Boston Makeover 2012

The other day, on a flight home from Boston I was ogling a lovely 1830s cottage makeover in a recent issue of Country Living. And by ogling, I mean coveting the homeowners' ingenuity in recreating that distinct space.  Though touted as simple--and indeed, in the material restraint it was--the collection of well curated objects d'art casually strewn about a reclaimed seamstress table and backed by glossy black walls is the product of no shortage of effort and care.    It wasn't just the appeal of the comfortable space that captivated me, rather it's the creative process that yielded this well-loved home that really got me salivating.  

My trip to Boston--a good excuse to catch up with dear friends, was a project weekend.  My friend Matt, a recent transplant from Emory to Boston Medical, has an outdoor patio in his newly acquired South End apartment.  After living in a modern Atlanta loft, with no outdoor space to nurse a potted plant or sit with a drink, he was pretty ecstatic over his tabula rasa--a triangular brick patio.

So I came up for the weekend and we had two days to style and plant.  Anyone who does garden design and install knows that sourcing the right materials can be the toughest part of the job, especially when you don't really have any time to gradually hunt for just the right piece. Pair that with the fact that I had never been to Boston, and Matt just moved there 6 weeks ago.  I'm used to having a strong sense of where I can go to find my bread-and-butter garden peices, and where I'm likely locate something really special, and how to simplify a project with the right tools on hand.  None of these were in our favor, but we made it work.

Never having gardened in a place as cold as Boston, and knowing that they won't enjoy the same protracted mild fall as Atlanta, I was a bit hesitant with my plant selections , especially given that our planted space would be limited to above-ground containers subject to deep freeze.  I did have a good sense of what would sustain those conditions (I also consulted a friend who is a designer in Chicago, and he proffered much fair warning on what to expect from container plantings during freeze and thaw cycles). Fortunately, the patio space is incredibly protected, surrounded by building and brick all around, and my sense is that it's not in an incredibly low spot vulnerable to cool wet pockets of air--let's hope I'm right.

I had identified some nurseries and vendors, and we made our best effort at rounding up what we'd need to make the space new (Mahoney's in Brighton was a great find, and we located some gorgeous conifers at Russel's Garden Center west of town).  I was also trying to stretch a dollar, and feel like we were successful in that effort.  We went to a brilliant architectural salvage shop, made all the more promising by the hordes of renovations on Victorian buildings in the area.  Here, we identified some unique pieces that could be added to bring the space more character.  They were closed on Sunday, so the salvaged windows and grate we want to use for screening are yet to be added.  Nor could we hit any wholesale design centers, as we only had the weekend.

Still, between local garden centers, Ikea, Home Depot, Target, etc. we manged to transform the space.  Sourcing snafus and traffic had put us on a tight schedule, so Sunday night, in the cool September air, several of our friends reunited under dreamy globe lights and newly hung candle lanterns  With Thai takeout, red wine, and bags of soil, mulch, sand and stone we chatted and laughed, me with my hands in the dirt and on a watering can.  I planted alongside dear friends under festive lights and we worked together to create something new.  The madcap scavenger hunt made to outfit the space is just as much a part of it as the Microbiata decussata spilling from the blue bowl.

I can't wait to return and accessorize! (We have a powder-coated blue cafe table on the way!)


  1. You didnt have to go to Boston. You could go over to Cantrell Rd and give that place a once over.

    1. There's no reason one should preclude the other...sign me up!


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