Re-Making an Old Garden for a New Family

Often my landscape design clients I ask me to insert some contemporary flavor into an existing landscape. These renovation projects are similar to interior updates in that the new has to dovetail seamlessly with the existing. This family had a very traditional, overgrown and poorly maintained landscape that had no place for three active, young girls to be outside except the driveway, an in need of repair pool, and a too small patio. The house sits on generous lot that is also promontory with a steep slope up to the front door and an even steeper slope back to the rear property line.

Devlin Before Pix

Most people would look at this and say ‘What’s wrong with that? It’s beautiful!”.  On the surface it was, but on closer inspection there were many functional issues and I saw opportunities to open up sight lines, to create family and entertaining space as well as to make better transitions from one place to the next and technical options to correct erosion and drainage problems. I also saw a yard that when it was first designed, twenty-five years ago, had been well thought out–but was now way past its prime. The fireplace, for example, had been shored by someone up on the back end with 2 x 4’s where the footing had separated from the stone work. That was just a disaster just waiting to slide down the hill if not repaired or demolished. Boxwood hedges that defined several ‘rooms’ had been allowed to get too big and many had large dead sections or were riddled with fungus. Trees that had been smaller had now outgrown their sites, had dead wood, or were in two cases just dead. Every last bit of masonry had to be repaired…there were loose stones and steps throughout.

devlin pool afterAfter our arborist completed recommended tree work and removals, the pool renovation came first. We repaired the coping, re-plastered in a new darker color, added crisp, blue glass subway style waterline tile, added two bluestone decks and a ribbon around the pool. We demolished the tumbled down pergola to gain some square footage and open up usable space.  The very crooked fence was straightened out and the hillside above the now exposed stone wall was planted. New furniture was ordered that added to the contemporary feel of the space. An attempted water feature repair did not work on the old water wall so that will be the final piece added to the puzzle later this year.

Hydrangeas and water wall w pool

 

Camelllia espalier and pool

I met several times with the clients and their children to discuss what to save and what to demolish as well as what their ‘dream’ yard would entail.  The kids wanted a play space beyond the front yard swing. The adults wanted safe and usable pool space as well as a larger entertaining space. They also wanted a more contemporary feeling within the context of what was there.

An old dog run behind the garage that had a more gentle slope than the rest of the property was re-made into a children’s play area. The children hand painted curtains for their ‘stage’.

Devlin play area

Extra fence from the pool area was used to enclose it on the lower side and the chainlink fence that had contained the dogs was removed.  A simple balance beam was made from felled tree trunks, a playhouse/stage area with a new bright blue deck was built under the existing stairs and a slide added to the top. The remaining stockade fence was stained white to brighten up the shady area and a carnival silly mirror was added to it just for fun.

Charlotte on the slide

The final phases of the renovation ended up being the most problematic.  Almost all of the existing bluestone had to be relaid since it was incorrectly installed the first time. Retaining walls had insufficient foundations and were failing and were replaced.  The hillside below was stabilized and planted with native Carex to aid in soil retention.  The fireplace was demolished and new walls were added to a reconfigured patio.  The enlarged patio has a firepit and contemporary furnishings. The new seatwall has built in speakers and the steps to the pool have been widened as has the walkway to the adjacent courtyard.  A garden now visually links the patio with the pool decks.

Patio seating areas

A courtyard was turfed over and the boxwood hedges and plantings in the front yard redesigned.  A small, curved path at the driveway entrance was re-configured to allow for two chairs for adults who supervise the driveway bike and scooter riding.

Devlin front entry

Side walk to front

Sections of hedge were removed from each side of the walkway to unify both sides of the front lawn.  A scraggly pine was removed to allow what will be a beautiful Cornus kousa more light and room.  Boxwood were replace with those from other areas and were pruned into clean lined shapes. Nepeta and daylillies were transplanted from the driveway to add seasonal interest.  Plants were added to a side walk as well as to the driveway areas and new micro patio.

Devlin Driveway entry to patioThe best thing is that every time I visit there are bikes, hula hoops, pool toys and chalk art everywhere. What was once a problem space has become one that is loved and used.  I can’t ask for a better result!

chalk play

 

Balcony floor

Garden Visits: Princeton

I visited gardens yesterday in Princeton, New Jersey. The tour was arranged by the New Jersey Landscape and Nursery Association (NJNLA) and featured four very different gardens by designer Bill Kucas.

