Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Garden Structure

I woke this morning to a fresh dusting of snow. It blanketed the lawn and garden with a downy quilt, tufted by the undulating greenery that is our simple border garden. At the end of the row stands a moss-covered stone cherub. In his snow cap and cloak, he stands sentinel as some form of punctuation, pausing the eye before it explores further into the woods.

My little friend reminded me this morning of the power and importance of structure and hierarchy in the garden. When abstracted to its simplest form, as ours was in its snow-covered essence, a garden should have a clear, legible concept. Because we split time between Martha’s Vineyard and our Vermont home, I have not had a real garden since our days as innkeepers. But the principals of good design are pertinent on all levels, from formal parterres to simple flower beds.

When planning a garden, I like to think not only of the context of the environment (Solar orientation, nearby structures, approach and point of view), but also of the experience and story it wants to tell. And so, I look at the layout as the story outline that will be in-filled with colorful words and phrases. However, it is the permanent forms which add punctuation and structure that outlive the panoply of seasonal greenery.

Whether intended as passage or pause, the offerings of garden elements are unlimited. Garden gates and paving materials speak of movement and regulating the gate at which you pass through the experience. And while benches and shelters are often literal destinations for pause and reflection, garden sculpture acts as visual respite, and a place to stop, observe and mentally regroup.

Sentinel Lions from Barbara Israel Garden Antiques

Sentinel Lions from Barbara Israel Garden Antiques

There are many different styles and aesthetics of garden elements. If looking to add a sense of history to your landscape, one of the East Coast’s greatest sources is Barbara Israel Garden Antiques in New York. Her inventory of both period pieces with significant provenance and impeccable reproductions is unparalleled.

A Pair of Munder Skiles Benches by John Danzer

A Pair of Munder Skiles Benches by John Danzer

For a fresh approach to garden furnishings, check out John Danzer’s hand crafted designs at Munder Skiles. His updated pieces add elegance in their abstraction and grace of form.

One of my benches photographed in an historic garden setting

One of my benches photographed in an historic garden setting

I like to bring color to the garden that doesn’t rely on what is in bloom. Painted pieces that compliment your pallet can add an exciting pop of color like a Cardinal in a snowy woodlot.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Flat Weave - The Classically Casual Rug

Flat-weave rugs have become the de-rigueur selection for floor covering of the millennium. They have a simplicity that denotes a casual, laid-back lifestyle. That having been said, the offerings run the gamut. From synthetic weather-resistant outdoor carpets to hand woven bath-mats, there is something for just about everyone and every budget.

Stripes are a staple of the flat-weave market. This effect is simple to achieve by varying the color of the warp threads in a pleasing pattern. However, world-over, there are historic examples of wonderful geometric flat-woven designs. From Navajo blankets to Indian Dhurries, tribal traditions have infused meaning into the patterns that represent their cultures.

Today Dash and Albert offers panoply of outdoor rugs. Woven from spun polypropylene, these carpets hold their color, resist mildew and are tough as nails! We have one of these work-horses in our mudroom and it holds up to all that Vermont can dish out (including Mud Season!).

There are a number of retailers who have tapped the resources of mills in Asia to offer exceptional values in either cotton or course wool. I recommend doing some research into the social responsibility of these manufacturers, as many of these sources endorse exploitive work practices.

For a truly special application, you might want to consider a custom woven rug. Select colors from a wide range of pom-poms. Develop a design or select a pattern from the weavers’ portfolio. And roll out your truly custom creation. These rugs make for great stair runners when woven in all wool. Working with a skilled installer, fine details like mitered corners and hemmed edges bring a level of sophistication to this simple material.