Hello again. I hope you had a wonderful Independence Day weekend! I love the 4th of July, and my birthday just happens to come the day before, so I always have a lot to celebrate in July. This year I spent the weekend at the lake, soaking up the sun and eating all my favorite foods, generously prepared by my friends. It was a lovely time, and I couldn’t resist sharing this sunset photo from my birthday night. Glorious!
Well, autumn is officially here, and you can definitely feel it here in the northwest part of the state. We have already seen temperatures in the upper 30’s and low 40’s, and I am enjoying it immensely. This time of year, I love to crank open all the windows and fill the house with the smells and sounds of the crisp, fall air. The garden seems to be enjoying the new season, as well!
At the front entry, the ornamental grasses are in bloom, and the Fescue lawn is loving the cool weather. Most of the annuals in the large urns had run their course, so we removed those and will replace them with something more seasonally appropriate, so stay tuned next month for that!
At the street (and elsewhere) the white begonias continue to thrive. It almost looks like this boxwood cone in floating on a cloud!
Around back, we have been getting the outdoor living spaces ready for fall entertaining by cleaning up, preparing the fire pit and by adding little flourishes here and there, including this centerpiece.
This is something you can easily recreate, and it makes an interesting focal point during any season. We simply took a large, shallow container that was lying around the house and filled it with several sandblasted Manzanita branches. This is a particularly sculptural branch I like to use when decorating, and we rely on them year-round for arrangements, special displays and holiday decor. If you prefer, you could use branches harvested from around your own garden. Next we placed a dozen or so Tillandsia plants among the twisted branches. These easy-care, exotic plants give the arrangement an edgy, yet natural, look and are about as low-maintenance as it gets. They do not require any soil to live and simply have to be soaked or misted on a regular basis. You can find Tillandsia and other ‘air plants’ (as they are called) at your local garden nursery or florist.
Other than keeping up with seasonal chores around the house, as I mentioned last month, I recently took my first trip to Charleston, South Carolina. I can not believe it has taken me so long to visit this wonderful, historic city, but ‘better late than never’ right? I am absolutely in love with the culture, cuisine and charm of this gracious southern town and can not wait to go back. My trip was a social one: visiting friends, going to the beach and eating too much! But, of course, I couldn’t help keeping an eye out for examples of the passion for garden and design for which Charleston is known. Below are some of the things that caught my eye and that I managed to capture…usually while biking past. In fact my friends and I traveled almost exclusively by bicycle throughout my stay, and that was one of the most charming aspects of the entire trip! Each image has one or more details that could easily serve as inspiration for a fun fall home and garden project. This entry grabbed my attention for several reasons including beautiful architectural details, mood-setting gas lanterns and traditional iron urns. At the same house, asparagus fern draped elegantly from baskets at each window.
This home was similarly captivating, with its gorgeous front door and the interesting way the vines have been trained around the lampposts. It, too, was further decorated with colorful window boxes and planters lining the walk.
This building may be missing a shutter, but the window boxes look great! I thought these were particularly attractive.
Gates are one of my favorite garden design elements. I love how creeping fig vine has completely covered this garden entry…
…and how the view through this garden gate is so mysteriously inviting.
This entry I found perfectly complete in its simplistic charm. Sometimes a couple of nice planters is all you need!
Equally simple, yet sophisticated, was this front entry walk. Boxwood is my favorite shrub, and these clipped hedges make a deliberate, yet unpretentious, statement.
Slightly bolder, but still refined and elegant, was this basket-weave boxwood parterre. This is right up my alley! The powerful, central placement of the urn as a focal point with respect to the large parlor window, as well as the position of the ornamental tree and adjustment in hedge treatment to correspond with the side porch, shows that someone gave the design of this small garden a lot of thought.
Finally, this stunning and serene pool setting. I almost rode right past this one, but I caught it out of the corner of my eye and had to turn around. What I find most attractive about this scene is the scale of the Italian Cypress across the back side of the pool, the dark plaster color which turns the pool into a reflecting pond and the placement of the four planters at the corners of the pool.
Like I said, Charleston definitely knows how to Live Outside the Box and has been doing so for a long time now. I am excited to go back soon and explore even further the garden and design history of this southern beauty. I am also very excited to inform you that the November issue of At Home in Arkansas will contain a fall outdoor entertaining feature, highlighting areas of the garden you have never seen before, decorating ideas for autumn get-togethers, as well as the culinary talents of my friend, Chef Jen Lewis. So be sure to look out for next month’s magazine, and come back here to visit, too!
Exterior designer Daniel Keeley is an Arkansas native and founder/principal of DK Design. His work has won numerous awards and accolades and is featured regularly in various publications. For more information visit dkdesignoutdoor.com.
Happy March! At last we can see some real hints of spring…and some real progress in my home renovation, I am happy to report. I can hardly wait for the official arrival of spring and all the wonderful transformations that will follow. Likewise, I am eager to see the ongoing transformation of my new house, as well, although a lot has already happened just over the past few weeks.
Outside the old vinyl siding has been removed and the new brick facade is going up nicely. This is going to give the house a much nicer, more solid look. As I said before, my plan is to paint the brick for a monochromatic, more contemporary feel. Since the brick will be painted, I didn’t worry about the color of the brick itself, but I did pay attention to texture when making my selection. I chose a brick with some distress marks and “imperfections” designed into the mold. This texture will show through, even when the brick is painted, adding character and dimension to the walls and keeping them from being too uniform and boring. I have decided to go with one of my favorite paint colors: Sherwin Williams’ Black Fox. It is a sort of muddy charcoal grey/brown that looks great in a lot of different situations. For this house, I like that is is a very earthy color, which will blend in nicely with all the garden areas I plan to install around the house. It also looks good with the color of the existing metal roof on the house, and I am very eager to see it go up. But, alas, we will have to wait until next month to begin the paint in order to give the new mortar time to cure.
