Walking into the Living Room Plant Co. on Palmetto Avenue is to experience what the name implies. It’s like walking into a space that feels alive with plants. This room, or rather store, full of life is a breath of fresh air and bright colors, where tall epiphytic fig plants mingle with the tendrils of succulents, colorful begonias, and artwork made by locals. Music filters through in the background and everywhere you look, there is something new and vibrant to discover.
The business is the brainchild of Dawn Hope, who comes from a family of gardeners. “Maybe the seeds were planted then,” she says and explains that she has always been a hobbyist gardener. It’s quite the surprise when she follows up by saying “I like to kill things all the time to figure out what works and what doesn't work.” She laughs, clearly in a playful mood that fits right in with the whimsy of her store.
Originally from the East Coast, Hope moved from Maryland about 11 years ago and has been in Pacifica ever since. As a lifelong lover of plants, she used to work at Flora Grubb Garden in San Francisco in the buying department. “I was learning a lot from that end,” she says. “I was making connections with vendors, learning the business aspects, which was great, but I really missed the plants.”
The desire to open her own business kept creeping back into her mind and finally, she decided to go for it.
“I thought, I'm not getting any younger,” she says. “And it was a really good time for my family.” She has a young adult son, Nicholas, and a daughter, Taylor, who attends Oceana High School. “I thought Pacifica could really use something like this — not just a plant store but something that united community through workshops and events and supported local artist friends. Those are all my passions.”
Both Nick and Taylor help their mother at the store. Taylor designed the store’s logo and works there after school alongside Nick, who also worked at Flora Grubbs Garden, but in sales. “He’s all about customer service,” says Hope, lauding her son with compliments on his excellent knowledge of plants and his affability with customers. “I love that I get to see my kids more regularly. They're working for the family business.”
When asked how they choose what to buy for the store, Nick was quick to answer. “We buy the ones we like.” Hope elaborates, saying that both she and Nick gained a lot of experience working at Flora Grubb as to what customers like and what works versus what doesn't in the Bay Area. “I never want to send somebody home with a plant that may be fabulous that isn't going to work in their home or in conditions where we live here.” She explains that while many of their plants can be kept outside, they have all been grown indoors in a greenhouse and are guaranteed to be inside plants.
Still, says Nick, “The Bay Area's never boiling hot and never freezing cold, at least right here on the peninsula. So, the truth is, we can do more plants outside in your garden here than anywhere. The diversity is (greater) than anywhere in the world. We don't have to be too picky.”
While the family has a variety of options to choose from in terms of plant variety, Hope is quick to explain that she chooses her vendors carefully. “I really like to support families. For example, we get a majority of our succulents from a father-son team down in Monterey. I know their story. I know the names of their kids.” She and Nick will walk through a vendor’s offerings and hand-select every plant that's beautiful to them. “It’s a great perk of this business that we get to do that. And we pay it forward to our customers, too, because they're getting the best of the best.”
Hope and Nick have their individual favorites (philodendrons and begonias, respectively), but they do their best to curb their personal enthusiasm and search for plants that are trending. “Plants have phases just like fashion,” she says. Really big in the 1950s and ’60s, houseplants especially are having a renaissance. “I like how each generation puts their own spin on it and makes it their own.” These days, pottery plays a big part in defining the houseplant style. Sleek designs conveying a minimalist look pair well with the California vibe, as does integrating textiles. “A lot of times we'll put a plant in a basket. That softens it up, lessens the heaviness of where a really big pot would anchor it more, gives it a lightness to your décor.”
Plants that are really popular right now include fiddle leaf figs, so named because their leaves resemble fiddles, Chinese money plants, and the snake plant (sansevieria). Nick offers tidbits about each plant after his mother names it. He explains that sanseveria plants are popular because they are hardy, don’t need a lot of water, and are good oxygenators. “They're popular not only for their form but also for their function.” He then talks about the split leaves in a bird of paradise and how that structure allows the plant to withstand strong winds. The enthusiasm he exudes while talking about each plant is matched only by the brightness of his mother’s smile.
Hope also points out the various pieces of artwork featured in her store. “I like to give a generous consignment back to the artists,” she says,” because I think that it's really hard for local artists to get a foothold in a retail store in a retail environment.” She works with each of her artists to determine the right price and marketing plans. “I really feel that that is a fulfilling part of my job working with these people. For example, I have a local ceramicist who was hesitant to sell. All of her pieces have sold within a month now. I'm watching her blossom and it also brings a lot to life establishment as well.”
In addition to offering space for artists to showcase their work, Hope also holds various workshops. “People can sign up and come and learn how to make a terrarium. We have one where you can learn just about the basics of houseplants. We're all about education here. We want you to succeed.”
Nick offers up the perfect plant-based analogy for their store: “It's a Pacifica symbiosis.”
For more information, visit livingroomplants.com.