Walk into Julie and Ben Pruet’s west Little Rock backyard and you may think you’ve entered a European provincial garden. Manicured shrubs, benches for lounging and classic sculptures and art forms abound in the idyllic setting. However, the space hasn’t always looked like this. For years, it remained an untouched canvas before the couple embarked on the renovation. “It was Julie who had the vision for the garden,” says Ben. As a nature lover and garden enthusiast she sketched her ideas and began working with a group of professionals to pull everything together.
Inspiration for the sketches came easily to Julie. The Pruets have lived in a variety of places, both in the United States and abroad. Time spent in England as well as Tuscany greatly influenced her design and is evident in the characteristic features and accessories throughout the space. “We liked the idea of the garden having a European flavor,” Julie explains. She was particularly taken with English gardens. “We were members of the National Trust when we lived in England and had the opportunity to see many English-manor-style gardens through that experience,” she says. The simplicity, elegance and layout characteristic of these gardens is evident in the Pruets’ design.
Using their existing patio as a starting point, the couple used slate pieces to extend the space, and then began incorporating features such as the raised sitting area, the pergola and the iron arbor into their own designated spaces around the lawn. “We wanted it to feel like a large space that flowed from one area to another,” says Julie of the garden’s multiple nooks. Whether they are entertaining guests or simply want to spend time reading a book and enjoying nature, the design invites an array of activities and purposes.
The layout and structures in the garden weren’t the only elements Julie envisioned in her design. “I wanted this garden to have pale, more neutral flowering plants as well as evergreen shrubs,” she says of the color palette. Pairing colors such as light peach, pale yellow and cream with evergreen shrubs creates a continuous scheme that blends with both the home’s exterior and the garden’s structures. Whether it’s the evergreen clematis that trickles from the top of the wooden arbor, the ‘French Lace’ hydrangeas that dot the landscape or the pastel ‘Knock Out’ roses the Pruets enjoy cutting and displaying indoors, each element creates a restful respite and brings continual beauty to the space. “It’s good therapy to work with plants,” laughs Ben, who also notes that cutting flowers is one of Julie’s favorite things to do in the garden. “Being raised in the South, Julie’s mother always had fresh-cut flowers and it’s something we still enjoy today,” he adds.
Julie also took care to make certain the furnishings matched the garden’s aesthetic. Provincial style outdoor furniture upholstered in outdoor fabric adds an authentic feel to the space. After completing the main elements of the design, Julie also visited a wide variety of décor stores in the Central Arkansas area in search of accessories to complement the style. “After living in 13 different homes, you get a knack for putting a look together,” she laughs. She incorporated everything from traditional garden planters to a large French-influenced mirror to complete the spaces.
When the pair is in the mood for company, these fully furnished areas of the garden lend themselves to enjoying the company of friends. “In the fall we enjoy making a big fire and sitting outdoors,” notes Julie. Dining al fresco is also a favorite pastime when the weather permits. “We have always loved being outdoors, but since we completed the project we’re spending more and more time there,” says Julie.
Contractor Jack Hartsell Construction, Little Rock, (501) 376-2871
Design consultant Kim Brockinton Interiors, Little Rock, (501) 661-7600
Decorative painting Bruckman Studios Limited, Little Rock, (877) 650-0304,bruckmanstudios.com
Landscape design Stafford Fine Gardening, Little Rock, (501) 350-8039
Landscape maintenance Botanica Gardens, Little Rock, (501) 614-3000,botanicagardens.com
Iron arbor Architectural Iron Works Inc., Little Rock, (501) 455-9880
Outdoor furniture Cobblestone and Vine, Little Rock, (501) 664-4249, West Little Rock (501) 219-3676, cobblestoneandvine.com
Stonework Bennett Brothers, Little Rock, (501) 455-5040, bennettbrosstone.com