A garden is a manifestation of its creator, reflecting one’s personality and passions. Just like how architectural elements, such as coffered ceilings or moldings, are added to interiors to reflect an owner’s style, the same attention to detail should be given to exterior spaces. Components of outdoor architecture–walls, paths, pergolas, gates, lighting, furnishings, waterworks and art–together form the backbone of a well-designed estate. Whether your preferred aesthetic is a well-kept topiary garden using traditional plantings or a free-spirited melange of natural flora, there are various structural elements–fabricated and organic–that contribute to properly planned greenery. Exuberant or contemplative, these spaces prove that inspiring architecture extends well beyond the walls of the home and into the great outdoors.
PHOTO: HENRIK KAM/AEROVANTAGE
1. OPEN ACCESS
Pavilions are an alternative way to provide shelter or act as an ornamental feature in landscape design. Unlike a typical gazebo, deconstructed structures with an exposed architectural framework, like this wrought-iron pavilion designed by architect Douglas Wright, who worked with LaGuardia Design Group and landscape designer Edwina von Gal, offers formality while allowing clear views to the Southampton, New York, property’s surrounding dogwood trees, Myrtle ground cover and a shallow reflecting pool. laguardiadesigngroup.com
2. SURFACE APPEAL
PHOTO COURTESY MECOX
There are few ways to enjoy a temperate evening better than eating alfresco, especially when the dining surface is as gorgeous as it is functional. Channeling summer living in the Hamptons, this round reclaimed plank top dining table is crafted from solid teak and thoughtfully designed to withstand the harshest elements. With available coordinating pieces, such as garden benches and lounge and arm chairs, your outdoor living space will exude classic style and laid-back elegance. mecox.com
3. BENCH MARK
PHOTO: KIP DAWKINS PHOTOGRAPHY
“A bench is a principal element to organize an outdoor space, making a garden into a room,” says McKinnon and Harris cofounder Anne Massie, who, with her brother, Will, turned to some of the company’s earliest designs, inspired by the Regency style, to create this Otey four-seater piece. The graceful diamond lattice back carries hints of chinoiserie, and the white hue offers a bright contrast to surrounding greenery. “There are so many ephemeral things in a garden, and a bench, like architecture, is the one thing that is unchanging,” says Will. mckinnonharris.com
4. SPHERE OF INFLUENCE
PHOTOS: CLIVE NICHOLS
Drawing on materials long favored by architects as well as artists, including stainless steel, copper, bronze and stone, British sculptor David Harber creates dazzling artworks that react to and engage with their natural setting. Geometric pieces include Matrix (right), created from bronze hoops and inset with decorative plates of 23 3/4-karat gold. Dark Planet (far right) features an assemblage of hundreds of irregularly shaped puddle stones–“raw nature transformed to geometry,” the sculptor notes. davidharber.com
5. WIT AND WHIMSY
Eccentric, exotic and fanciful architectural structures were all the rage in English and European landscaping in the 18th century. We celebrate this craze with a look at the glorious range of follies on display through January at the legendary Winterthur estate in Delaware. winterthur.org
Inspired by an 18th-century folly in Yorkshire by English architect John Carr, known for his imposing Palladian structures, the Needle’s Eye rises from a pond at Winterthur’s entrance. Like the sandstone original–designed to settle a wager about whether the Second Marquess of Rockingham could drive his coach through the eye of a needle–the floating pyramid features an ogee door and is topped with a finial in the shape of an urn.
The influence of the Turkish Empire on English decorative arts coincided with the fashion for follies, resulting in exotic structures such as this bright pink tent. Fabric with hand-stitched details and a block-print pattern encloses a cozy interior full of plush seating–the perfect shelter from rainfall during a ramble through the grounds. Winterthur’s original owner, the late collector and designer Henry Francis du Pont–who helped Jacqueline Kennedy renovate the White House–developed the gardens on the 1,000-acre estate in the early 20th century and incorporated various follies into his plans.
For a simple summer house, massive American beech stump pillars support a bundled beech twig roof, all from trees on the estate.Â Grapevine and bittersweet vine serve as rafters, while stacked slices of birch stumps form an appealing pattern on an interior wall. Inspired by a folly at The Royal Gardens at Highgrove, the retreat of Prince Charles, this wee picturesque structure is totally green.
