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Once the pariah of the decorating world, garden statuary is now super chic. If you haven’t yet, invite your statuary inside, featuring it front and center in your displays year round. 

Through the years, the Nell Hill’s look has evolved and changed. And so have the building blocks I rely on to create our distinctive displays. Some of the accents I was crazy about years ago, I no longer use in my decorating (remember tassels?) Others, like glass cloches, are still as key to creating the Nell Hill’s look as they ever were. And, during the past 25 years I’ve operated Nell Hill’s, I’ve added some new decorating tools to my list of all-time favorites. One of the newcomers that has stolen my heart? Garden statuary.

It all started several years ago when a friend warned me to never leave statuary outside during the brutal Midwestern winters. I dutifully dragged my garden statues, urns and birdbaths into my house. Then, I wasn’t sure where to put these chunky treasures until spring. So out of desperation, I worked them into my winter displays.

I started experimenting with different looks, placing them in unusual places like on my dining room table and buffet, in my foyer, on a coffee table in my living room or on my mantel. I was surprised by how much I loved these aged, worn and crumbling pieces of statuary paired with some of my most refined pieces like silver trays, crystal compotes and china vases.

What started as a crush has now ripened into a lifelong love that shows no signs of fading.  The garden statues are in my house to stay.

If you share my weakness for these rustic beauties but aren’t quite sure how to weave garden statues into your interior displays, try these ideas:


Last fall, I faced a decorating challenge extraordinaire. Colin Cowie, designer and party planner for the stars, was coming to Nell Hill’s Briarcliff for a special Tabletops with a Twist benefit luncheon. For the event, we needed 60 table centerpieces that were elegant and interesting, yet packed enough punch to hold their own in the massive lunch venue. What could be more perfect than garden statuary? On each table we featured distinctive statuary tricked up with honeysuckle vines, pumpkins and gourds. The effect was stunning.

While we used a mixture of statuary on each table, I have to say, the ones featuring birdbaths were among my favorites.

I know it’s unconventional, but I like to use tall, thin cement birdbaths as table centerpieces because they really grab guests’ attention. Before you plunk a birdbath down on your table, make sure it’s not too heavy. For years, I loaded my dining room table down with massive statues and almost made the legs give out. You’ll also want to put a piece of cardboard under the birdbath (or any statuary) to protect your table’s finish.

Situate the birdbath at your table’s center then fill in around it with interesting accents like a pair of candlesticks or urns holding seasonal greens. Rest a wreath on the basin and insert a gazing ball in the center. Or place a compote holding fruit in the basin. How about a vase filled with faux vines that hang down over the bath’s sides? Or put a large lantern on top that has a birch bark candle tucked inside.

If you have a short birdbath, use it as the focal point of an arrangement on your coffee table. Put it atop a stack of books or on a silver tray. Fill it with pine cones or green apples. For an interesting twist, cover the arrangement with a glass cloche.

A friend of mine just gave me a tour of her new home and of all the lovely things she had on display, the one that grabbed my attention the most was a concrete birdbath filled with seashells and coral. That was it. Simple. And so, so dramatic. I could picture her nestling in glass votive holders when she entertained, giving it yet more elegance.


I really enjoy decorating with garden figurines like busts or full figure statues. While antique concrete statues are fabulous, I often use reproductions made from a lightweight material like terracotta because they are inexpensive and easier to lift.

Figurines look wonderful in any tabletop tableau. Place them on your kitchen island, powder room vanity, mantel, console table or in a bookcase. For added fun, ring them with a seasonal wreath or encircle their heads with greens.

I have somebody new hanging out in my garden this summer: The Huntress (pictured above). When we got this dramatic statue in at Nell Hill’s, I knew she had to be mine. I’m infatuated by the idea of this feminine yet strong woman keeping watch over my courtyard while I’m away at work.


I’ve already blogged about how much I like to use iron garden urns to hold arrangements of seasonal greens and fallen branches. But don’t stop there. Urns are great for so many things. Place a concrete urn by your fireplace to hold wood for your winter fire. Top one with a round piece of glass to make a unique table.

