The other day I was able to catch the documentary Five Seasons on legendary gardener Piet Oudolf, who notably envisioned the meadow-like plantings on NYC’s The Highline and who owns Future Plants, a perennial plant nursery and breeder in the Netherlands.
What was very apparent from the documentary was how intentional and planned his work is, but also his deep reverence for seeing how that design plan compliments and goes hand in hand with nature’s own process. His color palettes are notable with deep burgundy’s, grays and beige punctuated with pops of brighter color, and as the title suggests, beautiful in all four seasons. His gardens have a focus on structural plants that are sturdy throughout weather changes, use a lot of repetition, and a diverse array of plants that give the impression of a wild meadow but would never actually be found together in the wild.
I am personally inspired by the intersection of landscape design with man-made architecture and environments and always head straight to the parks of every city I visit. I have been to Lurie Garden, one of his projects in Chicago, and especially loved the way the plantings there lead your eyes right to the modern building behind it.
Below is the trailer for the documentary. What are some of the most inspiring gardens you have visited?
One of my favorite things to do is to take a drive to a place a little off the beaten path and just see where I land. Recognizing that my tween daughter didn’t have camp for the next few weeks and trying to prevent us from both going stir-crazy (library books and staying at home were only going to go so far) I started thinking of things we could do together that were outside of our usual routine and not just the typical museums that we often turn to on these occasions. My daughter has grown up traveling and really enjoys these sort of exploratory outings just as much as my husband and I.
Even now that she is probably getting too old to use this phrase, I still tell her we are putting on our “explorer hats” which means I really don’t know what we’ll discover and find, it’s new to me too, and we are just checking it out. That seems to appease her for the most part generally and she stops whining as much about “where are we going”.
On this particular outing we landed in downtown Pittsboro, NC about a half-an-hour by car away from where we live in downtown Cary.
I knew the downtown had just one main street with a few small shops on it so that’s where I headed. About five minutes before we got to the downtown it started pouring rain and I wondered if it wasn’t the best day to go out, but when we pulled into the one open parking spot the rain had turned into a slow drizzle and the sun came out. We ducked our way to the end of the street at the first place that looked interesting: a vintage shop called Screaming For Vintage. Immediately I was transported to the town I grew up in where I used to scour antique stores on the regular and admire the old storefronts. Screaming for Vintage has high ceilings and beautiful brick walls and glass windows. My daughter loved checking out all the sparkly vintage dresses, the hats and the creepy mannequins. I loved feeling like I was in high school again.
Usually when I go to a new place I ask them for recommendations on where to go. The shop owner at Screaming for Vintage said that Pittsboro is really a weekend town and mentioned the Carolina Tiger Rescue Center (we’d save that for another day) and just checking out the shops on the street we were on. She also mentioned two spots for lunch, one that she said closed at 2pm, but the food was amazing, and a bakery, also with amazing food. We decided to pocket those recommendations for after we checked out the other shops on the street.
On our walk we went inside a hippie-dippy gift shop called New Horizons Trading Co complete with Dansko shoes, linen apparel and quirky joke gifts. Here my daughter found some lego contact lens cases that she thought would be perfect for her dad and also decided that at some future date she wanted a pair of clogs.
The next stop was an antique store called Reclamation Home Furnishings where, as with all antique stores, I had to look at every item and contemplate its origins, its design, its usefulness, where it lived before it came to live in this antique shop, and so on. I’m glad I’ve found a willing accomplice in my daughter because it’s not for everyone (ahem, my husband). I found a vintage blue metal toolbox that I was *this* close to buying for organizing assorted tool sundries, but then I remembered we live in a tiny house and just don’t have room for extra things these days. This is actually a good problem to have when you are a magpie and it’s really helped me to clarify and edit down to the things I really love.
After that shop we popped our heads into the Pittsboro Youth Theater where we were enthusiastically greeted and given a quick tour and shown their “pirate camp” in action, as well as their two (pretty professional) recording studios and the ship that campers created for their upcoming Peter Pan production.
Then we stumbled into Circle City Books & Music, the dreamiest used book/music store complete with a lush sidewalk garden overflowing with blooming annuals and Leonard Cohen playing on the speakers – talk about high school reminiscing and all the feels. My daughter was just as smitten as we went from room to room eyeing books from floor to ceiling. We each walked away with a few treasures: her a Dork Diaries book and the coveted next Harry Potter book in the series, and me with a Scandinavian baking cookbook.
