1. Use ornaments as finishes
Garden ornaments can guide the way you shape and use your outdoor space, and affect how you feel when you’re there. A wrought iron gate can mark the entrance to a world of greenery, a lantern hanging from a tree elevates your vantage point, a curved bench inspires a nap. Carefully placed, pretty but practical, these elements offer subtle but effective clues: Look for. Slow down. Turn here. In all four seasons, they also give a garden space a finished look. The trick is not to overdo it.
2. Design for exterior parts
“A furnished garden doesn’t have to look too perfect or artificial,” says Susie Beall, an interior designer who, along with her architect husband, Ed, designed the gardens on their rolling acre in Southern California. Their goal: to create exterior rooms as comfortable as those of the interior.
3. Don’t be afraid of the patina
Just as they redesigned their 1950s ranch house in the style of a Tuscan farmhouse, the couple wanted a weathered landscape. They began by adhering to a simple, mostly green, palette of plants featuring pepper, cypress and Chinese elm trees among rosemary, acanthus, Virginia creeper and white “Iceberg” roses. Susie says, “In a very colorful landscape, garden decoration can get lost.” Some items, picked up on their travels, can be classified and expensive, but they share the ground with catalog and nursery finds, so nothing seems too valuable. Read on to find out how they used decorative items to create alluring outdoor living spaces.
4. Repeat the exterior styling of your home
Regardless of the style of your home, ornaments can transport it into the landscape, anchoring the building in its surroundings. Here, to match the rustic stone-clad entryway, iron urns sit on matching terracotta plinths. In the courtyard, a pediment adorned with dolphins and containing potted succulents echoes the theme and creates a focal point. The stone of the house is picked up from the cobblestones, sewn with grass which softens the step towards the front door.
5. Dress the garden entrances
Even in a small landscape, a sequence of discrete spaces, connected by passages and paths, adds a sense of mystery and expansion to an ordinary walk. The Bealls have created a journey that begins with a wisteria-draped arbor near the house and winds down, through terraces, along boardwalks and steps that continue the attractive, weathered stone theme. The paths indicate the way; iron arches and gates – many from gardening supply catalogs and covered with vines – mark the transitions to different areas. Potted bougainvilleas, citrus fruits and palm trees further accentuate the entryways, as do the florets perched on pedestals.
6. Link the furniture to the overall system
The style of any tables and chairs you choose, of course, has a big impact on the look of your outdoor spaces. But they should also be consistent with the other decorative items and materials you use. The Bealls found a pair of inexpensive rusty iron dining sets in a pottery yard. With additional chairs scattered around the cobblestone ‘carpet’, they make a casual lounge for cocktails and conversations.
7. Choose a decor suitable for the exterior
Elsewhere, the couple created an outdoor lounge, but instead of an expensive all-weather wicker, they chose rolling-arm wicker chairs from an import store and patinated them with sprayed marine varnish. Concrete pottery pedestals also serve as additional seating and cocktail tables. A black oval aluminum dining set anchors the main dining space.
8. Take lighting to another level
Many landscapes are more romantic after dark – by moonlight and when well-placed electric lights illuminate the trees and light up the paths. The Bealls took their lighting a step further, hanging graceful outdoor lanterns from tree branches. They also used large streetlight-style lamps to punctuate patios and roundabouts. All these fixtures coordinate with the lights placed on the exterior walls of the house.