mission to encourage more care for the environment with what we do, promote the use of natural materials, for example some of our hangers are made from reclaimed wood... and the new stuff we sell is made of natural materials. Do you think that your lifestyle has increased your environmental friendly actions?
Natasha: 100%. We don't have any kind of house products or anything in plastic. We don't have any kind of visual plastic, really. All the plant pots are made of terracotta or stone, liquids and products are kept in glass dispensers and jars...
Predominantly, the stuff I buy is second hand, so it's the recycling whether for fashion or home. Also if you’re passionate about your living space and interior, you don't want to have horrible bright pink branded, you know dishwasher cleaner or something visible. There’s so many options now on the market for really good sustainable brands, or packaging, and things like that. So it just all ties in nicely, and does well for the environment too. The stuff you have at Forest Homes Store is lovely, I've been looking at all the bowls and the spoons. I love it!
Daniela: Thanks, Natasha. We would only like to say to you: Keep doing what you're doing because you're fantastic and really inspiring.
I'm also kind of similar to you in that sense because I totally changed my career path. I have a major in chemical engineering. I love materials and chemistry, but I don't really feel as the engineer that will work for a big company, all of its life. I got into this business for my interest in using natural materials, getting rid of plastic and disposable materials. I haven't really done interiors myself until now.
Natasha: You have an eye for it, even though you haven't been trained either for the interior stuff, you still have a great eye for it.
Daniela: Thanks. And mostly, I would like to inspire people to increasingly use more sustainable materials, and have a more sincere lifestyle pursuing what they really want to do.
I certainly appreciate that about you, and your bold style. You're unique and you believe in yourself. So continue to do great things Natasha, we'll continue following your nature inspired adventures and hopefully see you soon in Lisbon.