Past that and a block away we landed at French Connections, a shop with a yard full of tin animal sculptures, a porch overflowing with African market baskets and an interior where every square inch is covered with imported fabrics, drums, African masks and other accessories in an eclectic and completely unique assortment.
We made our way down the other side of the street and popped into the country-music loving Deep River Mercantile and I snapped a picture of this corner moment, while my (getting hungry at this point) daughter quickly ushered me out.
We wanted to take these stairs that seemed to go nowhere but in actuality went to the SG Music Co Violin and Fiddle Shop. Ultimately, we decided that it might be awkward inside with just us, so we admired the stairs as a novelty and moved on.
We spotted a woodworking / tool sharing shop calledThe Woodwright School. And then being about 1:30pm it was lunch time.
This is the part of the trip where despite already reveling in the quaintness of small town living, our minds were really blown. We decided to go to the “Small B&B Cafe” that was recommended and as we pulled in, I knew we had made the very best decision. Driving into the driveway I felt like we weren’t in the Triangle area anymore but somewhere we had traveled to as a destination spot on a vacation somewhere more exotic. There was a patio filled with outdoor tables, a trio of small buildings made from salvaged materials, which you can actually rent out as a vacation stay, and a “Small Museum of Folk Art” inside another. There is something so amazing about discovering a place that feels special and spectacular and not having heard about it before.
Naturally, we decided to check out the tiny folk art museum first and it didn’t disappoint. A friendly, little white cat followed us up the walkway and into the building which was bright and light-filled and covered floor to ceiling in inspiring and colorful folk art pieces. The walls themselves had their own unique pattern to them and embedded in the back wall were the words “Folk Museum” in wood as well, but all painted in white so it was a subtle touch.
I am still in awe and can’t wait to go back with my husband and others. This place is truly a hidden gem and worth the drive if you are in the Triangle area, a must visit, that again, I can’t believe I had never heard of before.
After the museum we grabbed a bite at their Small B&B Cafe, a farm to table restaurant where the owners are there taking your order. I had a perfect-at-this-season BLT and my daughter had a custardy french toast which she declared as delicious. Across the street I spotted this tin roofed beauty of a house and then we headed back home.
Other recommended spots that we didn’t get a chance to check out this go-round were: The Phoenix Bakery, S&T Soda Shoppe (for their banana splits, sundaes and Coke floats) & Oakmoss Attic. I have also gotten a massage a few years ago at The Spa at Bell House and I remember it as having a roaring fire and warmed blankets – I must have gone near my birthday in the late Fall. Also worth noting if you are headed this way from the Triangle, NC area is one of the Jordan Lake access points that boasts a beautiful rocky beach. I can’t remember which access point it is, only that it is off of highway 64 on the way to and very near to Pittsboro but not the sandy beach that most people are familiar with.
This is definitely a trip I will be taking again soon with some friends and family. Is there anything I missed? What else would you recommend in or around Pittsboro?
Henrietta Red is a beautiful Nashville, TN eatery specializing in seasonal cooking and oysters. The name comes from chef Julia Sullivan’s grandparents and is an homage to them. In addition to the restaurant they have a private event space next door for intimate gatherings and corporate events.
The combination here of concrete floors (a surface I’ve only recently become smitten with), wooden farm house table paired with white chairs and the warm touches brought in by the fabric pendant and textiles hanging from the wall, are perfect. I want to sit here and gather with friends.
I am really into restaurant interiors that have beautiful and special details. I think because of my own experience in event planning and my love of interior design, seeing how these spaces both function and flow, in well designed ways is really inspiring to me.
What a nice treatment of tile and grays and whites here on this wood oven, even the slight arch of the oven door mirrors the organic shape of the wood stacked above. My husband wants to build a pizza oven in our backyard, woudn’t something like this be lovely?
How cool is this type treatment and sign inside the restaurant. The cute dog sitting there doesn’t hurt either.
I love potted trees and this olive tree looks so good potted in this galvanized olive basket.
