Tuesday, September 7, 2010

On hold.

It seems to happen every year at this time.  The last brief summer outings, children returning to school, new sporting season begins, schedules all confusing and unsettled, and blogging takes a holiday.


Please pardon my absence while S.W. Design regroups and transitions back into autumn’s routine….

Friday, July 16, 2010

You MUST visit here, part II

front in spring
You may remember, a few months ago, I posted about the house at Filoli here, with the promise to post about the gardens soon.  Well, I’ll admit I’m a bit slow sometimes, but I do keep my promises in the end.  This past week, I got to go home to the San Francisco Bay Area and visit with my sister and made it a point to visit Filoli again to see what was blooming in the gardens this summer.

Above is the massive entry way with it’s stunning gothic lantern.  Be sure to notice the carved detail in the ceiling overhead.  As spectacular as the house is itself, the interiors pale in comparison to the landscape and gardens in my opinion.  The plantings and displays change every season.  In the nearly thirty years I’ve been visiting the estate, I’ve never once seen the same place twice.  It is truly remarkable the amount of talent and hard work that the volunteers and staff put into keeping the home and gardens as magnificent as they always are.

Just outside of the front entrance they have recently erected a temporary dovecote covered in succulents and topped with a thatch roof.  Robin Stockwell, owner of Succulent Gardens in Castroville, California, designed and planted the vertical panels covering the walls of the dovecote and loaned them to Filoli.
Filoli staff Lucy and Jonathan Tolmach designed the dovecote which was built by Filoli's woodworker, Paul Feichter. The succulents in the dry wall, the containers and the thatch shingles were grown by Filoli greenhouse staff. The design of the structure was inspired by an original aviary in the greenhouse courtyard, which housed the Bourns’ parrots. Dovecotes made today are ornamental garden features, but historically dovecotes were functional and designed to raise pigeons for squab. The word dovecote refers to the dove's cottage and is pronounced “dove cot” in England. The roof of the dovecote is covered in thatch like shingles made from flats of straw seeded with perennial rye.


The succulents were grouped and selected for contrasting foliage effects. They were planted in plastic panels which are designed for making vertical walls. The panels are watered from above with a drip irrigation system, which drips water from one panel to the next taking about 100 minutes to completely soak all five vertical panels. The succulents are watered every 7 to 10 days. 

DSCN0229  Hi there!
Filoli’s new dovecote houses three mated pairs of pigeons rescued by volunteers of the MickaBoo Dove and Pigeon Rescue, a division of Mickaboo Companion Bird Rescue in San Jose.  These pigeons, found abandoned on the streets of San Francisco and San Jose, are named June Bug and Bandit, Squeak and Sesame, and Angel and Bo.

     Exiting the house,  you enter the sunken garden.  This is the most formal area of the garden and the floral displays are always spectacular.  This was the way we found it today….

The peach colored flowers are stock.

Notice the potted containers leading up the steps, this is a design element you’ll see over and over again in the gardens.  I love it!

reflecting pond
A different season, a different year;  the garden is equally beautiful.  The fog rolling over the hills beyond makes a beautiful backdrop for the blue and yellow of the plantings.

This time the parterre’s are filled with blue-maybe salvia?  See the pots lining the steps?  Tulips are a perennial favorite at Filoli.

sunken garden blue and yellow
The clock tower atop the former carriage house, now garden shop is the only reminder of times’ passage as you stroll through this lovely setting.

Springtime in all of it’s glory.  The color selections each year are clearly made by a very well educated eye. 

Adjacent to the sunken garden is the delightful garden pavilion.  Reminiscent of an orangerie, a garden pavilion was a building frequently found on the grounds of fashionable residences on the east coast of America during the 18th and 19th centuries. Similar to a summerhouse or a conservatory, the garden pavilion was a symbol of prestige and wealth.

mom's media card 120609 171

Filoli's garden pavilion was designed to make a break in the long brick wall enclosing the walled garden and to match the architecture of the main house. It has eight stone figureheads at the top of the French-style windows.


The interior floor of the garden pavilion is composed of large Tavernelle marble, separating bands of black and gold marble and small squares of Belgian black marble. The wainscoting (or splash panel) around the walls is beige Tavernelle marble. The tabletop is brecciate violet Brocatelle marble. The Bourns used the table in their San Francisco home.

The elaborate wall sconces were originally intended for the staircase area in the house.

A pair of lovely white doves greet visitors in the summer months.

Filoli was designed to include many of the elements you would expect on an English country estate.  In addition to a formal garden, plenty of space was allocated for a large working kitchen garden with espaliered fruits, berry cages, vegetable garden, cutting garden and greenhouses.

Summer paths lined with lavender. 

Utterly impossible to resist running my hand through as we travelled up the path.

A row of corn-- the knot garden beyond.

