Is it simply hubris, or just plain styoopid to put forward my design skills to this next client, a talented and charming Interior Designer and rowhouse owner? What could I possibly contribute in terms of style and composition to her home’s exterior that she hasn’t already considered and/or implemented? Well, as it turns out, I’m a firehose of ideas and conceptual frameworks from which to pick and choose! First, the bad news:
It is unfortunate that many developers & builders use a tortured and Byzantine formula in order to arrive at the absolute minimum legally-required ‘greenspace’ for their homes– such is certainly the case here. Such a small space is the equivalent of a brief brushstroke on an enormous blank canvas of surrounding light reflecting and heat-absorbing impermeable surfaces.
Very quickly after chatting with the client I saw her to be a brilliant and passionate designer with a great eye for spatial organization and clean lines– her work emphasizes flow, light and air, and a certain crispness that’s quite compelling. So, I knew that whatever I did, I had to make the landscape work as a statement about her profession and talents. The good news is, the bad news means that anything we do, as long as it is not truly savage, will work (as long as I honor those ideals I see in the client’s own artistic work)– there is nothing to reference architecturally or stylistically here, so we are left with limitless possibilities for design concepts free from restraint.
Ok, so I lied– the space pictured above does in fact have to tie in visually with this poor strip of soil:
2 feet by almost 19 feet in length, this slit of fertile earth is orphaned and in need of careful thought and attention. One possibility, which will give the space structure (good bones) and also reference the somewhat imposing vertical lines of the 3 story houses behind, is the judicious use of evergreen fastigiate trees like Sky Pencil Holly, Ilex crenata ‘Sky Pencil’:
Thought of as brush strokes, these are emerald green upward stroked single gestures in the landscape.
Between these vertical elements we can install containers, 24″x26″x40″, made of COR-TEN steel, which will form the framework for countless compositions and arrangements seasonally. COR-TEN is a type of steel which oxidizes quickly and then stabilizes with a wonderful orangey-burnt umber patina. The older it gets, the better it looks:
A quick sketch or two:
I would especially like to see these planters in the winter months, stuffed with evergreen boughs, or perhaps whimsically, wrapped Christmas presents and ribbons around the hollies. At other times of the year they can be lovingly stuffed with a huge variety of plants which thrive in containers. Let’s look at the postage stamp again:
A simple rectilinear shape which begs for some bold containers on the landings (and with such good fortune, the neighbor to the left is all for us utilizing her landing as well). Onto this small space, endless combinations of abstract forms can be placed as a backdrop for those containers:
Seasonally, any number of plantings would look great:
(I meant ‘New Wave Petunia’, not Pansy, above.)
You get the idea!