I work part-time as a food, prop & interior stylist so I always look at the names of the photographers in the magazines I read. I am endlessly inspired by their talent. Recently, I happened upon the work of Anson Smart, an Australian lifestyle photographer in the latest issue of Martha Stewart Living.
One of the biggest perks of this line of work is getting to see so many cool interiors and meeting really interesting people.
I love this blue denim fabric covered inspiration board covered in photos that Anson captured in someone’s home here. I actually also have a few denim covered pin boards in my house too. I like how they are just a little different than the traditional linen covered ones (or standard cork board) but still almost a neutral. I’m a sucker for a beautiful collection of ceramics too.
One of the things I do in my own home and the spaces that I design is use a lot of mirrors. Mirrors instantly bring brightness to a room by bouncing light and creating the illusion of bigger spaces and more rooms. They are especially lovely when placed in front of a light source or across from a window, or in front of plants, doubling your effect. I’ve also hopped on the white walls and gray trim trend that is on display here, though I haven’t really settled on it 100% in my home – half the trim in my house is painted gray and the other half isn’t while I’m still deciding…it’s been about three months…
I love this whimsical hand-lettered sign around this brass doorbell. I am always impressed by clever signage especially when businesses use them. I think smart and handsome signage can make a really nice finishing design touch.
Who doesn’t love a collection of straw hats and bags all in a row? This is a pretty display and is functional too. A secret of styling is that things always make a big impression when they are grouped together.
Bougainvillea is one of my favorite vining flowers and in parts of California and Mexico and other more tropical locales it is a perennial and blooms year-round. Here in the Piedmont area of North Carolina it is considered an annual but will bloom all the way from Spring until Fall. I have heard of some people who have brought theirs indoors to overwinter them, (though they don’t bloom during that time) and then they bring them outside again when it warms up. The thing to note about bougainvillea are their thick thorns that you have to watch out for. Regardless, whether you have your own or just admire them in a picture, they instantly transport you to a breezier state of mind.
I like a Windsor chair in small doses, I tend to like them when they are black and more rustic and organic looking. I like how these look alongside these textural abstract paintings.
I appreciate so much the ability to see things through someone else’s eyes, such as these photos by Anson Smart. His website features a vast array of work including food photography, lifestyle photography and portraits too.
Loeffler Randall is a shoe and accessories company that I have been hearing a lot about lately. I love this tassel and raffia pouch and that they post images of what inspired this collection: straw, pom poms and minimal beachy vibes.
How cool is this pom pom backdrop they created for a company party?
I am always on the hunt for sources of inspiration that combine plants and interior design and highlight both through beautiful photographs. Recently I happened upon the book House of Plants, which you can find in the Gather Goods shop here. The book was written by two girls who run a company called Ro Co in North London.
I love that the interiors showcased in the book are both clean and collected, a look that is harder than it seems to achieve. This entryway storage shelf shown here embodies a feeling of controlled clutter, which I feel like is the most many of us can hope for in our homes. I’m lucky to see a semi uncluttered house maybe once a week with a tween in the house who likes to make her own collections out of everything she picks up.
Ro & Co embraces air plants, terrariums and all things green and makes plant crafts and displays in their conservatory/studio.
The book is dotted with sweet illustrations like this one that was in the front and back end papers of the book.
The weather here in Raleigh lately is hovering around 80 degrees. Though I am firmly in the Summer and Spring camps, I do like experiencing each distinct season and value embracing the essence of each.
Fall in my mind is about pulling out sweaters, drinking hot tea, hiking and getting outside – it is about pruning back the spent flowers in the garden and mulching and putting the beds to rest, about picking apples and baking, about bright skies but a muted, unsaturated color palette.
I know that soon this warm weather will pass, the air will turn brisk, the leaves will change color, then drop and I’ll be gazing out the window wishing for the first signs of bright green new leaves to emerge in the Spring.
I recently stumbled upon the work of textile designer Jess Feury. The muted color palette of her fiber work is consistent across all her pieces and is both retro and thoroughly modern at the same time. She lives and works in Berkeley, California and is the daughter of an artist and mechanic who values working with her hands. Her work includes handwoven apparel, jewelry and textiles. She draws inspiration from antique textiles, outsider and folk art, the world around her and found and unusual materials. How beautiful is her work?