Knot gardens were commonly designed to display royal coats
of arms, figures of plants or animals, or stitches of embroidery, and the interstices would be
filled with colored sand and earth (open knot, as at Filoli) or with flowers (closed knot).

While knot gardens are traditionally composed of flat hedges, Filoli’s has a different look;
hedges are shorn and sculpted into three-dimensional under- and overlapping woven
strands, making their maintenance more challenging, but also creating a beautiful, intricate,
undulating effect.
The shrub that contributes the exquisite maroon color to Filoli’s knot garden is a cultivar of Japanese barberry, Berberis thunbergii ‘Crimson Pigmy.’ The Japanese Barberry’s dark leaves contrast beautifully with the grey and green foliage of the other plants.

In 1991, Mrs. Duncan Low, a garden volunteer had the idea to create miniature versions of the original knots. Filoli’s maintenance staff built two 36” square boxes and engraved the sides to represent the brick pattern of the garden’s walls. Each box took four hours to plant, with dwarf hedges spaced at one inch on center.  The lead
horticulturist of the panel gardens keeps an eye on the water needs of these plants, and volunteers are in charge of their weekly pruning with bonsai shears.

One of many iron gates in the walled gardens.  Each one boasting a beautiful view beyond.

Spires of acanthus practically sparkling in the sunlight--recommended by English gardening authorities of the period as an excellent foundation plant and in entry courtyards for bold and architectural effect in scale with large residences and has low maintenance requirements. These were grown by Romans in villa gardens.

A stunning pink tree rhododendron under the cool canopy of the hundreds-of-years-old trees above.

More parterres--filled with simple pink begonias.

A visit last Autumn finds a garden asleep--storing energy for it’s spring spectacle.

mom's media card 120609 182
An important element to the formal garden is the presence of the evergreen, Irish yews, which permeate the space creating strong, vertical lines. These compliment the formal design and serve to guide the viewer’s eye to important features.

mom's media card 120609 186
A view of the back of the house~visible here are 8 of the house’s 17 chimneys.

same door different year
A back door with potted flaming tulips lining the steps.

steps with tulips
Another door boasts delicate pink tulips.

The estate has many of these stone planters and statuary pieces--a wonderful way to add architecture to any garden, large or small.

mom's media card 120609 198
A show-stopping Agave plant adds it’s own brand of architecture.  I loved this planting so much, the first time I saw it, I came right home and planted my own Agave pot.  Hopefully, someday, it will grow to be as jaw-dropping as the one here.

Succulents in a cement basin~does it get any better than this?

Several of the garden gates are topped by these stone cartouches. 

Amazing ironwork--craftsmanship not often seen today.

Filoli 085

There is so much more to see and each time I visit I see and learn something new.  It is such a wonderful source of inspiration.  Filoli offers many educational programs for gardeners and their website is a virtual wealth of information. To learn more about this magnificent estate and all that it has to offer, visit them at www.filoli.org.  To see the post I did on the house, click here.
I hope you enjoyed your tour of the gardens at Filoli,  I know I did!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Hot, Hot and more Hot.



Stuck inside.  Too hot to work in the garden and more hot to come.  Typical for these parts, although I think these temps are actually a little on the cool side for this time of year.  I guess I shouldn’t complain:  We lived in Palm Springs the first year we were married--the mercury hit 132 degrees one day and hovered around 120 the whole summer…ugh.  

So, here are a few images to take the edge off the summer heat….


















All images via French Interiors, by Christiane de Nicolay-Mazery

Hope you’re having a cooler week where you are!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Proud mama moment


image via Vintage weave

Lately, I’ve been feeling inspired by all things industrial.  So, I’ve picked up a couple of old metal box/trunks, and as usual, I’m not sure yet where they’re going to go, but I like their “old-beat-up-ness.”   The smaller of the two had gobs of old ugly paint on it (yes, I do believe that old chippy paint can be beautiful, but this was just UGLY).  So, this morning I got out my bottle of Citrustrip (the best paint stripper, ever) and started peeling back the layers.  

Child #2 (age 8), who has an AMAZING eye, came out to see what I was working on and asked if he could help. 

After working on it a bit, he said that he wanted to put it in his room.  I told him “maybe” but we’d have to clean up the rust on the bottom so it didn’t get all over the carpet.  To which he replied:

“Oh mom, I like the rust--it’s patina.”

Music to my ears.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Covert Operations


They say confession is good for the soul, but myself, I find that playing dumb goes a lot farther….

I’ve mentioned before, my crippling inability to leave a “treasure” behind, a problem which has only been magnified over the years.  So, as a result, I’ve had to get creative with ways in which to sneak incorporate these pieces into my home. 

I have found that the best course of action is to wait until everyone else has left the house and then stealthily retrieve said items from their safe haven under the jackets and beach towels in the back of my oh-so-roomy car. (Which, may I say, I can pack 4 dining room chairs into, when the rear seats are down--reason #1 why I bought her!)

The next step in the mission is to quickly consolidate these finds into the decor before anyone has returned home.   This part can sometimes prove tricky, because I do what I tell others not to do--that is, to purchase items without a plan.  I know better, but I’m afraid that knowing better sometimes isn’t enough. 

I would like to add, however, that in the end, because I love them so much, I can always find a way to make these treasured finds work. 



Take for instance, “Pablo” here (my 8 year old finally named him--don’t ask)….  I lugged him home from the local flea market one day this spring.  The entire LONG walk out to where I was parked, I had him hoisted over my shoulder like I was burping a forty-pound newborn (really, it was ridiculous--children pointing and giggling.)   At the time, I  had no idea where I wanted to put him, I just knew that I had to have him.



After much rearranging and head scratching, he has finally landed a home in my dining room/soon-to-be-library on a console in front of the window between two large wheat-sheath Italian tole lamps (also rescue-pieces.)

Often, actually almost always, new finds must spend some time being triaged in my dining room--aka “Design Purgatory,” before transitioning into their semi-permanent home (because you know, nothing is ever permanent-permanent.)  



When the items are large, like say, a 7’ antique COLUMN, the whole operation must be taken to a higher level.  (This baby took lots of jackets and beach towels.)  Like all the other impulse purchases, it is now serving it’s time in design purgatory.  I have a few ideas for where to put it, but haven’t had the “aha, I’ve got it!” moment yet.




I nearly wrecked my car when I first spotted this darling chair.   Running late to get child #2 to baseball photos, I was trying to save time by taking a shortcut when… Rrrrrrh! Hit the brakes.  There she was, sitting on a driveway full of junk at a neighborhood yard sale.  What to do?!  Risk missing pictures altogether, or go inquire about the chair?  Well, let’s just say, it was like garage sale-ing on crack…

I run across the street, phone to my ear, telling the team mom that I’m “…in the car RIGHT NOW,  just around the corner. Hold the pictures, we’re almost there!”  

Me, to the nice man at the sale (wondering how much cash I have in my wallet):  “How much are you asking on the chair?”

Nice Man: “I’m asking $20, but I’d take less.”

Me:  “Would you take $15?” (Seriously, could I be more of a cheapskate?!”)

Really Nice Man:  “Sure, can I help you load it?”


(BTW, we made it to pictures by the skin of our teeth--no one the wiser.)

I don’t think I can make the pink velvet work in my home (love it, though).  So, I’m thinking I’ll reupholster it in a light oatmeal colored linen.  The cushion is down filled--I couldn’t have even bought the feathers for $15, let alone the frame, which is in perfect condition.



I kind of hesitate to post this picture, because it’s such an ugly duckling at this point, and I haven’t done anything yet to make it a swan--so you’ll have to use your imagination.   Think Swedish country. 

I came upon this cute little roll-top desk some time ago and again, with no plan in mind, I just couldn’t bear to leave it behind.  So, into the dining room it went. (I have very large double doors that swing into the dining room which, when opened,  create perfect corners in there in which to “store” things temporarily.)

Several months later, I caught my husband searching Craig’s List for “roll-top desks.”  When I asked him why in the world he was looking at those, (believe me, it’s totally out of character for him to look at anything remotely design related) he said that he wanted somewhere to set up his fly-tying (fishing) stuff.    Currently, the bits and pieces are in a big plastic tub that he drags out periodically to the kitchen table and it’s a big messy production whenever he decides to create some bugs. 

“Well” I say, “It just so happens….”

So I show him the desk I bought that’s now been sitting behind the doors for a couple of months. 

“That’s exactly what I need.” says Mr. Bass-Pro  “When did you get that?”

Me:  “Oh gosh, I bought that ages ago….”

Him:  “That will work out perfect!”

See, I told you playing dumb goes a long way. I managed to kill two birds with one stone--I got to save a cute little desk and he’ll have somewhere to keep his hobby stuff that won’t be an eyesore and drive me crazy.

These are just a few of the larger pieces that I’ve brought home without any idea in the world where they were going to go.  There are many, many more small accessory items that have been dug out of the dark corners of antique stores and estate sales.  They are much more quickly and easily absorbed into the decoration than some of the big pieces.

I am so not an “off the rack” kind of girl.  Consequently, when I find something I like at a great price, I grab it.  Certainly not a process that works if you want the instant gratification of a completed room, but I much prefer a space that looks as though it has been curated over time.

I am comfortable waiting for pieces to find me, big and small.  But if you’re not willing to wait, I suggest purchasing the large items, like sofas, beds, etc. from the design center and let the accessories and artwork evolve over time.  The result will be a space that is truly reflective of your own taste and that your friends and neighbors will envy (and will never be able to knock-off, because it was created with one-of-a-kind items.)

Related Posts with Thumbnails