The Allure of an Accent: Home Decorating Tips from The Green Door

Susan Swanson’s idea of fun is spending the day alone in the basement of her house, concocting faux flower arrangements using the super authentic-looking blooms she’s scoured the country to find.

But those days are less frequent than she’d like. As the owner of The Green Door in East Greenwich, Rhode Island, for more than 25 years, Swanson presides over a vast and ever-changing collection of decorative items for the home, including her signature custom florals, which are enticingly arranged in the rambling rooms of her shop.

We caught up with her on the top floor of the 200-year-old house that is her store, where a few times a year she entertains her loyal customers. Our mission? To find out how to go about choosing accents for the home that set one’s living space apart from every other on the block.

“Place it with a purpose,” says Swanson. She tells people to remove everything from their rooms except the few items they really love. “It’s like doing a piece of sculpture—respecting balance and space. You have to start with a clean canvas,” she says. To this backdrop, she continues, add elements you feel you can’t live without. Then, add fresh, new things to update the look. “Sometimes people actually keep stuff they don’t like,” says Swanson, “because they don’t have the confidence to try something new.” All too often, the homes of such people look like they came out of a home furnishings catalog. “The look becomes dated very fast,” counsels Swanson.

To jumpstart the process of adding cachet to your home, Susan Swanson suggests these items, all available at The Green Door.

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The Green Door is open for extended holiday
hours this year. Drop by Monday-Wednesday or
Friday from 10 AM-5 PM, Thursday from 10 AM-8 PM
or Sunday from noon-4 PM and shop small!

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LACQUER OCTOPUS BOWL An ordinary fruit bowl doesn’t compare!

STUFFED ANIMALS Adorable and soft, storybook characters Meiya & Alvin are irresistible.

PORCELAIN DOG AND CAT From Herend, highly prized handmade figurines from a vast collection.

ALUMINUM PLATTER Antlers are all the rage and make perfect serveware handles.

CANDLE HOLDER A gold metal crisscross sphere that shines brightly on a table.

ALLIGATORBOOKENDS A conversation piece par excellence.

FAUX FLORALS Just one example of Susan Swanson’s high-quality, botanically accurate arrangements.

BOAT AND TOOTHPICK HOLDER Whimsical and functional pieces from Mariposa.

GREEN FERN TRAY Beautiful enough to display as artwork.

PAINTING Asiatic lilies by Lori Surdut Weinberg.

SEA SHELL BOX AND TRAY Capiz shell box and tray embellished with rhinestones.

FOR KEEPSAKES Light blue acrylic, velvet-lined boxes adorned with shells or rhinestones on top.

SUCCULENTS These real-looking succulants on a tin base can be a centerpiece or a wall hanging.

SEA URCHIN BOWLS Laminated capiz shell is a delicate touch.


Susan Swanson and her husband are huge collectors. “That was our entertainment before we opened The Green Door,” she says. Her gardener grandmother taught her how to arrange live flowers, and Swanson has translated this skill to artificial floral arranging. She selects only the highest-quality, botanically accurate blooms.

Visit Swanson at The Green Door, 130 Main St., East Greenwich, Rhode Island.

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