What struck me about these outdoor spaces was that their details is what really made them interesting. In each space the features beyond plants were detailed beautifully, but when I asked about what made the spaces personal, that had been left up to the clients. In each space, with the exception of the one still being built, the choice of furniture and accessories beyond what the landscape designer had envisioned is what finished them and made them useful, wonderful places for people. Is a patio or deck really a place for people if there’s nowhere to sit or gather? Too often landscape designers stop at the plants and hard surfaces and leave the finishing touches up to the homeowner when the total vision should include all of the accouterments. Our interior design peers would never leave a space unfurnished!  None of this in anyway detracted from the day…even the predicted rain held off until we were leaving the very last one.

By far, my favorite detail of the day was a balcony with thin brick or roofing tiles set on edge.  It was finished with a rectangular copper gutter above and containing Boston ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata).

Balcony floor

Additionally, there were other beautiful masonry details in each garden.  The pier below was unusual in that it combined stone, wood and concrete – each as its own detail but unified in the end product.

Garden pierWall fountain bluestone and brick paving detail

There were multiple seating areas in each space. Each had furnishings and accessories appropriate to the design and surrounding architecture.  There was contemporary furniture from Design within Reach and vintage Smith and Hawken at one site; Restoration Hardware dominated another; a third had a collection of antique and vintage pieces.  All of these ‘additions’ helped define the personality of the space and were lost opportunities for the designer to ‘finish’ the project through space and or furniture planning.  It’s true, sometimes clients want to do it themselves, but often they want to collaborate and don’t have access to the ‘To the Trade’ options that designers can provide.

DWR table and chairsFireplace Princeton

Pergola and marriage of materials

Lanterns in treeNow it’s back to work creating gardens and landscapes instead of being a ‘tourist’ in my own state on a busman’s holiday!

 

Rattan Chaise

Garden Trends: Rattan Seating

I first noticed this emerging trend in Paris at Maison et Objet in January. Rattan furniture is back. As a material, it’s been out of favor for a while, but in the 1940s and 50s it was popular and chic. The new rattan is lyrical and colorful and doesn’t include the large scale banana leaf prints that gave it the feeling that it belonged on a porch in Malaysia somewhere.
Rattan Chaise

Rattan chair Maison et Objet

These pieces will be at home with a wide variety of contemporary, transitional and traditional styles. The best part is that rattan pieces are available at all price points and a wide variety of colors making them a stylish option for many, many gardens, patios and decks.  Here’s a small selection.  Top to bottom:  Crate and Barrel’s Kruger Dining chair, David Francis’ Aura chair, David Francis’ Stockholm chair, Ikea’s Holmsel chair, and Safavieh’s Shenandoah Blue chair.

Crate and Barrrel Rattan David Francis furniture David Francis Stockholm Chair

Ikea Holmsel chair safavieh blue rattan

 We’ll be trendspotting at Maison et Objet 2015 on next January’s Antiques and Ornaments Tour for landscape designers.  If you want info on that trip, please email me susan at susan cohan gardens dot com.

Garden Trends in the Mall

Mall stores like Restoration Hardware, Pottery Barn and Crate & Barrel have made major investments in outdoor furniture and accessories, so I went to the mall to see what was new. Catalogs just don’t do it for me, I can’t see and touch the quality.

The only one of the three that had anything interesting was Crate & Barrel.  On trend as far as lifestyle and color, their selection made the neutrals at Restoration Hardware and Pottery Barn seem dreary and tired. The pieces are very fairly priced for the level of quality. Here’s what I liked.

Vertical Pots Crate and Barrel

Colorful ceramic pots with iron hangers. Brightly hued ceramic bird houses.

Ceramic Birdhouses

From more of a merchandising perspective, bold pops of color combined with black and white.

Pops of colorAn entire gardening section with well designed tools and accessories.   I was disturbed though to find plant labels very similar to ones I had seen on Etsy. Not sure if the knock-off was intentional or not as it was a simple graphic idea.

Garden Tools and Potting Bench

My favorite piece of furniture this season is the classically inspired cast aluminum Union dining chair that comes in a matte charcoal finish or red!

Neutral color palette

union-red-dining-arm-chair-with-sunbrella-red-ribbon-cushionI can’t wait for things to warm up and get some pops of color outside!

