the voice of eben forrest, owner of terracotta
To some, houseplants are a seamless way to bring a space to life, or to add an organic essence to the composition of a room. To others, houseplants are simply a decoration — perhaps gifted by a friend or purchased on a whim at a hardware store. For Eben Forrest, owner of Terracotta, houseplants are a pathway to deeper human connections.
With humble beginnings as a houseplant enthusiast looking to offload his extra greenery to the community, Eben has crafted a showstopping brick-and-mortar boutique that is now a staple of Boulder’s historic Pearl Street — and that’s just within the past two years. Now, Eben sees a future of integrating Terracotta’s mission to “help people grow” into the greater wellness community.
- You began selling houseplants in 2020 to help neighbors ease the stress of the pandemic — in what ways are plants tied to our mental wellbeing, and how do you approach wellness in your mission?
- Terracotta’s mission is to “help people grow.” Houseplants are a beautiful way to connect us to nature. Our connection to nature is vital to our health. Being around plants reduces stress and depression, increases productivity, concentration and cognitive function, builds self-esteem, speeds healing and increases our overall quality of life.
There are many benefits to bringing plants into your home, but the one that shines the most for me is watching something I care for grow.
- The jump from selling plants on your doorstep to running a flagship store on Pearl Street is significant. How did you get there, and what bumps did you encounter along the way?
- It started with the intention of thinning out a couple of extra houseplants we had, but after two days, we had sold out completely. Seeing the demand for houseplants, we opened a wholesale account with a local greenhouse, and our living room soon filled up. We ended up selling $10,000 worth of plants in 10 weeks.
The first bump in the road we encountered was the City of Boulder shutting our at-home business down. They were very polite in telling us the many ordinances we were breaking, but at the end of the day, we had way more houseplants than we could handle, so we needed to find a legitimate spot. I negotiated a fantastic deal right on Pearl Street, and we only paid $1,000 a month in rent, but we could only have it for four months.
At the end of four months, we found ourselves in a similar situation of having too many houseplants to handle. We had to find a more permanent location, which was hard to do because very few landlords wanted to sign a lease with an unknown brand with a limited track record. Luckily, we found a beautiful place with tons of natural light just few blocks down on Pearl St, right next to milehimodern, and we were able to sign a lease at 20th and Pearl.
- You offer consultations for indoor plant design and care. What is the benefit of indoor plant design and how do you go through that process with a client?
- The benefit of having us design you a custom plant installation is that we can pick the perfect plant and planter for each location, taking into account your lifestyle, design preferences, and lighting conditions for each space. We have relationships with local manufacturers to create custom planters and installation pieces if the project requires it, and we leave you with care instructions for each plant. We also offer at-home plant care, and guarantee the health of the plant for the time that it is in our care.
In addition to our consultations, we host multiple classes and workshops each week on different aspects of plant care as a hobby. In the new year, we are adding a slate of after-hours workshops partnering with local vendors and wellness practitioners to build more connections and health in our community.
- When it comes to living plant walls, what should a client consider before installation?
- Live walls look intimidating to take care of, but they are actually one of the easiest ways to get that jungle feel with minimal work. Live walls are self-watering, so access to plumbing is essential, as is an abundance of light or the ability to add lighting.
- Plants can be an investment in both time and resources. How would you guide plant owners to ensure that their plants fit in with their lifestyles?
- Plants are easy if you know how to take care of them. Terracotta takes the guesswork out of being a successful plant parent by pairing every plant with an easy-to-understand and accurate plant care tag that lives in your plant pot. We also follow up on purchases by emailing our customers a detailed description of how to take care of each plant they purchase from us. Plants are pretty easy once you understand a couple of basics. Plant care at my house takes about five minutes a week.
- In ten years, what do you hope to be able to say about Terracotta?
- Terracotta was a response to what people wanted during the pandemic, which at the time, I thought was plants. But what people really want is more healthy human connections. I hear a need for community in the conversations I am having with people. Everyone would live more fulfilled lives with more friendships and shared experiences. I see Terracotta expanding its vision of what it means to “Help People Grow.”
Locally, Terracotta is working on leveraging Boulder’s deep pool of luminaries by curating community-based wellness workshops that challenge people’s thinking. On a national level, we are planning an on-demand video subscription platform offering content centered around relationships and health.
- To what or to whom do you attribute your success?
- I was in Mumbai doing some errands, and I met a man who radiated happiness. He was a rickshaw puller and he offered me the service of pulling me in his rickshaw to my destination not too far away. He was so excited to meet me and tell me about his family. He lived a life just a notch above poverty and his home was a tiny shanty with walls and a ceiling made of a tarp.
This man was also among the most joyous people I have ever met. I did not ask him what he attributed his success to, but I imagine he would have said he was blessed. And I would have had to agree. To me, success is quality of mind.
- Where do you find inspiration in your daily life? Do you have any recommended books, podcasts or publications?
- Media is both enriching and overwhelming for me. I value learning new concepts, gaining insights and hearing people’s stories, but I can lose track of my process following an author who has led an entirely different life. I find myself falling into the trap of what I could be doing or what I should have done by now. There is a component of this thinking that is fear-based. In the past, that has led me down a path following another person’s dream, trying to create an experience I am not passionate about. Paying attention to what I am passionate about and listening to what brings the most vibrant yes is the best teacher.
For that natural creativity to take place, I create a vast open space free from media. The first five hours of my day are spent drinking tea, preparing my meals for the day, meditating and walking in the woods. Then, around 11 a.m., I head to work. My morning routine is incredibly resourcing and delights me every day.
Steep your space in Terracotta greenery by visiting the brick-and-mortar location at 2005 Pearl Street in Boulder. milehimodern readers can receive 90% off a Terracotta Interior Design gift card valued at $200. Offer is not available online — please call 303.876.7659 to purchase.
to stay in the know
Your dose of the coolest properties, seductive architecture, influential design, art that matters and community happenings.