All the new windows have been installed as well, and they are a huge improvement! In choosing them, just as with the exterior paint color, I considered the relationship between the house and garden and thought about the views from inside as much as the overall aesthetic from the outside. Consequently, I chose large triple windows for the front facade which will let in plenty of natural light and help make a strong connection to the front garden. The windows are real wood both inside and out, and I can’t tell you how much resistance I got over wanting a window with real wood…especially on the exterior. These days, most new windows come clad with vinyl or aluminum on the outside, making them virtually maintenance free. But, I do not like the look of these cladding materials, and I wanted to be able to paint my windows whatever color I want…which is not really possible with the cladding, as they come in a limited selection of colors. So, I went with real wood, and they will receive the same paint as the brick.
Another thing that bothers me about modern-day windows is actually one of my biggest building pet peeves, and that is a lack of depth in the window framing and molding. So many times I see expensive, and otherwise nice, houses being built with windows that look flat and cheap because there is no trim. It really ruins the whole house for me, so I added every kind of molding/trim option I could!
In addition to the windows, the new front door has also been installed. It is a solid wood door with heavy molding, which I chose to give the entry a strong and somewhat formal appearance. The coolest thing about the door is that it is made from teak…the same wood that is used to make a lot of high-quality garden furniture. My plan is to leave it unfinished and let it age naturally. Just like teak furniture, it will adopt a silver color which will look great against the dark paint on the brick. As with my wood windows, everyone is giving me a hard time about not applying a sealer to the door and telling me it will never last. Well, I am going to give it a try anyway. After all, rules are made to be broken, right? If my plan works, I will have a unique and beautiful front door that has the same color and texture as a piece of aged driftwood!
While the brick was going up, I decided to do a little upgrading to the front steps and stoop, too. So, we ripped out the old steps, which were very narrow and had started to sink, and replaced them with wider, more inviting ones. Then we used a natural quartz stone tile for the stair treads and to resurface the old concrete porch. All this works together to give the front entry a more classy and updated sense of curb appeal.
Now, even after several weather delays, the brickwork is finished, and the front of the house is really coming together.
Inside, things are moving along nicely, too. The major electrical and plumbing work is complete. Sheet rock is up, trim is being installed and painting is underway.
In the living room/dining room, you can really see what a difference the new trim makes. The old base and window moldings were out of date, and there was no crown molding at all. I chose new pieces that have simple profiles, in order to keep things looking clean and crisp, but in sizes that are nevertheless ample to provide a little bit of drama.
For the new pocket doors and transition between the living room and what will serve as my den, I decide to add a little extra trim detail. The result makes this passageway just a bit more elegant than it otherwise would have been, and the continuous molding between the ceiling and the top of the door actually makes the space seem taller than it is.
I am painting everything (walls, trim and ceiling) in the main rooms the same color: Sherwin Williams’ Dorian Gray. One reason for this is to keep things clean and simple…one of my goals with the interior. In my work with clients, I am exposed to a lot of color, so in my own personal spaces I usually gravitate to a more monochromatic, neutral pallet. Another reason is that by keeping the interior colors neutral, my hope is that the eye will be drawn outward toward the garden, thereby heightening the connection of the two realms. Besides gray being my favorite neutral, The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde is one of my favorite books, so I just couldn’t resist the temptation of this color! It is going to be a wonderful backdrop to all the art, furniture and accessories that will eventually fill the house and will also complement the smoky gray/brown stain I have chosen for the hardwood floors: Sherwin Williams’ New Ebony.
In the den, I have decided to create an accent wall, directly across from the entry to the room, by installing 100-year-old barn wood. Here, the wall is being prepped to receive the barn wood which will give this room a lot of character and texture, as well as a nod to the outdoors.
In the kitchen, all the cabinets are in…
…and have even received their first coat of paint. This is the same Dorian Gray as all the walls and trim in the main living spaces.
In the bathroom, the floor and wall tiles are almost completely installed. On the floor, I am using a black natural river pebble that has been sliced to give it a flat, smooth texture. I thought this would be a great way to bring the outdoors in, as well as to add an unexpected quality to the bathroom. On the shower walls, I chose a very large, rectangular tile with a dramatic raised texture in a wave pattern. I thought the wavy lines were reminiscent of water, and I just love the depth it has. Plus, by running the extra-long tiles vertically, it makes the bathroom seem a little taller than it really is.
Another way I am attempting to make this very small room seem larger is by not having any threshold between the shower floor and the rest of the room. By countersinking the shower pan into the sub-floor, all the river pebble tile can be laid at the same level, making the space flow better and seem larger.
The bedroom is the only room that will not be painted in the Dorian Gray. Instead, I am painting it white–walls, trim, ceiling and all. I always wanted this room to be a different color than the rest of the house and decided on white because it is very peaceful and will allow me to do whatever I want in the way of bedding, furnishings, etc.
In the master closet (as well as in other closets throughout the house) I am installing custom cabinetry and shelving in order to maximize the useful storage space, none of which I can afford to waste in such a small house!
So, there you have it. A lot of progress in a short amount of time. Just how I like it! Be sure to check back in next month when, if all goes according to plan, we will be installing appliances, hardware, plumbing fixtures, lighting fixtures and other details!