PHOTOS: ROB CARDILLO PHOTOGRAPHY, COURTESY WINTERTHUR
6. EVENING GLOW
PHOTO COURTESY HAMMERTON LIGHTING
Looking to make an eye-catching entry or porte cochere statement? Hammerton’s Chateau fixture, originally designed as an indoor accent and later modified for open-air living, proves that outdoor lighting can be both bold and elegant. As the only decorative lighting manufacturer to offer the industry’s highest performance standard for lasting durability in heavy UV and salt spray environments, this striking beauty can withstand all desert, coastal and tropical climates making it the ideal solution for a wide range of outside spaces. hammerton.com
7. TAKE SHELTER
PHOTO: LISA ROMEREIN, COURTESY RIZZOLI
In his first book, The Art of Outdoor Living, California-based landscape designer Scott Shrader showcases the bucolic grounds of 12 properties as extensions of the homes they surround. Shrader shares his tips for creating inviting alfresco spaces. shraderdesign.com
What qualities should every outdoor area have? With seating, lighting and shelter, a garden can become another environment for living and entertaining. Typically, people feel most comfortable when they have some form of covering overhead, such as a steel trellis or a grid of old olive trees (shown above). Why is that? It is often overlooked as commonplace, but the much-needed shade produced by a tree’s branches provides its visitors with a sense of warmth and protection. Any specific tricks to share? Wherever there is seating, I make sure it faces a beautiful view.
8. WONDER WALL
PHOTO: MARION BRENNER, COURTESY ZETERRE LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE, INC.
To create the ultimate dramatic entrance, landscape architect Jarrod Ryan Baumann incorporated more than 2,800 succulents into a glorious vertical teak garden gate that opens to a Bay Area residence. The composition–an eye-catching arrangement of varietals in a range of shades and textures–blurs the line between nature and architecture in an innovative way. “Our designs tend to be very architectural,” notes Baumann, who used the gate to set the tone for the architecture and greenery within. “We see the landscapeÂ as both a structure and piece of land that we sculpt into something brilliant.” zeterre.com
9.Â HOT SEATS
PHOTOS COURTESY DENNIS & LEE
Believed to have been carried over from Buddhist garden tradition of using natural elements like tree stumps as seats, garden stools have been a part of the Chinese furniture tradition for 1,000 years. Handmade of ceramic using old-master finishes and techniques, the Durian Garden stool (right) and Magnolia stool (far right) are both hand-glazed and uniquely feature a range of decorative motifs like foo dogs, magnolia blooms and simulated nailheads. Not only do they provide great versatility as a side table or extra seating, but they also add that much-needed pop of color or texture to any interior or exterior space. dennisandleen.com
10. PASSION PROJECT
PHOTOS: NEIL LANDINO JR
When landscape architect Janice Parker was given the opportunity to reinvigorate Altracraig, a historic estate in Ridgefield, Connecticut, initially designed by Ellen Shipman, one of the most accomplished garden designers of the early 20th century, it was an opportunity she couldn’t refuse. Here, Parker gives us a behind-the-scenes look at her work on this historical space. janiceparker.com
With your passion for history, this project seems like a natural fit. I’ve always been inspired by the long line of creative and hardworking American female landscape architects who were innovators and trailblazers, especially Ellen Shipman, who broke the mold. She was a single mother from a less affluent background compared to others in her field.
What was your vision for the estate? My client’s overarching goal was to preserve the historical nature of this property and return it to its earliest grandeur. With few existing records of the original garden and only one image from a postcard, I let Shipman’s design principles be my guide while adding my own modern perspective.
Where did you begin? Working with architect Sean O’Kane, certain structural items, like the balustrade (shown above) and lower fountain, were restored to acknowledge the traditional architectural elements. In addition to the lush geometry and vibrant colors that define the plantings, I followed Shipman’s landscape principle of “enclosing” the space to make it similar to a garden room. Using hedges, necklaces of large trees and arches, I tried to weave in that classic sense of garden enclosures.
How do you want visitors to experience the space? With the garden’s historical charm, versatile functionality and contemporary design, I want people to feel the magic of blending the past, present and future together, and not really know where they are.
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