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2 August 2023

Q&A: New York Dog Walker Distracted by Nature

New York Nature Photography

Every now and again, Janet Mavec knocks on the door of a fellow New York nature lover for a good old-fashioned sit down. Our latest crush is on Margot Guralnick, the woman behind @margotgur.

Name: Margot Guralnick

Provenance: Bronx, New York by way of Boston

Bodacious passion project: Dog Walk Diary NYC

Favorite scent in nature: A toss-up between lily of the valley and the hauntingly subtle perfume of mimosa tree blossoms—they look like Dr. Seuss creations and are unusual around here but a neighbor has a spindly mimosa tree that I haunt.

New York Nature & Dog Walking

Despite having a full-time gig as an editor at Remodelista, Margot Guralnick has found herself with a side hustle these days: dog-walking. The New Yorker sets out daily with her 12-year-old miniature poodle mix.

While Enrique exercises and goes about his business, Margot goes about hers. She hunts and gathers, amassing stray petals, leaves, and other curious objects natural, to populate her Instagram feed, Dog Walk Diary NYC. The pieces are arranged graphically, photographed, and uploaded and hearted. These “shrines to nature,” as she calls them, show that a walk in the park is anything but ordinary. One only has to pay attention.

New York Nature Leaves & Flowers

How did Dog Walk Diary NYC start?
While working on our latest Remodelista book, we had hit a non-creative stage in the process and I felt a need to busy my hands. As a lifelong collector, I had always picked up pretty leaves and branches that I would place on our windowsill at home. About two years ago, I started arranging and photographing these finds.

As an author of "Remodelista: The Organized Home", and as an interiors editor for top-notch magazines, is this your way of “organizing” nature?
Yes, I suppose it is. But, in truth, collecting comes more naturally to me than organizing. Wherever I go, I’m always looking for treasure. The problem with collecting is that our house is pretty full. So making ephemeral creations—and taking photographs of them—has been the perfect solution for me. It gives me a creative outlet and my dog gets extra-long walks.

Do you start with an idea and then head out?
No, I don’t ever plan. My creations are made from the day’s surprises and most of my backdrops are also found along the way. The textures you see on Instagram might be from a playground slide or an old dresser or cast-off shelf I spot on garbage day.

So you’re the crazy lady in the neighborhood digging through bins?
Definitely! I can also often be found crouched over manholes, leash in one hand, arranging leaves with the other. People driving by roll down their windows and say “Do you need help?”

New York Nature Pink Petals

And nature ... in the Bronx?
Yes, Riverdale, where we live, is within easy striking distance of Manhattan but filled with stately old trees and gardens. Most afternoons, Enrique and I walk in the woods along the Hudson. The more I look here, the more I discover. I had thought that after doing this day after day, the surprises would run out. But in fact, even in the middle of winter, I’m always astonished by what awaits. On a recent return from a trip to Europe, our walkway was covered in circular speckled peach tree leaves the size of pennies. They looked like confetti. Since I’m often poking around roadsides, I’ve also come to appreciate hardy—and invasive—species, such as pokeweed and Chinaberries. Sawtoothed dandelion greens always stop me in my tracks.

Yeah, not a gardener’s best friends, for sure. Do you garden?
My husband is the gardener. Right now, he’s really into growing castor beans. He also has a great collection of heirloom tomato plants — Green Zebra, Egg Yolk, Costoluto Genovese, Yellow Pear — thanks to a neighbor who always has extra seedlings. Elephant Ears are another of his specialties. But after five years of trying to produce a fig in the Bronx, he’s on the verge of surrender.

Do you have a favorite houseplant that is like part of the family?
Yes, a Monstera deliciosa. Fifty years ago, my father stopped at the grocery store to pick up milk and bought the plant as a gift for my mother. It had two little leaves and he paid 89 cents for it. Many repottings later, it’s now a monster-sized beloved elder member of the family.

New York Nature Leaf

We at Janet Mavec believe plants / nature have special powers. If you agree, what do you think that is?
No contesting that nature is magical. While I’m not religious, my daily devotionals are these walks. Nature never fails to surprise and delight me.

Purchase one of Margot's prints with a DM on Instagram.

To read great ideas about organizing or to buy Margot's book, visit The Organized Home.

See how Margot inspires Janet Mavec throughout our own nature collections, like our acorn and oak leaf jewelry.