Crafting Your Garden Oasis
It’s been a long day; the sun is finally getting low, and you’ve got one thing on your mind: relaxation. When you’ve spent all day inside, there’s nothing as soothing as grabbing your favorite drink and popping out into your garden to watch the setting sun give way to twinkling twilight. But how do you make that must-have oasis your own? Fresh from having constructed one of our very own in just two days at the Lucketts Spring Market, we at Chartreuse come armed with a few helpful tips to get you on your way just in time to enjoy those warm summer nights.
Here’s our garden oasis, and creating it was way easier (and more fun!) than you might think. The journey started with two very different pictures. Working closely with Amy Seabolt of Heirloom 23, we found that just-right concept: The Secret Garden meets Alice in Wonderland a la Chartreuse & co.
The pictures that got us there? Totally awesome and totally different. The first was a triumphant explosion of crimson and ivory and charcoal: taffeta curtains swagging enthusiastically from floor to ceiling like an exuberant nineteenth century ball gown. A raw-wood parquet floor completed the vision, its wooden mosaic lending rustic charm to the formality of the black-and-white striped window treatment.
The second was – at the risk of quoting Monty Python – something completely different. Here, a talented gardener had taken fabulous a room replete with vintage furniture and transformed it into a garden, the iron bed transmuted to a very literal flowerbed. Ecstatic foxgloves and cedars studded a bed of verdant vines and enthusiastic leaves till the whole room was half-wild: nature meeting civilization in full bloom.
We knew immediately that we were after something show-stopping like the first image, and something inviting like the second. The movement of the black-and-white taffeta curtains whispered to us; the half-tame, half-overgrown greens of the other spoke its promise, and we knew we just had to go for it. After all, isn’t that the role of inspiration – to find a concept, meld with it, mold it, and make it your own?
Armed with these visions, we set out to create something unique. After all, aren’t those the best retreats? The ones that just scream you in large letters, bright and brilliant and utterly unapologetic. For us, what that meant was the marriage of fancy and formality: something wild and something tame; something green and outspoken and fun to welcome everyone who saw it to gather and enjoy their time together, sheltered from the sun while still enjoying its glow.
Debate shuttled back and forth between us. We knew we needed moss and ivy and wisteria, gobs of it, and the gentle sway of fabric. We needed patterned raw-wood, and we needed furnishings to invite everyone to come and gather and revel in the fun of what we’d made. We also needed to be able to bring it all together quickly, since we had limited hours for set up and take down at the Berryville venue.
Creative vision done, it was now time for some creative problem solving. First, we had the notion of an expanding and contracting pre-made arch, next sail cloths that would extend from the building outward in cooling geometric shades, but it soon became clear that – fun as these notions would have been – none of them were actually going to work logistically. That’s where Costco carports (yes, you read that right!) came in. Specifically, this guy.
Ugly, huh? But, when you remove that hideous manilla-colored tarping, you’re left with an steel skeleton sporting house-like lines: a pitched roof and straight sides that’re sturdy and capacious, and let the pleasant breezes in. Now, without the tarping, the next hurdle was roofing. We wanted something textural, something suggestive of the raw-wood parquet flooring we’d fallen so in love with in our first inspo picture, but also something that would let the breezes through while still shading anyone sheltered underneath. This was another supreme challenge: inspired by the second picture, we quickly alit upon the notion of wooden garden trellis-walls, but every iteration we stumbled upon was far too heavy until, at last, we found a lightweight version on amazon, which utilized willowy hay instead of wood, giving us much of the same textural and geometric look without the huge weight of something wooden.
With the structure figured out, the next step was the fun one: design.
Positioning one carport at either side of the entrance and popping a farm table down the center in front, we were ready to transform a set of ugly buildings into a hanging garden. We envisioned an oasis of wisteria and ivy, adorned with a deer head to either side, reminiscent of an English nineteenth century hunting or garden lodge. Gathering a world of greens from our farm under the visionary direction of florist-turned-decorator, Jane Christofori of Tableaux, we prepared for our expedition to Berryville. Jane wisely advised us to cut the vine strips long, so we could take advantage of how the plants actually hang and grow in our quest to create a designed wilderness (an activity which ended up having the added advantage of helping us prune our own actual wilderness into something much more manageable). Taking these foraged strips, we toted them to our destination, soaked and wrapped up in plastic and tarps.
Once there, we used florist’s wire to bind a chicken wire cage (filled with green florist “oasis” blocks which you can get from Michael’s and JoAnn Fabrics) to the steel poles of the carport, and then we got to work letting our tendrils wind through and fall from the cage, over and under the willow shading on top. We also used clear packing tape and florist’s wire to bind fallen sticks we’d gathered from around the farm to the steel legs of the carport, helping to disguise the structure further and give it a more naturalistic look, layering moss and vines on top of the tape and green oasis blocks to then, in turn, disguise them.
With that done, it was time to suspend the hanging greenery from the chicken wire and oasis blocks. Jane’s advice? Mix textures, and let them hang as they would grow in nature. The less you think about it, the more realistic it feels, simply going with your gut and letting your own nature advise you. And, boy, was she right!
Wisteria mingles with ivy and boxwood and even some choice pieces of evergreen and grapevine, tendrils whirling and thronging as they would in nature. As the breeze lazily threads between them, the vines wave in soothing, natural currents adding to the dreamy effect.
Inside the structure, we utilized collected vintage planters and wooden orchard crates alongside garden furniture to help complete the effect. But the pièce de résistance? A few choice indoor furnishings transformed into planters.
Ebullient ferns and succulents and foxgloves and moss grow from chairs and lounges and frames in a world of blossoming green, juxtaposing the tame and the wild in a burst of brilliant green. Ikea curtains add another dimension, swaying in sultry hellos to every breeze. They begin like this: weaving curtain rods through the willow roofing (though, in truth, we’d originally meant to use the steel skeleton, itself, as the curtain rods but forgot to weave them through before we put the skeleton together – hence the rods!), another juxtaposition that brings life to both.
On one side, Amy created a shower curtain, adding a rounded element to the very squared off shelters, while also complementing the natural flow of the wisteria vines that yawn and loop all around.
Next, we tackled the table, laying it out between the two structures, an invitation to come and gather round.
Here, we piled frames brimming with succulents and moss, and layered burlap and this oh-so-cool black-and-white patterned fabric: a dining table, a potting table, a gathering point. Branches weave from beneath, while a wisteria garland crafted by Jane floats overhead, linking our two garden shelters. Upon the table, antique statues pair with new foliage, a cornucopia of garden must-haves mingling with vintage brass candelabras and gilded china, exquisite dining components, to create a stately yet approachable garden party atmosphere.
To one side, lounges – both planted and otherwise – complete the vibe. After all, what garden party or after-work relaxation is truly complete without a place to recline and watch the sun set?
Garden oasis, complete! What’s your favorite summer relaxation go-to? We have to say, this one’s pretty amazing. Now, it's time to grab your favorite drink and go enjoy that summer sun. Cheers!
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