Why I Love… The Ginkgo Leaf

Ginkgo has all sorts of significance. It’s a health supplement that boosts blood flow, improves memory, and acts as an antioxidant. The ginkgo tree is a symbol of longevity in Japanese culture. Ginkgo can be a vessel for storytelling in the written word and in art. What I love the most is it’s use in interior design.

The ginkgo leaf appears frequently in creations of and inspired by the arts and crafts movement, one of my favorite design movements to ogle at because of its connection to nature and use of materials from nature. (If you haven’t been to the Gamble House in Pasadena, you MUST go! The Greene brothers’ use of wood and natural imagery in the house is overwhelmingly beautiful, and a prime example of the Arts and Crafts movement!) Since the late 19th and early 20th centuries also brought with them more accessible travel to Asian countries, it makes sense that the symbolism of the ginkgo tree would have traveled back to the Western world along with some of the Japanese design sensibilities evident in the style. And wouldn’t we all want to be surrounded daily by the symbol for long life!

The unique thing about the ginkgo tree is the shape of its leaves. They have curves, angles, and straight lines alike, and are distinguishable against any other leaf shape that I’ve ever seen. That makes them great elements in design that uses straight lines and geometric shapes as well as more whimsical designs heavy with curves and organic shapes.

When we moved into our house, the previous owners had kept the home true to the Craftsman style in every way they could, which we loved. It made us feel like we belonged there! But in practice, I quickly realized I needed a space to live in that was a bit more modern than that. However, I do try to keep nature and the Arts and Crafts movement in mind, even as I’m scouring through mid-century or farmhouse style furniture looking for the right piece to bring home. I try to bring organic shapes and natural materials into every room. When I discovered this rug, I knew it would be perfect in our living room.

001 (2)

The colors were right (grey with a splash of gold), the shapes were right (organic shapes but with clean lines), AND the pattern was conceived out of ginkgo leaves! I love this rug because it helps me bring together the radial shapes and warm colors from our dining room while complimenting the straight lines and light grey color from our sofa. And as a bonus, the ginkgo shapes tie in our “Welcome” sign (which we picked up last time we were at the Gamble House) as well as our real life young ginkgo tree that lives in our front yard. Perfection!

002 (2)

Do you have a symbol or shape that you love to see used in art or design? What other symbols should I keep my eye out for?