Kingsley Bates outdoor furniture

Furnishing a New Patio

Too many landscape designers ignore an obvious service they can provide to their clients. Once the structural and planting work on a patio, deck, or even front entry has been completed they believe they’re done and leave furniture and accessory choices up to the homeowner or their interior designers.

I shop for and with my clients since until the project is totally completed, I’m the one with the vision for how the space will be used.  Why would I hand that off to someone else?

I’ll start an Ideabook and share it with a client to get the ideas flowing.  I source new and if appropriate, re-purposed materials.  Below is a large table and chairs I spotted for a client whose home has a distinct Nantucket vibe.  We will add custom cushions and some other accessories as well as stools for the bar area.  The furniture on the two other patio levels will coordinate, but won’t match giving it a ‘purchased over time’ feeling that many new spaces lack.

Kingsley Bates outdoor furniture

All weather wicker and fabric

I’ve heard landscape designers say ‘I’m not interested in furniture’ and I wonder why? Why let plants, stone, and woodworking be the only design details?  An interior designer wouldn’t stop at the walls and floor, why do they?  Obviously it’s a profit center for a designer, but the client benefits by having the work done for them and having a useful, wonderful space as soon as its finished.

I include space planning for patios in my initial concept plans and will be teaching a course about it and furniture, fabric and accessory selection at NYBG in the spring (it’s not listed yet) complete with a field trip to the  furniture showrooms.  Too many people don’t make their outdoor spaces big enough to be really useful.  They don’t think about the ‘how’ and ‘why’; only the ‘what’.

Patio Dining Area plan

A new book,  The Professional Designer’s Guide to Garden Furnishings, by fellow APLD landscape designer, Vanessa Gardner Nagel, aims to demystify the  process of selecting furniture, fabrics and accessories.  Nagel was an interior designer before turning her sights outside to the landscape, so she has a particular affinity for the subject. Her book covers stylistic information as well as materials selection and is comprehensive in scope.

Pro Guide to Garden Furnishings

The subject is treated in depth and is a great resource for seasoned pros and those new to the subject where there wasn’t one before. The Garden Furnishings Resources section relies on a product legend which I find to be cumbersome and I wish there was a loose leaf notebook version, a customizable source book, for practical, everyday use that could be updated at will or with updates from the publisher.  From the publishing side, that could be an additional revenue stream in packet updates from suppliers but that’s another story all together.  I also wish there had been a section for trade shows which I find to be among the most valuable and inspiring trips I take each year.  All in all though, it’s a good book in a product area that has exploded in terms of what’s available in the past five years.

 

Garden Color Inspiration: White

I’ve written about neutral gardens and those inspired by the Belgian Beige movement and right now I’m into white. Maybe I’m attracted to it for external reasons-because summer is almost at an end and knowing the bit about white only being worn between Memorial and Labor Days.  There are warm nights still and white still intrigues me…it’s also an excellent partner with green. There is a lot written about white gardens from a planting perspective, but not much about the rest. This is about the rest.

We know that white  can make a dark space seem lighter.  It can also add drama to an otherwise lackluster space.  Washable materials make this color easy to use outside, fading isn’t an issue obviously.

Image via Architectural Digest 

Simple and geometric this patio is surrounded by green and is restful and stylish.  In fashion, winter is also a time for ‘Winter Whites’, but it would be a simple thing to switch this fabric seasonally if white appears too summery outside.

Image via Trouvais

White can be simple and rustic, and is an easy partner with other neutrals.  It can work in just about any style of garden.  Beyond the classic white fence, white can be carried through in accessories of all kinds on just about any style of patio or deck.

Just like any other color, there are many variations of white.  Sample of colors as well as what will be adjacent them are important and especially before choosing a white.  White will reflect what’s around it and even the original hue can be pink or blue based yet look like a stark white unless it is  placed in context. 

I’ll be back on the flip side of Labor Day…wearing white of course!

 

 

Garden Style: A Patio Bistro

The term bistro table has been co-oped in landscape design to mean any small table with two chairs. So I thought I’d go back to the source and play with the idea of using a classic French bistro as inspiration for an outdoor space. I’m not saying that I’ll actually do this, although I love some of the details.

French Bistro

photo via Flickr

Let’s break it down. There are some key elements…

A blackboard. Menus are usually posted on some variation of these.

Bistro Chalkboard

Image via Cafes et Bistrots de France

There is exterior chalkboard paint. Frame out an area of a wall and use it for a garden to do list or party menu. Chalk boards don’t have to be just for kids outside.

