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Wednesday, June 2, 2010

decorating with nature

I have always loved decorating with nature... from an urn filled with forestwood, to antique herbariums, to driftwood, to animal horns, to shells and rocks picked up on our travels. Since moving to New Hampshire I have become especially enamoured with tree fungi... what is called bracket or shelf fungus! Dan grew up in the Pacific NW, and grew up calling these little lovelies "conks" which is indeed what the bracket-shaped fungus is called, so that is what we call them! They are rock-hard and have no smell.

Before I change out the living room mantle to a more summer-look, I wanted to share the mantle as it looks today. I purchased the large conk at an antique shop, but most of them we have "found"!

The humble conk collection shares the mantle with a pair of antique Chinese blue and white temple jars, a pair of antique mercury glass candlesticks, and an antique English hallmarked sterling-rimmed matchstrike

The small white conk on the right corner was actually a gift from our nice painter, who found it while hiking and remembered my collection!

I thought you might like to see them as they grow in nature- this is how we generally see them.

Here you can see two conks growing on this one tree. This is in the forest by our house.
(I'm keeping my eye on these two!!)

This is a dead tree with many small conks of the Ganoderma variety.

A large conk at the entrance to a summer home on our road.

a close-up

the underside
Hope you find them as lovely as I do!


  1. How interesting and lovely they are! I would have never thought to collect these but I see why you find them so pretty. They look beautiful on your mantle - I also try to incorporate things from nature into my home. They have such a calming and warm feel to them and anything natural is so much prettier than stuff you can pick up from a store.
    I'm curious though how you get them off the trees?
    I always look forward to your posts - you have a truly beautiful home.

  2. I haven't seen anything like these. They're very beautiful and I love the way you've displayed them.

  3. hi joan,

    ok, i'll try not to make too big a deal out of this, but i almost fell out of my chair when i saw this post.

    this is your gorgeous living room! the conk things are gorgeous, you are right about that. but the antique ginger jars, the mirror, the mercury glass, the small stuffed bird thingy. oh my gosh! you have incredible restraint in not showing these pictues before. all my blue and white is just old junk from garage sales and i make a big to-do about it! you must get a kick out of that! this is just beautiful and thank you for sharing.


  4. absolutely fascinating. the conks are lovely on your mantle and it is so much fun to see them on the trees, too.

    thank you so much for sharing your personal space with us. it is a real treat to see one so beautiful. please do consider showing us your 'summer' mantle, too, I am sure it is just as lovely...

  5. How funny. We have a very large one on a tree that is at the bottom of our yard. It is just the right height for my little ones to leave things on. We place apple cores, carrot peels, etc. on it and then watch for the deer to pick them off. Never thought of it as anything other than the "deer shelf." I will have to give it a better look!

  6. Sarah- You tug on them really hard, or take a small ax to get them started!
    Kerry- I had never seen them before I got to the NE either! I actually see them often in antique shops- never for sale of course!
    Janet- don't be silly... I love all blue and white! And we've found antique blue & white at garage sales, so you never know what you are going to find! The bird thingy! is actually a bronze bird! I love birds, so you will see "several" of them around the house!
    Perfect Gray- Yes, I will show the summer mantle too!
    Sarah- Lucky you!! Treasures in your own backyard!
    Thank you all for your sweet comments!

  7. interesting!...the conks remind me of seashells...your living roon is perfectly lovely...and i especially love the beautiful shaft of sunlight coming in to accent your wonderful taste...thanks for sharing your home and garden...

  8. I love those although I never knew what they were called! My dad had a friend that used to etch on the underside of them. Apparently if you etch on them right after you 'pick' them while it it still soft, then it dries up nicely and you have a permanent etching. Very neat! It would be a great idea to just etch the date on them.

  9. Hi Joan: What an informative post! I have to say that I have never paid attention to conks before, but I certainly will be now! I, too, cannot wait to see your summer mantle. Cindy

  10. I put cute family photos on my mantle, but no, our Joan has old mushrooms - that why I love you girl! I've never heard of these, must be a Northern hemisphere thing. But I do use the word conk - at the end of the working week I'm tired & have fully conked out!
    Millie ^_^

  11. the botanicals are wonderful and then to pull everything together as you did - what a unique idea - I love it! thanks for sharing, Jennifer...lover of dogs too jennsthreegraces

  12. I love those things!:) I usually use them in floral design, but I love how they look collected on the mantle! Your whole room looks beautiful! I love the urn with driftwood! You clearly have great style!

