Bottle & Branch | Chicago

Chicago's best restaurants are going green with Bottle & Branch

Heather Shouse knows what makes a restaurant look good; she spent years critiquing them in her capacity as Time Out Chicago's dining editor (and she co-authored Stephanie Izard's cookbook).

These days, instead of giving stars, she's planting ferns and crafting tabletop terrariums as the owner of Bottle & Branch, a restaurant design firm dedicated to plants. And you can bring Shouse's work to your home or next event.

"It became clear that restaurants had florists or designers, but no one was developing full-on green solutions for the entire space," says Shouse.

One example of her work is the newly renovated Boka, where she took a previously bland space and filled it with a 30-foot-long wall of moss and Staghorn ferns. "It feels like the outside is growing in and taking over," she explains.

Left, the installation at BellyQ | Right, Boka's lush interior

At BellyQ, Shouse carefully mounted huge pieces of mood moss. The bright green installation is a blast of fresh air in the all-gray restaurant.

Shouse has created "taxidermy heads" (really Staghorn ferns that look exactly like antlers) at Carriage House, a plant wall at Harvest Juicery, and has hung terrariums at The Bristol. She has replicated some installations for people's houses, and her wedding pieces will make you green with envy (contact her for rates).

At this point, Shouse has a full-on crew including a carpenter, a glass blower and a welder, which lets her create just about anything that has a plant attached to it.

But she'll never fake it: "Some people request it, but I won't do any fake plants."