Exterior Chalkboard Paint

Then add some cool rattan chairs. I love these chairs. Ever since I lived in France in my twenties they have been personal favorites. There are so many patterns, colors and styles available it’s hard to choose.

Classic Bistro Chair
Or maybe a bench. This could be a super interesting garden bench on its own. There are also highchairs for toddlers, bar stoools and side tables in this traditional rattan style.

 

Bistro Bench

Absolutely add some pots of geraniums and lace curtains. The curtains could be hung from a pergola or as a shade element of some kind instead of being in the window. I have a garage window that could use some of these actually.

Lace curtains and geraniums

And then there’s the Bistro table. Typically these have cast iron bottoms with smallish easy to clean round tops.

Bistro Table
I might personalize it with color…these are from TK Collections. Combine the blue base with the blue rattan chairs above for a strong color statement.Bistro table basesNow where’s that espresso and a pain au chocolate?

Paris espresso cup

 

 

 

Boxwood and terracotta at Detroit Garden Works

Garden Shop: Detroit Garden Works

One of the great garden shops in the United States is in Detroit. Yes. that much maligned and blight filled city has an big upside. Part of that upside is Detroit Garden Works. I’ve wanted to visit for years, and had the chance when I was in Detroit with APLD last week.

Boxwood and terracotta at Detroit Garden Works

Carefully chosen new, vintage and antique products from all over the world are merchandised in a way that makes each one seem precious and necessary.

Inside display at Detroit Garden Works

Classic in its outlook, Detroit Garden Works is the brainchild of landscape designer Deborah Silver who originally started the shop eighteen years ago because she couldn’t source what she wanted locally. Map in hand, the store’s manager and buyer Rob Yedinak, drives through Europe annually to handpick new and vintage offerings.

Entry Gates and containers at Detroit Garden Works

 There is a wide array of accessories and furniture to really suit any garden style even though the shop has a traditional feel. Terra cotta, steel, stone and concrete predominate and the shop is also local showcase for Branch Studios work.  There is a small area for plants, and there are espalier, planted containers, window boxes and boxwood throughout.

Furniture and Pots at Detroit Garden WorksTopiary Forms at Detroit Garden Works

With the onslaught of big box stores and garden centers with little imagination beyond piling on the plants and pots, shops like this one stand out.  Some will gripe about high prices, but you get what you pay for and if you value great design and beautifully made objects this shop is a must.

Steel fiddlehead garden spikes

I bought something which is rare for me.  Handmade steel fiddleheads were totally affordable and a grouping of several in three different sizes of them are going in my new shade garden this fall.  They came beautifully packaged the day after I came home.  The high level of customer service and attention to detail isn’t lost on me either.

Heart shaped EspalierThis image pretty much sums up how much I liked the shop and it’s not the only reason to visit Detroit as you will see in future posts!

Dwell Studio 'Bungalow' for Robert Allen

Garden Design Details: Dwell Studios new Bungalow fabric

I’m always on the lookout for cool outdoor fabrics and try to add them whenever I can to customize furniture for my garden and landscape design clients. I just discovered this new, super fun fabric story ‘Bungalow’ designed by Dwell Studios for Robert Allen.

Dwell Studio 'Bungalow' for Robert Allen

 

image via Robert Allen

Yes, it’s Sunbrella fabric so it can take the heat and sun and rain, but it’s always best to have easy storage for cushions and pillows. Make sure that cushions are constructed from outdoor foam –which is much more pourous –if you live in an area where it rains.

Trendspotting: Honeycomb

Bees are in the news, so it’s totally understandable that bees and bee things should emerge as a garden trend. Recently I saw a wonderful hose pot in a garden I was visiting and have tried to no avail to find it.

Beehive hose pot

Image via  Miss Trixies Favorite Things

So that leads to honeycomb.  Artist Laura Kramer’s crystal encrusted wasp combs were on display when I was last at ABC Carpet and Home. Once I saw them, I started seeing honeycomb patterns everywhere.  I don’t think it’s just the power of suggestion…

Image via ABC Carpet and Home

Honeycomb patterns have been happening in fashion and interior design for a while so why not gardens?

