Terra cotta floor tiles

Garden Inspiration: Tile Medalions

After a trip, sometimes I don’t see nuggets of ideas until I look at my images.  I chose the shots after all, so there is some vague through line.  So here goes.

When I was in Chicago two weeks ago (was it that long?) some friends and I visited the Cuneo Mansion and Gardens.  The landscape or what’s left of it, is very formal and was designed by Jens Jensen early in his career and didn’t really have his signature prairie style imprint.  What interested me more than that, if you view my images were two flooring patterns.  One inside the house on the second floor and the second on a small balcony off a bedroom.

Terra cotta floor tiles

The second floor pattern in the house incorporated varying squares of granite, terra cotta and glazed squares.  It was worn and beautiful.

Balcony tiles

A small balcony- in disrepair and shot through the locked screen door–off a guest room  incorporated the same patterned glazed squares and bluestone.  Getting closer to my outside design inspiration.

 A small central medallion or an entire pathway could be created using these tiles…but finding frostproof ones?  That didn’t happen until a few days later in Detroit when I visited Penwabic Pottery.  I bought two stoneware house numbers that are frostproof and meant for outside use to experiment with.

Stoneware numbers from Pewabic Pottery, Detroit

I’m going to make an address stepping stone or wall piece that combines those numbers with a previous and different trip’s inspiration – the inlayed street markers in New Orleans.  They fascinated me when I was there and have stuck with me in the inspiration memory banks.

New Orleans Street sidewalk number

I’m not sure yet  if what I make will be brick (a sub for terra cotta) and bluestone or bluestone and granite–both will go with my early 20th century cottage. Somehow all of this inspiration adds up if I let myself be free enough to connect the dots.  I’m sure there will be a pathway or a medallion in a client’s future garden once I get the technique down in mine.

Garden Shop: Vintage Sculpture

I’m switching out Tuesday’s Find to Garden Shop.  I scout objects and products of all types for my landscape design clients from small accessories to large sculpture.  I also love the hunt.  So my inaugural post for this semi-regular theme starts where Tuesday’s Find lived…a vintage folk art sculpture found at 1st Dibs.

Garden Folk Art Sculpture

How much fun would this found object piece of folk art be in a garden?  A clever DIYer  with the ability to weld (or by taking the pieces to a local welder) could create something similar–but without the patina.  This piece is available via Linda and Howard Stein on 1st Dibs or at their shop in Pennsylvania, Bridgehampton Antiques (open by appointment)

American Tudor

A Facelift for a Tudor Grand Dame

Some of my favorite landscape design projects involve American Tudors.  I love the romance of these houses, their quirky details, their materials and how often they survive the wrecking ball.  Many of these homes were built in the 1920s and family needs change with the times.  I am currently working on a design for a circa 1929 home and re-imagining the landscape for a young, 21st century family.  This will be the first of several irregular posts on the project which won’t be completed until the fall.

American Tudor

The current landscape has outgrown its space and usefulness so much of it will be replaced.  Things have been ignored for too long to be simply pruned.  Entries and exits, steps and useful areas front and back will be part of an architectural and landscape renovation that will make this grand dame young again.

Tuesday’s Find: 50s Folding Garden Chairs

I’m old enough to remember the same chairs in my great Aunt Julie’s garden in Coney Island.  They came out of the garage and onto her painted concrete driveway whenever we came to visit.  The adults would sit and gossip while we ran back and forth between her house and her sister’s impatient for Uncle Herman to take us  to the rides Astroland, which he owned.  Funny something as insignificant as a folding chair can call up memories of summers past.

50s folding chairs with original seats!

You can have this bit of garden nostalgia from Belvair for Modern Living.

Tuesday’s Find…a boot scrape

I need one of these.  Gardens are muddy and those wimpy little boot brush things to put outside the door don’t do the job.  This boot scrape is elegant in its simplicity and utilitarian design.  It  would fantastic outside my cottage door.

19th c Boot Scraper
Wrougt iron boot scrape

This spring has been especially wet in the gardens I work in.  My mud shoes and boots are always full of other people’s muck–sometimes up to the ankles and my kitchen floor (I don’t have a mud room) is always dirty.  I’m tired of sweeping and mopping the floor (I don’t have help either) and if I take my boots off outside they never dry out and they’r oh, so cold, in the morning! It’s available from M. Finkel and Daughter in Philadelphia.

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.

Child’s Play…Tuesday’s Find

This probably wouldn’t pass any safety test.  It comes from the age when hanging by your knees upside down on monkey bars without an adult in sight was the norm.

As a child I used to love to go to the school playground across the street from my grandparents’ home. There were seesaws, a merry-go-round, monkey bars and swings.  I had to cross a busy road to get there.  I don’t have any recollection of an adult ever supervising the crossing or the play.  Our playmates and siblings solved their issues with each other and learned in the process how to deal with the world at large.  We went home (across that busy street) when we scraped a knee…often coming right back to spin, swing and climb again.

This might not be the safest choice, but it sure looks like it created a ton of fun and could again.  By the way…I’m not a proponent of hanging by your knees.


It’s at Tom Gibbs Studio in Fall River, Massachusetts.

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.

A pair of orange planters…

Ever since Tangerine Tango was named 2012 color of the year, orange is just everywhere.  I figure it’s okay to add to that conversation…from a retro perspective.  Aren’t these fiberglass Danish 60s planters cool?

Nana Ditzel planters from the 60s

Alas, they’re in London.  They’re at Sigmar and they’re outrageously expensive.  I think I could make something similar with a little ingenuity and some orange auto body paint.

Note:  My designer blogger friends at Garden Designers Roundtable are posting on first impressions today if you’d like to take a look–all of their posts will be up by noon ET.

Tuesday’s Find…a silver snail

Sometimes you want some bling in your garden. sometimes a bit of kitsch is warranted–so is a sense of humor.  This vintage sprinkler has all in ample supply! It’s a clever design that would also look great when not doing its watering  job.  Finally! a snail you want in your garden!  It’s from Skyscraper in New York.


Silver sprinkler snail