  13. Splendid collection! Never seen before conks on the mantle, but I really love it.

  14. Ooh Wow, I love these on your mantle. I've only seen conks in floral designs but never really knew where they came from. They look wonderful and I love the urn on the floor that looks like it is holding driftwood. Glad I found you and I am now your newest follower.
    xo, Sherry

  15. House pictures....weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!! I'm so's all simply beautiful. Seriously...stunningly beautiful. Your taste is exquisite. Those conks kill me...never seen them used in a house before...IN.LOVE.WITH.THEM. I hope one day to run across one...I'll think of sweet Joan...then conk it right off the tree! :)

    I'm pretty sure there is a big gross yellow fungus thing growing on a tree next door...doubt I could use it inside...but will definately check it out tomorrow.

    What about the pup? Huh, huh?

  16. Joan,

    I came across your blog and was instantly taken by your house project. I started at the begining and spent the day(in between chores and meals) reading. It was evening and I finished. I was amazed at what a wonderful job you did on this house. I have never been to New Hampshire, but now I feel as though I know a little about your state. We just might put that state on our "to visit" list.
    I just wanted to stop in and say thank you for giving me the opportunity to glimpse your transformation of this wonderful old house into your beautiful home.

  17. Hi Joan and Dan,

    It's been ages since I've left a comment. I'm always glad when I've had a visit. I've never heard of conks before and I have to say they look simply stunning on your mantle Joan!! MMMMM so what's in store for your summer mantle look...hope you post photo's soon. Hope you are both well and hope to call in again soon.
    Take care.
    Tasmania, Australia

  18. laney- I totally agree that they look like seashells!
    Brooke- I loved the story about your dad's friend, and that they still have the conk at the cabin!
    Cindy- once you start noticing them, you will see them everywhere!
    Millie- yes, we say "conked out" too!!
    Jennifer- Thank you!
    Michel & Sherry- Funny, I have never seen them in a floral arangement- I bet they look great that way! And the wood in the urn is actually "forest wood" from our trips to Colorado, Washington, Utah, Wyoming!
    Room 17- like Millie said- must be a Northern hemisphere thing!
    Emom- Thank you!
    S/S- The pup wasn't' a connection, so no sister for Ella this time. What did the big yellow fungus thing look like close up?! Don't forget my offer!! Thank you for your very kind words!
    Penny- You made my day! What an honor to have you read back through the whole blog. I am "very" touched. Thank you so much. If you do ever decide to come visit I would be happy to list some must-see sights! I really can't express what your comment meant to me, so Thank you again!
    Janine- Hi there- it has been a while! So nice to see your comment. Hope you are well too!

    Thank you all for your comments! I greatly appreciate them. They keep me motivated to post more regularly, so thank you!

  19. I want one for my birthday,pleeeeeeeeease?!?

    Do they grow in Texas? I will have to research.

    Hurry up and take pictures of your Summer mantle!! Your living room is stunning, just like I knew it would be.
    Love you, Susan

  20. Beautiful! I never knew that is what they were called. We have many growing in our woods. I will have to collect a few now!

  21. Hi Joan! Love this post. I collect the old painted conks - never knew the word "conk" though - but I LOVE the natural ones, too, especially grouped together as you have them. I have a small collection and may just have to send you a few photos. Hope all is well in your world!

  22. We always called these shelf fungus but "conks" sounds a heck of a lot better. People used to wood burn scenes on them like scrimshaw only tackier. I've never seen one as large as the big one you have on the mantle. I must say, they look fantastic!

  23. A friend just forwarded me this post after seeing conks on a tree outside my shop. Now I can't wait to harvest them and I love Brooke's idea of etching. Thanks for enlightening us!

  24. well, I find myself back here again. I truly loved this post. such unique things in the wild make such lovely pieces in your home. this has to be one of my favorite posts.

    wanted to thank you for your thoughtful comments on my traditional/trendy post. I am reminding myself all the time to stay vintage/antique (which I mostly do) and that I will never be sorry...

    Best, Donna

  25. There's a fungus amongus! Believe it or not, I have some conks attached to sticks and I use them at the bottom of my Christmas tree with other non breakable ornaments, for children and wagging tails. I think they are beautiful.

  26. I had no idea trees did this... I live in So Cal and I have never seen this.. I thought it was a sea shell, lol!

  27. Do you know where I can buy these conks? I am really interested in purchasing some. If any one knows please tell me.

  28. Well, since we live in the woods I am now on the hunt for some of these!!!!! Thanks for this post! XO, Pinky

  29. Love those! I wonder if we have them in CA? I have a feeling they only live on eastern trees.

  30. Just occurred to me, it is likely that that is where the word 'conked out' comes from. Hit in the nose, probably because of these conks jutting out at that level and knocking a person out. Just thinking aloud....

  31. Oh! Oh! I love bringing nature into the house. My shelves hold bird's nests, feathers, rocks, butterflies and random unknown scraps gleaned from a little woodsy strip near my home. Now I will begin looking for lichens. What a handsome mantle arrangement!!


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