Gucci Beehive dress

Top image via Gucci , bottom image  via CamPierce

It’s a small idea that can add nature’s geometry to traditional or contemporary garden styles. The pattern can apply to tiles, trellises, fabric and rugs, and even furniture.  A few ideas…

Honeycomb chair

Honeycomb wire chair above via Terrain.  Honeycomb modular wall trellis via Flora below. (These are available at  Jungle, BTW)

Honeycomb wall trellis

Old is new, and honeycomb hexagonal terracotta tiles are right on trend.  The yellow outdoor fabric sports a variation on the theme.  And the turf tiles in the very bottom image of a small Paris garden via (translated)  The Yellow House on the Beach are an original take on honeycomb.

Terra cotta honeycomb

Turf honecomb tiles

If you want more ideas, I’ve assembled a Pinterest board just for honeycomb inspiration.

Jungle Design Williamsburg

Field Trip: Jungle

Hip isn’t a description usually used for garden centers.  Jungle, in Brooklyn, is hip.  Owner and landscape designer, Amanda Mitchell has created a smart and compelling space in trendy Williamsburg that blends vintage and contemporary, urban and bucolic, rustic and sleek, cutting edge and ancient near the East River.

Jungle Design Williamsburg

A brick wall with a bird mural painted by naturalistic street artist Roa, dominates one side of the nursery.

Roa Street Art Brooklyn

Street Art Roa Brooklyn

The  opposite side has a bluish theme. A baby blue pergola hung with vintage style railroad lamps, a blue structure of unknown use, and in the rear behind a beautifully built pergola that spans the space and next to the diminutive design studio, a patio continued the baby blue theme.

blue pergola

Vintage blue outdoor sofa

I visited Jungle for a party thrown by Dutch Tub.  There were several of them as well as their portable and very clever multipurpose wood stove/pizza oven Outdooroven which was being put to good use making pizzas for the guests.

oven in use

Jungle Design Brooklyn

 

Barrique’s Recycled Barrel Stave Furniture

As part of my design crawl in New York the past two weeks, I visited ABC Home and Carpet for some inspiration.  The store never disappoints in its merchandise selections or displays.  A designer I know says ‘This is where the awesome happens’.  As usual I took a ton of photos (with permission) and some of those are on my Instagram feed.

On the second floor, as part of a storewide ‘Slow Design’ story,  I saw this chaise designed by Marc Sadler that was constructed from recycled wine barrel staves.

Barrel Stave lounge chair

It’s part of a larger group of furniture and accessories being fabricated by Barrique as part of their ‘Third Life of Wood’ program that supports recovering addicts in an Italian rehab facility.  They make the furniture and the profits go back to the center.  Wow.  Here’s some more…

Barriques Third Life of Wood Lounge chair

Antonio Citterio’s ‘Poltrona Lounge’ is both classic and contemporary.

Recycled barrel stave swing by Angela Missioni

Angela Missoni’s ‘Miss Dondola’ swing echos the same color and style that are found in her clothing lines.

Recycled barrel stave chair by Aldo Spinelli

Aldo Spinelli’s ‘Sardinia’ chair riffs on early twentieth century furniture design while being completely modern.

The furniture and its message are currently touring the U.S.  Here’s a schedule.

Top photo by the author, bottom three photos via Barrique

 

Scout Regalia’s Contemporary Outdoor Style

I’m a fan of contemporary design.  Because I work in a very traditional market, I don’t get to use it much in my landscape and garden design work.  San Francisco based Scout Regalia has created two sleek products that would be at home on many patios and in many gardens–even traditional ones.

The first is really two products, both raised garden beds. One is available as a kit, the other pre-assembled.  Both have a simple, elegant design that would be at home in a traditional or a contemporary garden.  I’d love to see other colors added beyond the green used for the braces.

The Raised Garden Kit is essentially brackets and braces and comes with everything except the wood, soil and plants.

Scout Regalia Raised Garden Bed

The Patio Garden Assembled is a smaller version that is shipped completed and ready to plant.

Raised bed garden

The team’s second product (and you’ll see what I mean about color in a minute) is also two.
Both take a modern twist on the classic picnic table and bench.  Both have coated aluminum parts that are available in 210 colors.  The difference is in the wood.  The White Oak Table Set (turquoise) is the pricier of the two and is constructed from white oak.  The Outdoor Table Set (orange) is constructed of Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) redwood.

Scout Regalia picnic table

Scout Regalia Outdoor Table Set

All photos via Scout Regalia.