When you entertain, ask your urns to help serve. Line an urn with a plastic liner or bowl, then fill it with ice to chill drinks, appetizers like shrimp or simply as an ice bucket.


Add a bit of whimsy to a display by including a quirky garden planter. My friend Cynthia has a very elegant Tudor home that’s decorated magnificently. When we shot some pictures for my book Nell Hill’s: Feather Your Nest there, I just had to include a shot of her very elegant bar, which is anything but  stuffy, thanks to the inclusion of a curious garden planter featuring a woman’s head with a plant as her “hair.”

We carry a lot of these lighthearted head-shaped concrete planters at Nell Hill’s. Here, our visual team had some fun inserting a book into the “head” of a cherub, as if cramming it full of knowledge. (In another spot in the store, they rested a pair of reading glasses on the face of a garden bust – I laugh every time I pass by it!)


A surefire way to make your displays more dramatic is to give them a lift with a garden capital. In the snapshot above, we’ve placed a statue of a bowl of fruit atop a capital, giving it a bit more grandeur.

You could also cluster a few glass jars or decanters on top of a capital and place it on your coffee table. Use it as a riser for a display on your mantel. When you entertain, let a capital hold a silver serving tray.  For my holiday open house last fall, we topped a faux concrete capital with a Tudor urn for a timeless architectural tableau.

Right now Nell Hill’s has an amazing assortment of garden statues, big and little. Come visit us at our Briarcliff or Atchison locations to check them out!

Next Week … Nothing warms up a room or gives it more personality than artwork. Yet, some people avoid arranging artwork because they find it intimidating. So I’ve asked Dillon, the king of picture hanging at Nell Hill’s, to share his secrets for creating art montages that take your breath away. Be sure and come back!

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22 Responses to “Garden Statues Add Style”

  1. Linda Says:

    Love, love these ideas – - my search it on for items from my garden to use inside my home. Do you sell any of the items featured on your website? If not, have you thought about doing that? Would love to purchase some from your store.

  2. Mary Carol Says:

    Absolutely Linda—-We sell items featured on our website, facebook and the blog in our stores—not to mention our online shopping through the website. Call Janet for more details or for the items you would like to purchase–877-746-4320.

  3. maureen Says:

    wonderful ideas! I won’t banish my garden statures and urns to the garage for winter!

  4. Debbie Says:

    Thanks for the great ideas. I’m bringing some of mine inside now!!

  5. Janet Says:

    What other accents that you used to love are you no longer using in your decorating (besides “tassels”) ?

  6. Jan Says:

    I have a son living in Kansas right now so I often travel from Connecticut to visit with his young family. One trip I went to Nells Hills in Kansas and fell in love with the garden bust of a woman. I bought it and tried to protect as best as I could for the luggage – being careful not to let the luggage become overweight. When I got home, I saw that this bust did not pass the luggage inspection – what decaputated lady I was transporting over state lines! The Nells Hills price tag was still wrapped around her pretty head, so it did finish the trip back home. I think about what a sight this must have been for the airline personnel. I am so happy that we made the effort to do this. She’s a beautiful addition to my home in Connecticut. However, if you ship…I’ll buy over the internet… Thanks!

  7. Suzette Roggentien Says:

    I have used a garden statue in my bath for years — it is an angel holding a lovely open flower. To accent I use rusted metal open weave urns — a martini glass one holds towels and soaps and a bowl one sits on the floor with a floral arrangement in it. I continued the garden theme with a butterfly corner bakers rack in the rusted metal look.

  8. Marilyn Comer Says:

    I am nuts about these ideas! I have three birdbaths, a pair of thistles, St. Francis, and a statute of adorable giggling babies that I have never brought in from the elements…this fall they’re coming inside.

