Designer Suzie Kondi is no stranger to innovation. A former ceramicist, clothing designer, and Australian native who once sailed to NYC from her homeland in 13 months flat, she’s a diehard creative and East Village transplant. Her prewar apartment, which she shares with her husband, daughter, and two dogs, is the perfect hybrid of old school New York City charm—think high ceilings and crown moldings—mixed with laidback Aussie vibes.
Kondi’s latest endeavor, a curated collection of striking table centerpieces made from primitive wooden bowls filled with succulents—aptly named Fat Plant—was born out of a need to reconcile her love of the outdoors (“I’m obsessed with the deep mystery of nature,” she says), with the reality of her day-to-day Downtown life. Deemed “the forgetful gardener’s dream,” Fat Plants are the perfect home accessory for the urban dweller who loves the whole indoor lush garden feel, but doesn’t give a damn about having a green thumb.
Case in point: In order to maintain them, you basically don’t have to do anything. “Give them plenty of sun,” says Kondi, “and they will look as healthy when you return from vacation as when you left. In fact, they may look even better.” They also happen to be the ultimate alternative to the floral wedding table centerpiece.
On finding nature in the city:
“I grew up in an Australian beach town called Noosa. My father was a tobacco farmer. I’ve always been obsessed with nature; the outdoors is in my DNA. But I live in the East Village in a two-bedroom apartment and the closest park is Tompkins Square—it’s not exactly bucolic. I’ve had to learn how to create my own pockets of indoor paradise without compromising the city lifestyle that I love so much.”
On the origins of Fat Plant:
“I”m not a huge gardener. Actually scratch that—I don’t like gardening at all. I like taking care of my child or my dogs, but the last thing I want to do is take care of a plant. Especially in a city apartment, where you have to repot them constantly inside, and it’s always a dirty mess.
Don’t get me wrong: I love nature. I love all things green. In the summer I’m always outside, biking to the farmers market or at the beach. But the last few winters, I found myself getting really down. I wanted to create something inviting for my house that would communicate the power and beauty of the outdoors, but would require minimal maintenance. That’s how I came up with the idea for Fat Plant.”
On sustainability and succulents:
“Fat Plants are a collection of succulents planted in primitive dough bowls that act as centerpieces. They’re an alternative to a houseplant or a bouquet of flowers, but they pack an equally vibrant punch. The bowls are one of a kind, and I source them all individually—they were originally used by peasants in the 1800s to knead bread.
One of the reasons I love working with succulents is that, regardless of how you treat them, they still thrive. All you have to do is leave them in direct sunlight and spray their roots thirty times once a month. Plus, there’s a ritual component to creating the Fat Plants that I find super meditative: I make them in my kitchen at 5:30 in the morning while the sun is rising. I have to line the floor with newspaper; dirt gets everywhere. And the dogs are nibbling at the plants, and it’s a mess, but it’s a beautiful mess, and I love it.
There’s something very grounding about getting your hands in the dirt. I really get in a flow when I create my Fat Plants. The bowls are just overflowing with succulents, super luscious, and inviting. The greenery itself will last for a year—afterwards you can use the bowl as decoration or for cooking.”
On Fat Plants as an alternative to floral wedding centerpieces:
“They are so much better than a huge arrangement of flowers that makes it impossible to see the person sitting across from you at the table. Plus, once the wedding’s over, you can give them to your guests or bridal party. Perfect for brides who aren’t having the whole outdoor upstate wedding in a teepee, but still want their decor to radiate that whole beautiful, backyard vibe.”