Urban Garden Center NYc

Field Trip: Urban Garden Center NYC

Never have I seen so much done with so little.  A garden center under the railroad tracks with no running water and no electricity?  That’s Urban Garden Center in Spanish Harlem.

Urban Garden Center NYc

Plants, seeds and tools happily co-exist with dumpster dive finds and new merchandise that is used with aplomb, humor and an a sense of style that typifies its can-do attitude.

Display at Urban Garden Center NYC

 It’s totally wacky and fantastic.  I loved it.

Chairs on a chain link fence NYC

Spanning two blocks under the elevated railroad tracks from 116th to 118th Street, Urban Garden Center is a multi-generational family business with a big heart.  They not only serve the immediate community, they work in the retail shop and are committed to and passionate about what they are trying to achieve and against all odds.  Water is carted in several times a day in 250 gallon tanks from across the street.  Electricity is via generator.

Water at Urban Garden Center NYC

While I was there with my friend Elizabeth Przygoda-Montgomery of Shop Boxhill, I saw a young couple buying a pot of geraniums for their fire escape (a New York garden space) and a well-heeled Park Avenue type who tried to buy everything he saw…even if it wasn’t for sale!  Three of my favorite vignettes are below.

Art Chair NYC

Display at Urban Garden Center NYC116th street Urban Garden Center NYC

Opiary: Garden Pots from Princeton

Last year, one of the few things I liked at the Kips Bay Showhouse was Robert Canon’s planters.

Opiary Pots Kips Bay Showhouse

This year I at ICFF I liked them even more.  When I saw them again this past weekend, these planters were in my mind, one of the most original and creative outdoor products at the fair.  They had a original and quirky point of view that would be at home in so many gardens.

Opiary Studio

 Opiary, Canon’s Princeton based studio is creating organic looking, well priced beautiful containers and garden accessories from recycled materials.  I’m going to try and arrange a studio visit.

opiary studio

 All photos via Opiary.

Online Garden Shop: Shop Boxhill

Shop Boxhill is a new online shopping site for all things outdoors.  I would be remiss if I didn’t note that it was created by my friend and fellow landscape designer Elizabeth Pryzgoda-Montgomery.  Shop Boxhill has a cool contemporary vibe with products in every price range from under $20 to over $3000.

I did a little virtual power shopping and here’s what I found–there are hundreds of other choices there, with more to come.

A super fun outdoor rug for $55.00.

outdoor rug

Steel Life’s Matchstick Planter, $159.00 comes in great colors and there are other planters to choose from as well.

Steel Life Planter

An insulated ‘cooler’ tote bag that is stylish and practical for $32.49.  Warm water on the job and in the truck will be a thing of the past with this.

Cooler tote bag

And just because I’m agave obsessed…this blue agave sculpture will allow me to have one that won’t wither and die in the winter.  It’s $270.

I probably won’t buy these, but with the damage from super storm Sandy making so many chunks of trunks available for free, these Knotty Stools have given me inspiration.  They’re $756.

Stump stools

And last but not least, because nobody in my traditional and conservative market carries these…a turqoise Concha chair for my newly renovated side garden when it’s done.  It’s $450.

On-line shopping just got a whole lot better.

Blue steel chairs

Tuesday’s Find: A set of 10 blue chairs

It’s spring and I’m scouting furniture and accessories for clients’ gardens and patios so I’m reviving Tuesday’s Find.  These blue steel Pascal Mourgue chairs from the mid-80s stopped my virtual browsing.  I love the color and the styling.  They can work as contemporary or in a 1930s Art Deco environment that I’m actually thinking about.  Do you like them too?

Blue steel chairs

Blue steel garden chair

They’re in London if you want them…at Christopher Jones Antiques  or on 1st Dibs.

Garden Design Details: Wire Frame Chairs

I have a renewed interest in wire frame chairs on the patio, so I’ve created a round-up of some favorites. They can be funky, classic or wacky and whimsical.  They can sit by themselves as a conversation piece or they can be a part of a larger functional grouping.  Many, in my opinion, need a beautiful cushion to make the comfortable for any length of time.

Here are a few…some serious, some not.  Some you may have seen here before, some not.

Blue wire garden chair

Last year’s darling, the blue powder coated wire chair designed by Alessandra Baldereschi. Via Skitch.  It’s also available as a side chair.

Vintage wire frame garden chairs

 Vintage wire frame chairs from the 1950s via Drake.

Terrain Lily Pad Chair

The Lily Pad chair from Terrain.