    O.K., Mary Carol, tell this Virginian when you all stopped decorating with tassels? No tassel attached to the key of my secretary? I declare! Perish the thought (:

  9. Marilyn Domann Buehler Says:

    M.C. I love decorating by bringing the outdoors in no matter what the season.
    Your interpretations are exquisite.

  10. Mary Beth Cicchetti Says:

    Love the statuary ideas. Here’s a question….I found a the head of a woman statue on my sidewalk. It is beautiful but I dont know what to do with it. The bottom is not flat as it seems to have been broken off. Any ideas?:

  11. The Tablescaper Says:

    You have such creative and inspirational ideas. It’s interesting that you’re using garden statuary now. I wonder what will be next!

    - The Tablescaper

  12. Alicia Says:

    Thank you for this, Mary! I knew I wasn’t the only one who did this! My husband looked at me funny when I put our garden cherub on the dining room table stuffed with Hen and Chicks (the only plant sturdy enough to survive my black thumb). Now, I can show him your blog and prove I’m not crazy…or, if I am crazy, I’m at least in excellent company :-) ! Cheers, kindred spirit!

  13. pat pennington Says:

    Hi from Omaha. Loved all your ideas. Going to give Gene his man cave. It is a small bedroom. Kitchen is garity cream withgooseberry ceiling. Bathroom is molasses ceiling and wall with garity cream on bottom. Master bedroom is persimmon. Other bedroom is front porch. We are thinking of Missouri bluffs or heartland ghost for the man cave. It is only 10×10. Have any suggestions? This would be the first room after the living froom which is cream. Maybe thinking of the garity cream as the room is small. Would love to have your input. All rooms are on the same floor. The different colors are quite lovely. Thanks Pat

  14. Sharon Says:

    I too love garden statuary!! My most recent find was a Greek head planter. I planted creeping jenny in it. I will find a special place for it this winter. Thanxs Mary. Sharon

  15. Mary Carol Says:

    Janet & Marilyn–I’ve just replaced with different fun items–always changing. Sometimes I use a special religious relic—I found a beautiful antique cross in one of my travels in a Nashville store. I tied a gorgeous ribbon around the top to hang–Wa-La—a new type of tassel!

  16. Mary Carol Says:

    What a fun piece to work with Mary Beth–I too have had broken pieces, but I always find a way to use them. You can place your piece in a budding urn of beautiful flowers, or how about anchored iin a pretty flower bed. It will surprise even you where you decide to tuck it–have fun!

  17. Mary Carol Says:

    What a fun piece to work with Mary Beth–I too have had broken pieces, but I always find a way to use them. You can place your piece in a budding urn of beautiful flowers, or how about anchored in a pretty flower bed. It will surprise even you where you decide to tuck it–have fun!

  18. Mary Carol Says:

    Pat–I would definitely go with the Missouri Bluffs—it would warm up your man cave and be oh so comfy. We have it in our man cave room here at Briarcliff–he will love it!

  19. Kimberly Pace Says:

    Dear Mary Carol,
    I have been a fan of yours for years and come to Atchison as often as I can. I also love to decorate with Garden Statuary-I hosted a huge bridal luncheon using all the statuary’s I have purchased from you. It was incredible-my greatest compliment of the day came, when a guest I didn’t know asked me if I knew this Nell Hill’s woman everybody was talking about??? I said, “indeed I do, she remains my inspiration for decorating.” I am a Mary Carol “wannabe” and have read and studied all your signed books. Your creative genius delights my innermost being. Fondly-Kim
    PS-do you have any new statuary’s coming this Fall???

  20. pat pennington Says:

    Mary Carol,

    Thank you for your input on Mo. Bluffs. Perhaps we will give a quick trip to see the man cave at Briarcliff. Pat

  21. Carli Hogarth Says:

    Thank you very much for the information and for creating a attractive site. I have been looking for good info on gardening and will put this information to practice. I have found it hard to find good information, as there are tons of sites with garbage information. Please keep the good stuff coming!

  22. wynajem długoterminowy Says:

    Nice and very interesting post. Your point of view is more or less the same as main. Thanks!

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