Can houseplants really make people happier? Eliza Blank thinks so, which is part of the reason why she founded The Sill—a plant store based out of New York City, with a handful of locations on the West Coast—in 2012, incorporating principles of biophilic design and plant education into the shop's ethos.
Now, for the first time, The Sill is putting roots down in Chicago, opening its newest location (as of this morning) in a sunny Lakeview storefront. Chicagoans have a new spot to not only buy plants, but also get free consultations, participate in workshops and generally increase their home gardening savvy, making it a one-stop shop for plant care and design 101.
Blank knows a thing or two about that process. She started The Sill as an early-career professional, saddled with a dimly-lit New York apartment and a persistent itch to fill it with greenery. Inspired by her garden-loving mother and grandmother, she immersed herself in plant education—everything from classes to a close reading of Houseplants for Dummies—and launched an online store, hand delivering plants to customers from her apartment. Eventually, she opened her first brick-and-mortar location, a 100-square-foot store in Chinatown where people poured in for consultations and question-and-answer sessions about the ailments affecting their beloved plants.
For Blank, it was a lightbulb moment: "People need, basically, to be coached on plants," she says. "They want the education, they want to be able to ask questions and they need a really friendly and approachable environment."
Later, when the shop expanded to additional locations in New York and in cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco, The Sill launched educational workshops, coaching people on everything from the basics of plant parenting to thornier issues, like how to deal with a fungus gnat infestation.
Blank hopes to offer in-person workshops in the Chicago store starting this fall, though you can tune into virtual workshops in the meantime. There's also plenty to learn from browsing in the shop. Plants are organized by low, medium and high light requirements—from the low-maintenance realm of ZZ plants and Sansevieria to more finicky Monstera—and shopkeepers will be on hand to offer advice about how to pick plants that work for your apartment and help with repotting. You can even bring in your worse-for-the-wear plants from home to get a diagnosis about their issues, or send photos via email.
"We like to think of it as a neighborhood store," Blank says. "Come in and we'll coach you through your problems."
Chicagoans have long been some of The Sill's biggest online customers, Blank says, and she has a theory as to why: "Plants are really meaningful to people in the winter," she explains, and Chicagoans want to fill their space with resilient greenery to combat the cold and darkness. The store's practice is heavily based in biophilia, which posits that humans have an innate desire to immerse themselves in the natural world.
"It's this concept that it's literally written in our DNA that we want to be connected with nature," Blank explains. "House plants are a bite-sized way to make that fun and easy and exciting."
You can't reap the benefits of biophilia through a screen, but check out a few photos of the shop below. And to get the real-deal experience—or to pick up a new pothos—visit the newly-opened store at 1351 W Roscoe Street.
The Sill, located at 1351 W Roscoe St, is open daily from noon to 8pm.