John Risley vintage garden chair

A vintage 1960s chair inspired by John Risley.  via Glo.

The Farmhouse chair from Bend Seating.

Re-trouve chair designed by Patricia Urquiola

Emu’s Re-trouve chair designed by Patricia Urquiola.

Graphic Recycled Garden Furniture

I am not a fan of the current trend that extols us to grab a shipping pallet or some cast off boards and use them to make something else.  Most of what results still looks like garbage.  Who cares if the materials are free?

These chairs by Old & Board satisfy my designer instincts and are made from recycled wood.

recycled wood garden furniture
Super graphics and high style

I saw them in person (and sat in them) at both Flora Grubb Gardens and The Gardener while I was in San Francisco last month.

Recycled garden furnture
Graphic additions make the simple design
Recycled garden furniture
More graphics

Garden Color Inspiration: Black

A few years ago, when Paul Bonine’s book Black Plants was released everyone went gaga over the drama of black foliage and flowers, it’s taken a while for everything else to catch up.

Black Plants

Black has long been part of the garden via ironwork, but now I’m seeing, in my real and virtual travels black walls, accessories, and all other uses outside.  If navy blue was surfacing as a trend earlier this year, black certainly is now.  Here are the ideas.

Small patio wall and black chairs
image via The Guardian

Black decking and walls for a contemporary home.

Black decking and walls
Image via Design Milk.

A similar theme in a more rustic setting.

Black house wall as a patio foil
Image via femina

Black planters…the green just pops!

Black planters
Image via the author

Black cushions draw focus to the otherwise neutral space.

Black cushions
Image via la bisuiterie
Yellow Patio Wall

Two NYC Designer Show Houses, Part 2

Last week I was able to preview the Elle Decor Modern Life Concept House.  Of course, amid a crush of 150 people trying to get into and photograph every small space, I headed out to the patio.  The smallish urban space was designed by Michael Tavano.  Unlike the massive impersonal terraces at the Kips Bay Decorator Show House, Tavano succeeded in making an intimate, useful space full of ideas.

I wasn’t able to get great photos–it was wet and there were too many people.  So here are those I did get. Look carefully and you’ll notice that I didn’t move much more than a foot in any direction to get the shots…it was small.

My first impression was of the bold use of yellow.  I know the brand is Farrow and Ball, and I suspect the color is Babouche.

Unexpected use of color

Next was the eclectic combination of elements from super modern to tradtional.  Much of it from Restoration Hardware.  The dining table and chairs are from their new Mulholland collection.

Contemporary punctuated with traditional elements

Last was the  use of a step up to a deck that created a low bi-level space that delineated the seating area from the dining area.

Bi level deck and dining area

The cabana from Designlush included the metal gold circle pattern screens that reminded me of some Paco Rabanne dresses from the Sixties.

Paco Rabanne dresses from the 60s

Overall I thought it was packed with interesting ideas and excellent space planning.  I want to thank everyone at Kravat for arranging this for the BlogFest2012 participants.

 

Outdoor Fabrics: New Neutrals

I attended the second iteration of Blog Fest.  It is sponsored by Kravat and one of the many fabulous programs they put together was in their showroom at the D & D Building.

Couple that with the fact that I believe that we are at a tipping point for the design and development of outdoor furniture and accessories that can rival those available for inside and there’s a story to tell. I’m going to start with neutral fabric. How many times have you seen a piece of outdoor furniture accessorized with boring plain beige upholstery and pillows? Too often for me, including the terraces at the Kips Bay Showhouse (more about that in my next post).

There is a tendancy towards a lack of color outside except in plantings and this doesn’t have to be the case, but if it is neutral doesn’t have to be dull as dishwater. In the Kravat showroom, I found some neutrals (if that’s your thing) that were full of texture and surface interest and when combined, they were visually compelling.

Tropical patterns, stripes and texture
Woven, pattern and chenile and texture

The fabrics were from the Soliel and Echo collections and had interesting texture and pattern possibilities. There were also some brights, but you’ll have to wait for the full story I’m doing for Leaf to see those…

On a side note…we’d love to design a collection of outdoor fabrics…who better than those of us who actually design outside?

A Curated Collection…

The flow of my daily working life changed a bit when we started publishing a magazine.  I still manage my design clients on a daily basis, but also squeeze in several hours each day to manage, scout and produce Leaf.

