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?
I am happy to say that all seven offices in the new Gather Studios space are filled with a wonderful mix of tenants, each of which are business owners. I will hopefully post more about that (and them) at a later date but for now wanted to share about the grand opening and some of the makers that I will have popped up in the back garden.
I have been spending the past few months upfitting the space and getting it geared up to host classes, events and to function as the showroom of the relaunching soon online shop. One of the key differences I was seeking out the most compared to the other Gather spaces was a private office for myself, outdoor and bigger classroom space again, a focus again on community and shared spaces, and a showroom versus an open all the time retail store. I have achieved that with the new space and it feels like I’ve landed on the winning solution after years of editing and refining and of course a year long break to figure out what I really wanted. I also adore being in what feels like a small town where I can walk from my home to here and be a part of a close-knit community but also very close to Raleigh as well.
It feels like now is as good a time as any to host a grand opening event to celebrate this special space, and it lights a fire under me to wrap up a lot of the open ended projects that I’ve been working on non-stop in getting a space up and running again. There are so.many.details. and I seem to always forget that, rose colored glasses and all, but the effort is always worth it in the end, when the space comes to life and functions as I’ve envisioned it and feels like a cozy, serene and inspiring spot for myself and others to interact with and work out of.
To celebrate on Thursday July 19th from 7-9pm I am hosting a maker pop up in the back garden featuring a handful of talented makers, The Humble Pig food truck will be here, Pharmacy Bottle & Beverage will be serving beer and wine, there will be live music and everything in the showroom (lots of new items for the relaunching that day online shop) will be 20% off. Fun!
The new space is located at 417 Kildaire Farm Road, downtown Cary, NC 27511. There is a big parking lot across the street for the Cary Arts Center as well as Cary Elementary and this is where I would encourage you to park. You can find more information at the facebook invitation here.
Below are highlights from the makers who will be in the back garden selling their wares (and there may be a few others joining in as well)
Derek Keller of 440 Gentleman Supply makes handmade leather goods like bags, wallets and other accessories from his garage studio in Raleigh. Everything he makes is hand cut, sewn and produced by him and is inspired by modern architecture and vintage motorcycles and gear. He learned how to craft from his parents and recently took his craft full-time.
Liz Esser of Haden Designs in Raleigh specializes in brass and leather jewelry and seeks to create pieces that give that feeling of unique beauty to their wearer. Some of her newest pieces combine intricate metal patterns and textile weaving and all are in lovely muted shades that are reminiscent of autumn.
Erica Gimson is a textile designer with 20 years of experience creating home accessories for multiple Fortune 500 companies. She now makes her home in Raleigh where she designs her own pieces which start from hand drawn sketches. She is inspired by the idea of giving people the tools to create a life that they love.
Raleigh, NC based furniture maker Matt Booty of Enkle Designs has lived in South Africa, Seattle, Greensboro and Raleigh and brings that well-traveled perspective to his work, drawing particular inspiration from Scandinavia. Specializing in handmade furniture and home accessories, Enkle Designs makes each piece by hand and places a high value on sustainable materials.
Raleigh, NC potter Liz Kelly’s ceramic work is inspired by traditional craft and contemporary design. She makes functional home goods that are both earthy and elegant. Her time studying at NC State’s College of Design has given her a unique perspective rooted in the craft origins of design.
Adam Davis Furniture specializes in handmade wooden furniture and unique wooden accessories and is based in Raleigh.
Hope to see you there meeting these makers in person and supporting their craft (and of course just checking out the space), and if you can, please help me spread the word! 🙂