Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Decorating the Cabinet of Natural Curiosities

If you've been wondering how to build a room around the Artforms of Nature prints I posted a while back, here's two good examples from decorator S.R. Gambrel.

This powder room in Gambrel's vacation home is papered in pages torn from Albertus Seba's Cabinet of Natural Curiosities.

The unidentified botanical prints in the living room above make for a surprisingly modern and colorful space.

I want to use a lot of the Artforms of Nature prints in our new office... neither of these is quite what I'm going for, however. Anyone else have any images or inspiration for a good Victorian naturalist laboratory (that's pronounced "la-bohr-a-tory") look?


geek details said...

You could possibly do specimens in a container. I have some "specimens" from Alice in Wonderland scattered around my house. It's slightly quirky and steampunk at the same time

Raven said...

I love that bathroom!

Eva said...

Here is my living room that I tried to incorporate naturalist and steampunk themes:

Rebecca said...

Most of the FASEB Journal covers for the last two years have been prints from the Artforms of Nature, and I have been meticulously scanning them each month in high resolution so that I could decorate my office in our new house with them.
I thought I was being so creative... and here you are doing the same thing!
At least now I know they're online in high resolution so I don't need to jump through the hoops of scanning and cropping each month's cover image.

Sara said...

Geek details -- alice specimens? I'd love to see a shot of that.

Eva -- love your room! It looks great. I've got apothecary jar envy, though! (Especially the one with the large fern in it -- looks fabulous.

Rebecca -- I'm not sure who did the scans on wikimedia, but they are fabulous, aren't they? (And I bet FASEB is using the wikimedia scans....)

Thanks, everyone, for your comments.

Malsperanza said...

Haeckel is the most famous of the Victorian botanists and biologists who did illustrations, but there are tons and tons of others. Dover Books has a whole series of copyright-free images of this kind (including some that come on a CD for designers to use).

If you can afford it, the most beautiful way to use these is to buy the actual pages of old books from print and antiquarian book dealers. Some are not that expensive (like, $50 each or so) because the books were common, with big print runs. Search "botanical prints" dealers and you'll find many who sell online. (Here's one:

One of the most famous scientific illustrations is Robert Hooke's 18th c engraving of a flea, which amazed the world because he used a microscope to get incredible detail. (

Other ideas: the Renaissance engravings of the human skeleton by Vesalius are also fantastic: (also available from Dover).

On ebay and elsewhere you can find for sale old and antique science slides. The Victorian ones can be quite expensive (whole insects) but some are cheap and have odd old handwritten labels and strange stains. These can be arranged in a window display with a magnifying lens. There was a style of arranging tiny items in patterns:|66%3A4|39%3A3|72%3A1205|293%3A1|294%3A98

For spectacular arranged diatom slides, check this out:

geek details said...

Some of my Alice In wonderland Specimens are in this blog post

I buy the weird jars at thrift stores and then do specimens for the inside. So far it's mostly flowers and card guards, but I'm working on one that is huge and will have various specimens from the book in it.

Martin said...

I'm more oriented towards a Sherlock Holmes interior with strong watchmaking influences (my grandad was a watchmaker). Like the article there are some original naturalist pieces on the walls such as pages from Audobon, etc. See here the results so far:

The apartment is a loft in a renovated toy factory from way back. Because of some of the interior features of the building such as the enclosed courtyard, we sometimes call it the Willy Wonka Building. Now if I could only get that fully surrounded double height shelved library going!

batty said...

I have relatives who wallpapered an area of their home with then new, now vintage Courier and Ives prints i think they might be from magazines or calendars they used a type of glaze over them which has become an amber-like tint. you could do that with reproduction prints as well. the glaze gives it a lovely rustic, antique look

foobella said...

the bathroom rocks.

Sarah said...

I know that it's a little late to be offering suggestions (I'm behind on keeping up with my favorite blogs), but I found this I love Art & Artifact. They always have beautiful stuff.

Gavin Rogers said...

I don't quite understand the article title im guessing it's to do with kitchen remodeling ?


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