One of the fun things that we have gotten to do is to curate a sale of outdoor products for Joss and Main which is going on right now and ends on Sunday, 5/21/12.  Here’s a peek.

Want to duplicate this look from our spring issue?

Try these

Zinc finish troughs to plant up!

Or maybe shake up one of  Warren Bobrow‘s cocktail recipes in one of these?

Shake it in style!

Or serve guests on some high style outdoor plates? (Melamine is all grown up!)

Tree Portrait Plates

Maybe you were inspired by the benches in Shop?

Geometric green bench

Whatever it is, we hope you are inspired by the magazine and check out our sale.  We have really tried to exemplify what we show in the magazine and hope you like our picks!

 

A Raj inspired Patio Umbrella…Tuesday’s Find

Over at the magazine we didn’t end up using this umbrella in our Bollywood Mood piece.  I still think it’s pretty and would love to have it on a patio or deck.

So fun and vibrant!

Here’s the garden inspiration from pages 68-69 of the spring edition of Leaf.

Bollywood inspiration for your garden

If you want the vintage umbrella, it’s available from Mary Ann Jones Antiques.

DIY inspiration…Tuesday’s Find

Many of the objects I post on Tuesdays are impossible to duplicate, but here is one that’s not.

Conservatory Plant Stand

Every spring as I purchase more plants than I have places for, many go on a plantstand that I made out deck stair stringers and posts from my local home improvement store.  It’s not pretty even with the lovely blue stain.  This one is so much more elegant and relatively easy to interpret as a DIY project although it would take years to get the same patina.  I’d put on on my patio for sure.

If you want to take the short cut and just buy one…they’re from English Accent Antiques in  Atlanta.

Elevating Twig Furniture to an Art Form

Connecticut based Laura Spector works with natural materials using traditional rustic/twig furniture techniques and manages to create something totally contemporary and new.  Her work has been published in numerous places yet I must have missed it every time.  As a huge fan of rustic furniture, I’m happy to have found it now.

Balinese Chair
Romantic 18th Century Bench
Arbor with benches
All photos via Laura Spector Rustic Design

 

A Re-emerging Trend…Tuesday’s Find

Things are in flux.  The economy looks a little bit brighter and that is creating some impetus for collecting again.  Art Deco looks exciting again.  Funny that it was the high style of the Great Depression, but many of my interior design and architecture friends are looking to the clean lines of this pre-cursor to Mid-century Modern so let’s explore some outdoor finds…click on each photo to be taken to the dealer’s site.

A semi circular garden bench circa 1930
Industrial styling in steel and leather circa 1930
A limestone sundial circa 1930

 

A copper architectural fragment
A concrete and steel planter/water basin circa 1930s
A pair of Deco doors..how cool would these be in a courtyard?

 

Print and Pattern Choices: Mansion in May

I’m trying to nail down some of the details for the show house garden and I’ve narrowed my print/pattern choices down to what I think I want to use. I’ve also experimented with some combinations. These are the details that can make a project sing or fall flat. They always make me nervous.

Initial choices...some editing will be done

Color is important, as is scale and texture just like in a garden bed. Design is design is design…it all follows the same principles. The overall look is this…

The floor will be navy blue...

I’ve been collecting outdoor fabric and trim swatches on Pinterest to make this process easier…I also have a Mansion in May board there to keep track of things.

Garden Safari!

I was looking for something really fun for a client’s garden wall.  They want something surprising, contemporary and humorous.  These safari ‘trophies’ from Bend certainly fit the bill.

Water Buffalo
Bear

Bend also makes some beautifully designed garden tables and chairs.

Drum Table/Stool
The Lucy Chair

All photos from Bend Seating.

Antique Cart Wheels

Last week I was scouring Michaelian and Kohlberg’s warehouse for pieces to use in the Mansion in May show house terrace  and I fell totally in love with a group of cart wheels.  They had amazing iron detail which I love on just about anything and a graphic quality that made them very contemporary even though they were very old.

Incredible detail and handmade craftsmanship

These wheels can stand on their own as sculpture, can be hung on a wall or be suspended from a pergola as a candelabra with led pillars lighting the way.

I’ve always liked millstones and thought they were fine additions to gardens in paths, as fountains or even as free standing sculpture.  I never considered cart wheels as being just as useful and beautiful though.  (I think it might be the folksy wagon wheel thing that I don’t like that kept that door closed.)

So many ideas, so little time.