Outdoor Décor with Age and Charm
As a garden designer, I believe that gardens are not just for admiring, but are made to be lived in and enjoyed. And after a winter in Connecticut, there’s nothing I want to do more than “move” outdoors.
There are all kinds of opportunities to create wonderful outdoor spaces by incorporating antique and vintage elements into your landscape. You would be surprised how many things you already have, or can easily get, that would add a nice accent to your garden. An old wooden, paint-splattered ladder for instance makes an excellent multi-terraced plant stand, and small china teacups make charming pots for a small flower or succulent arrangement.
I like to use old garden tools and galvanized metal watering cans as accent pieces. They are terrific displayed on garden benches grouped with terracotta pots, adding instant character. I have even seen antique crystal chandeliers hung from trees or pergolas, and I love how these unexpected elements create outdoor still lifes.
So where do you start? How about the front porch? You can hang artwork and mirrors, and complete the look with rugs and lamps. Wicker and bamboo furniture is perfect here and can be upholstered or slip-covered with old fabrics since there is protection from sun and rain.
If you have a stone patio or wood deck you already have the foundation for an outdoor room. If not, there are easy ways to create relaxing spaces almost anywhere. You can create a peaceful little hideaway in a corner of your yard with a cobblestone path, some perennials, a couple of rustic twig chairs, and some side tables accented by a vase or two.
My approach to creating outdoor spaces is the same as creating indoor spaces. In designing an indoor room we have large items like sofas and rugs, which anchor the room, and lamps, pillows, and small accessories as accent pieces. Outdoor spaces are the same. Large plantings such as trees and hedgerows, furniture, arbors, and trellises are the anchors, and small plant-filled pots, wicker baskets, and other garden ornaments are the accent pieces.
Start with the bigger pieces first. Maybe you already have something you want to design around. If not, flea markets and estate sales are great places to find vintage furniture and accessories. Keep your eye out for sturdy wicker, rattan, and cast iron pieces. You may need to sand and paint your finds a bit, but the effort will be worth it.
If you have some stone urns or pots fill them with annuals for perfect accent pieces. A fence nearby could be used as a wall to grow vines or hang flower pots, and a few antique lanterns or strings of lights can set a great mood in the evening when friends are visiting.
A single piece can make a dramatic difference. A trellis covered with climbing roses can be a focal point for an entire garden. An elaborate Victorian wrought iron garden gate can be incorporated into a design that creates a dramatic entryway into a secret garden. Don’t have a trellis? How about a vintage headboard? They can be just as charming, with vines like Clematis or Morning Glories growing over them.
Marble birdbaths naturally lend themselves to any garden with the added benefit of attracting birds. Antique stone fountains with their sounds of gurgling water are relaxing and add so much ambiance to an outdoor setting. Kitschy, twentieth-century folk art has also become very popular and can add a whimsical touch.
Sculpture and garden art play a role in the design of gardens; large classic statuary, modern abstract sculpture, metal spheres and concrete orbs can be a great focal point in a mass planting or on a large spacious lawn.
The most successful garden rooms help merge the boundaries of indoors and out. The relationship between ever-changing plants and architectural elements is what really brings the garden together to create a total and personal living space. This is what makes the designing of a garden room so exciting, expressive and fun. So don’t be afraid to mix it up and have fun, because that’s what gardening is really about.
You do not have to leave Connecticut to find vintage treasures for your garden. Stop at any consignment shop along the way—you never know what you may find!
Black Rock Galleries 1720 Fairfield Ave., Bridgeport 203-335-0000
United House Wrecking 535 Hope St., Stamford 203-348-5371
Elephants Trunk 490 Danbury Rd., New Milford 860-355-1448
The Elemental Garden 259 Main St. S, Woodbury 203-217- 2464
Stratford Antiques Ctr 400 Honeyspot Rd., Stratford 203-378-7754