Home & Design

Green Acre #174: Inside the Great Outdoors

BABY’S PERSONAL PRINCE Pete moved her teapot to an upper cabinet in the kitchen the other day. 

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It’s a MacKenzie-Childs bauble, all black-and-white checkerboard with a cinnabar bobble on the lid, very Alice in Wonderland. Take me to your tea party. 

The Courtly Check Enamel Teapot from MacKenzie-Childs, banished from the stovetop by Prince Pete, is $150 at M-C shops and at mackenzie-childs.com.(Don’t worry: It’s back in it proper place.)

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She bought one for me a decade ago, and I returned the favor last Christmas. This makes us both happy.

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In my kitchen it’s nearly lost amongst the, um, stuff I accumulate. In hers it’s a playful exclamation point in her streamlined working space.

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“I don’t like clutter,” Pete said as he swooped it off the sleek black surface of the stove. “Take it down and put it on the burner when you need it.”

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Pete is not a mean person, he’s just all about function. Function and straight lines and clean surfaces. He preferred the simple teapot they had before. Not in the least whimsical, all business. He served for a time in the military. It shows. 

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Baby, meanwhile, respects the ruler’s edge but embroiders outside the lines, adding pleasure to business. Like me, she sees that there should always be a dose of fantasy, of wit, of giddiness in any space, whether inside or out in the garden.  

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Which brings us to Inside Outside: A Sourcebook of Inspired Gardens, by Linda O’Keeffe (Timber Press, $35), fresh and new and perfect for holiday gifting for someone, or for yourself. A tutorial, of sorts, on building the bones of a garden—and then taking fabulous creative flight.

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O’Keeffe, a design writer and editor who was creative director of Metropolitan Home magazine for 16 years, provides beautifully photographed and delightfully detailed commentary about of the homes and gardens of an inspirational collection of designers, architects and gardeners. They include a formal courtyard in Palm Beach; a manor-house in England—complete with moat; and a garden of hostas (and nothing but hostas) in upstate New York. 

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Some are flamboyant, like Mark Ripepi’s splendid six acres in New York’s Hudson Valley. His mentor was Luther Greene, O’Keeffe writes, a theatrical producer turned landscape designer who “operated out of a chinoiserie– and Delft pottery–filled greenhouse on Sutton Place, in Manhattan. He visited sites dressed in white linen suits and commissioned Salvador Dalí to design his stationery.” 

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Ripepi, she says, absorbed his flair, designing gardens like ever-changing theatrical sets.

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There’s a wabi-sabi wonderland  in Laguna Beach, California, created by Greg Salmeri, who delights in the gentle aging of plants and furnishings, sourcing the imperfect for himself and clients while he “welcomes the prospect of the sun bleaching the vibrancy from fabrics or patterned ceramic tile.”

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There’s a dose of surreal in the roof-top apartment in Paris of American architect Michael Herrman. Here a living wall of greens surrounds a 10-foot-tall gilded mirror atop a baroque—working—fireplace. A wall of glass that separates it from the living room, or not. The seasons change in this living tableau. Birds fly in and out, snowflakes fall, and the sun slants through.

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Interspersed are O’Keeffe’s own inspired takes on space and harmony, color and fragrance, and most of all the value of creating rooms within the garden, carving up a space, no matter how small, to create a delightful sense of “intrigue and adventure” around every turn. 

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Some of the gardens profiled are, to my mind, too serious and structured. Lovely but overly designed. I didn’t think there would ever be a day when I’d say, Too many hydrangeas. And no matter how lovely, a garden requires a place or two to sit and daydream, preferably comfortably,  an idea that several of these gardeners reject, preferring that visitors view their grounds as if they were touring an installation at MOMA or the holiday windows at Saks. 

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No matter. The inspiration is bountiful, no matter your gardening taste. One of those perfect books for dreaming of what might be, could be, will be . . . 

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As for that teapot, as soon as Prince Pete left the house, it was back on the stovetop, for no greater purpose than to make one smile. 

—Stephanie Cavanaugh

LittleBird “Stephanie Gardens” gardens in her mind when the real thing isn’t possible.



2 thoughts on “Green Acre #174: Inside the Great Outdoors

  1. Pete says:

    *her* working space?! Also, whimsy is the worst.

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