Our mission is to share the wonders of the natural world by publishing books from experts in the fields of gardening, horticulture, and natural history. Grow with us.

5 common styles to consider when selecting garden furnishings

by Timber Press on November 12, 2013

in Design

Knowledge of stylistic history is an excellent starting point because it enables us, as designers, to achieve greater design consistency and deepen our understanding of detail and proportion.—Vanessa Nagel | Photo:

Understanding style, writes Vanessa Nagel, helps designers “achieve greater design consistency and deepen our understanding of detail and proportion.” Photo: David Rodal & Kiftsgate Court Gardens

“When it comes to selecting garden furnishings, you can never ignore style,” writes Vanessa Nagel in The Professional Designer’s Guide to Garden Furnishings. Whether a designer uses only one style or a mix of several, the primary considerations should always be proportion and detail. “Consistency and harmony are essential. After all, if the line, form, and materials of a furnishing do not fit the theme of the garden, the furnishing will feel dissonant and out of place.”

Common, or preconceived, styles are formed using many sources. “Their main inspiration may come from plants or planting styles, geographical or cultural associations, modern fashion, or other origins.” They are helpful in maintaining consistency but are not meant to be taken literally. Nagel advises adapting them to fit the particular site as well as the wishes of the client. In other words, “Don’t design on autopilot!”

COLONIAL & FEDERAL

In early spring, just after the formal hedges are clipped tight, drapes of blossoms highlight the gardens of Filoli, an estate with an eclectic design and strong Colonial influence.

In early spring, just after the formal hedges are clipped tight, drapes of blossoms highlight the gardens of Filoli, an estate with an eclectic design and strong Colonial influence. Photo: Filoli

Colonial and Federal styles are strongly influenced by English (and sometimes German, Dutch, or French) and classical Greco-Roman design. Both styles tend to be formal, though Colonial is slightly less refined than Federal, and both make use of symmetry, including the use of pairs of items.

  • Materials: Cut stone; bluestone; blond or richly colored and polished woods; simple glass or crystal; polished brass; pewter; wrought or cast iron; striped, plaid, plain, or floral-patterned textiles with little sheen or texture, including leather; woven wicker; beautifully glazed ceramics with some chinoiserie (Chinese influenced)
  • Typical plants: Boxwood parterre, formal hedges of local broadleaf evergreen or deciduous shrubs, herbs, classic flowers and perennials such as roses and acanthus, fragrant plants, mown lawn (but consider drought-tolerant, low-maintenance alternatives)
  • Furnishings: Crisp, curvaceous or straight lines, formal, polished, with minimal textural contrast
  • Colors: Neutrals, muted jewel tones

CONTEMPORARY

Once a tennis court, trendy this streamlined, contemporary water garden features a stainless steel and gilded bronze leaf sculpture.

Once a tennis court, trendy this streamlined, contemporary water garden features a stainless steel and gilded bronze leaf sculpture. Photo: David Rodal
 & Kiftsgate Court Gardens

This style refers to current, modern design, including use of technologically new or recycled materials, minimalism, uncluttered lines, and functional focus.

  • Materials: Stainless and powder-coated steel, synthetics, concrete, stone, glass, glazed ceramics, up-to-date textiles
  • Typical plants: Bold, muscular, structural or very finely textured plants to create distinct contrast with materials and furnishings
  • Furnishings: Minimalist, clean, in vogue
  • Colors: Cutting-edge, hip, trendy

COUNTRY HOUSE

Made with local logs, this gazebo maintains a rural look for the wicker seating beneath within a certified organic garden.

Made with local logs, this gazebo maintains a rural look for the wicker seating beneath within a certified organic garden. Photo: Sleeping Lady Mountain Resort

Country house refers to farmhouses, log houses, ranches, cabins, haciendas, and any other indigenous structures, but the style isn’t necessarily rustic. What makes it different from the naturalistic style is its use of the local vernacular without necessarily fitting into the landscape.

  • Materials: Possibly indigenous, same as or complementary to the architecture; also, rusticlooking glass and ceramic, roughly to slightly textured or ethnically patterned textiles, wrought iron, galvanized or weathering steel, copper, medium-toned and naturallooking wood
  • Typical plants: Indigenous plants, annual food crops, annual and perennial flowers, fruiting trees and shrubs
  • Furnishings: Straightforward detailing, slightly curved to straight lines, simple, relatable forms
  • Colors: Neutrals, colors from natural dyes, barely muted primary and secondary colors

MID-CENTURY MODERN

A mid-century home gets a new garden that updates its appearance but maintains the modern theme.

A mid-century home gets a new garden that updates its appearance but maintains the modern theme. Photo: Michael Schultz and Will Goodman

Mid-century modern covers the late 1940s through the early 1970s and was heavily influenced by Bauhaus and Scandinavian designers of the day. New materials and technologies drove these designers to remarkable experimentation. Many of their designs still look fresh and are used in contemporary designs. Look for organic and geometric forms, simplicity, and integration with nature.

  • Materials: Concrete, synthetics (including textiles), molded plastic, woven wire, polished stone and gravel, stainless steel, shiny glazed ceramics
  • Typical plants: Reeds and grasses, including mown lawn (but in place of water-guzzling turf grasses, consider drought-tolerant, low-maintenance alternatives); bold, structural plants that provide sharp contrast to the fine grasses
  • Furnishings: Fashioned by designers of the era, with clean lines and intriguing details
  • Colors: Oranges to rust to brown, aquas to turquoise to pastel blue, silver, black, charcoal, yellow-greens to gray-greens to dark greens

VICTORIAN

An intricately detailed Victorian home has an exquisite garden to match—including the very Victorian use of a palm tree.

An intricately detailed Victorian home has an exquisite garden to match—including the very Victorian use of a palm tree. Photo: Suzanne Arca Design

Victorian style is curvaceous, exuberant, and abundantly detailed. Many people consider it overly fussy and too busy. I have seen this style subdued with the use of monochromatic color schemes and minimally detailed contemporary furnishings. However, its true nature is anything but constrained. Depending on one’s perspective, Victorian gardens can feel either cloyingly or charmingly sweet. Planting schemes are prodigious, audacious, and bold.

  • Materials: Heavily patterned, textured, and floral textiles; dark or white-painted, carved woods; cast iron, ceramic, wicker
  • Typical plants: An exuberant palette of many different plants, including tropical plants, in as many different colors as possible
  • Furnishings: Generously scaled and upholstered, curvaceous, intricately detailed, comfortable
  • Colors: Slightly muted; nearly any shade of red, green, or blue or combination thereof; whites and off-whites

_________________________________________

Vanessa Gardner Nagel designs gardens in the Pacific Northwest and writes and speaks nationwide about garden design. She worked as a commercial interior designer for 25 years with architectural firms in the San Francisco Bay Area and Portland, Oregon, before taking postgraduate coursework in landscape design. She started her own design firm in 2002.

_________________________________________

Click image for a look inside this book:

_________________________________________

Chapters geared toward the professional elevate this comprehensive guidebook to a higher level even as Nagel’s approach makes it an accessible reference for the novice garden decorator. —Booklist

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 norsta77 June 8, 2017 at 6:22 am

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: