At Home With: Hilton Carter

This cool, laid-back abode proves there’s no such thing as having too many houseplants

Words by Ali Howard | Photography by Hilton Carter

Anyone familiar with biophilic design will know Hilton Carter’s work. The interior stylist’s 2020 book, Wild Interiors inspired us all to go over to the green side with 12 beautifully presented plant-filled properties. His new book, Living Wild, explores the multiple ways we can style our home with plants – and cultivate happiness along the way. Just published, and similarly filled with lush inspiration, the hardback features his own house, a 1914-built American colonial in Baltimore, Maryland. Hilton shares the property with his wife Fiona, daughter Holland, the family dog Charlie – and naturally, a truckload of houseplants.

At Home With Hilton Carter

Before we step inside, I’m intrigued to know what life’s like in Baltimore, what’s on Hilton’s doorstep? “For me Baltimore is HOME,” he enthuses. “It’s where I was born and raised. While I’ve lived in Los Angeles and New Orleans, Baltimore is life for me. It has an amazing culture, vibe, and the people are down to earth. My favourite spots around town to scratch my creative itch are Baltimore Photo Space, Good Neighbor, Rawlings Conservatory and Clavel Mezcaleria.” I wonder what drew him to this five-bed abode in particular. “It was all about light,” he reveals. “Where the house sat in relation to where the light would come in. Character is everything. We loved the silhouette of our home. It’s amazing to see photos from when it was first built and how it looks now. There aren’t many changes to the exterior. It had great bones but because it was built over 100 years ago, the interior needed to be renovated. We also wanted a home that was surrounded by greenery but was still located in the city. What we didn’t want was something in a busy or heavy traffic area, or that didn’t feel safe.”

While not entirely new, the concept of biophilia sparked the public consciousness in recent times. Integrating natural elements into the built environment to foster a deep connection with nature appealed to so many homemakers, especially with suffocating lockdowns to navigate. Social media, too, played its part with dedicated “houseplant parents” outdoing each other on Instagram with abundantly leafy living rooms to show off. But far from being a fleeting trend, for the giftedly green-fingered, like Hilton, it has become a way of life. “The process of plant care is therapeutic but just being around natural elements can make us feel more calm, creative, and alive,” the stylist says. “We all seek that connection with nature, so seeing wood grain, green foliage, stone, etc, brings us back to what’s important: happiness and the living things around us. I think people are starting to understand the power and benefits of adding plants, so they are looking at it with the same thoughtfulness that they use when bringing décor into the home.” I’m keen to discover how it all started for Hilton. “My collection is a mix of tropicals and desert plants,” he explains. “It all started for me in 2014 with a fiddle leaf fig I named Frank. I now have over 350 plants in my collection.”

At Home With Hilton Carter

Hilton describes his interiors style as Modern Lush. “It’s a touch of modern design, Scandinavian with Mexican tones, and then styled with greenery,” he says. Naturally, the houseplants bring a calming, laid-back vibe, but Hilton’s furniture choices do exactly that, too, with a palette of calming neutrals and layers of texturally rich natural materials, from grainy wood, to tufted wool, to buttery tan leather – the more timeworn the better: “I love the leather accent chairs in the sunroom,” he says. “They are just so comfortable and the more wear they get the better they become. To know me is to know I love anything with patina. That’s a sign of a life lived! I also love mixing materials, so give me all the textures and modern designs. I like when you can bring something unexpected into the mix and make a statement. When it comes to lighting, the cactus lamp in the sunroom is clutch! It’s the perfect piece of decor to surround with the plants – its hard materials next to the soft foliage of the plants.” The sunroom is the perfect indoor/outdoor space. Hilton tells me it’s his favourite spot in the house because of this seamless connection to the garden. “It has the most natural light of any room in the home and the accordion door that can fold back to extend the sunroom onto the deck is just so nice.”

At Home With Hilton Carter

Large-scale contemporary artworks bring a splash of colour to the property’s bright white walls, and one of Hilton’s favourite pieces sits above the cool stone dining table. “It’s by artist Jose Mertz and it just has so much energy and life to it,” he says. “It always feels like it’s in constant motion, as if the brush strokes are still being applied daily.” Indeed, there’s energy and life in every corner of this house, and it’s impossible not to walk away with a sense of wellbeing and a connectedness to nature. This is a property that invites you to breathe.

Hilton Carter

I wonder how Hilton would describe the new book, and how it might inspire readers to go green, too. “Living Wild is everything plants and design. It’s as if I’ve shared my diary for how I go about plant styling and how I think about applying colour, texture and shape, so that a space can truly come to life. While readers will need to have an understanding of plant care first, before they can participate in the fun of styling with plants, once they have that down, I hope through the spaces and tips that I share in the book, they can be inspired to live, wild!”

Living Wild is published by CICO Books, £35, hardback (