Live plants in the spaces humans occupy is part of a healthy environment, not only for clean air but for overall well-being. Marie Gaze, owner of Emerald Corner LLC, brings the goodness of greenery to Olympia office spaces, clinics and one very refreshing coffee shop with cascading green leaves and vines. From the lofty shelves of Ember Goods coffee shop to the busy activity at the Thurston County offices in The Atrium building, Gaze curates lush arrangements fit for each building by implementing biophilic design principles, giving off a healthy vibe that uplifts both workers and visitors.

Planter greenery and a 12-foot tall weeping fig tree inside the new Thurston County Atrium space on Pacific Avenue in Olympia are Marie Gaze’s work. Photo credit: Marie Gaze

Humans Thrive on Biophilic Design in the Office and at Home

If you’ve aligned your favorite succulents and tiny bonsai tree around your computer monitor in front of your home office window, you’ve practiced biophilic design. The principle component is living plant life, coupled with natural materials in physical and aesthetic decor and then incorporated into natural spaces such as bright windows and cozy nooks.

People spend a great deal of time in their workplaces. Implementing biophilic design in business offices and government agency buildings where they work benefits both employee and employer. As biological beings ourselves, we have an innate kinship with plant life. Their presence fulfills physiological needs. Studies about the effects show mental health improvements, longer life, healthy birth weights, reduced stress, increased productivity and more benefits when humans are exposed to greenness where they live.

Adding Plants to Olympia Businesses is Emerald Corner’s Mission

Gaze’s entrepreneurial venture into plant care comes from working with plants and various elements of design her entire life. From a very young age, she learned to propagate and care for plants and have them be part of daily surroundings. Equipped with a master gardener certification from the University of Alaska Anchorage, the Alaska native has 10 years of large-scale plant care experience from the cannabis industry as a cultivator. She relocated to Olympia after having lived here previously and quickly found a vision to share.

large plants in a planter inside a large building
Local pet supply retailer Mud Bay had Marie Gaze design plant additions for their new corporate interior, and in one location she positioned this bird of paradise paired with triostar calatheas and black velvet alocasias. Photo credit: Marie Gaze

During the 2022 Olympia Arts Walk, Gaze noticed that not only do Olympians like plant life in their shops and restaurants, but there was also opportunity to support proprietors in growing and continuing the practice. She knew the science and the benefits, and she knew how to help.

The empty planter areas in many government buildings, which were part of original architectural plans, also caught her attention. She recognized the role biophilic design would have on workers, such as reduced stress and increased productivity, all of which have subsequent effects on overall morale. The weeping fig tree and planter greenery inside the Thurston County Atrium space in Olympia are her work.

“Olympia, being the capital, is a prestigious place, and we have important people coming here to make important decisions,” Gaze says. “There’s a lot going on here, and bringing greenery in and having the elements of biophilic design encompasses the Pacific Northwest and encompasses well-being for people in Olympia.”

Local pet supply retailer Mud Bay had Gaze design plant additions for their new corporate interior, a welcoming sight for employees returning to the office after the pandemic.

Placement of a Chinese banyan tree in the Lily Road Professional Building not only brings color to the space but all of the added biophilic design benefits. Photo credit: Marie Gaze

At Ember Goods, biophilic design begins with natural wood and generous daylight, and Gaze’s construct and management of abundant plant life literally brings a breath of fresh air. Plants not only provide a healthy oxygen source, their color and presence raise our serotonin levels, making us happy.

Emerald Corner Matches Clients to Plants for Their Spaces

Gaze considers a client’s existing design, decor, architecture and lighting. She presents plant purchasing choices and a guarantee that if the plants don’t do well under her care, she will replace them for free. Common plant care fears are alleviated, and clients can provide the perks without the added chores.

“On a commercial scale, interior plant-scaping has not been as prevalent here as it is in other areas,” Gaze says. “It’s something I’ve been passionate about my whole life, then I saw a gap and knew I could fill that. Plants bring life into spaces. There’s research behind biophilic design and the wellness attributes that they bring, specifically to indoor workspaces.”

Ember goods store with lots of merchandise and plants hanging all over the ceiling and on high shelves
Biophilic design, such as that at Ember Goods in Olympia, begins with natural wood, generous daylight and plant life. Photo credit: Marie Gaze

The feel-good vibes that plants provide extend beyond improved moods, workplace productivity and general health. Plants bring people together as a positive, neutral talking point, an intersection at which people can connect.

“I hear heartwarming stories all the time,” Gaze says. “People will come up to me and tell me about their grandmother’s spider plant that was passed down and how now that their daughter is having a baby it will be passed on to her. It’s a fourth-generation plant. Plants invoke nostalgia, love and just feeling good.”

Going forward, Gaze aims to extend her work to more large-scale office spaces, additional businesses, schools and beyond. She plans to connect with the community through workshops and hopes to establish her own nursery and greenhouse.

The Emerald Corner tagline is, “Let us bring life into your space,” and that’s what plants do in so many ways. Olympia has a green thumb in town who delights in bringing the lengthy list of plant benefits to our offices, cafes and just about anywhere we gather. For more information visit the Emerald Corner website.


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