The Outside World

As the days lengthen, our thoughts shift to the open air. We’re ready to enjoy the garden, to dine alfresco and lounge by the pool. Read on to glean insights from lauded landscape gurus and to take in the season’s top outdoor furniture trends.

Zen Associates

Splendor in the Grass
The pool is just one of nearly a dozen different zones on the landscape of this multiacre family home in Weston. “Also on the property are two hot tubs, a 28-foot-long koi fish tank, five fire pits, multiple seating areas, an outdoor kitchen and dining pavilion that seats 14,” says Peter White, principal of Zen Associates, the Woburn-based landscape design-build firm that created the elaborate setting. “The homeowners host 300-person outdoor gatherings, so the yard needed to accommodate functions on that scale while feeling intimate and casual enough for the family to use daily.”

The design was driven by the homeowners’ contemporary design sensibilities. “There is a great deal of connection between the interior and exterior areas of the home,” says White. The grey granite pool deck and paving on several outdoor spaces, for example, recalls the color of the exterior of the home. “Since there wasn’t a lot of variation in color, we used granite boulders in a sculptural way as they punctuate corners of the property. The kids also use them as a climbing apparatus,” adds White.
Since the family has allergies to bees and pollen the team had to work around a restrictive plant palette. “We incorporated a lot of evergreen, but there’s nothing showy; we couldn’t use big flowers or long lasting flowers,” says White. “So the textural dimension provided by the boulders was key.” Despite the lack of flora, the yard exudes distinction and unending visual appeal.
The family uses the pool year-round thanks to the constant 85-degree temperature. To ensure the area is comfortable during the colder months, one-third of the paving around the pool is heated. Tiny lights were installed at the bottom of the pool to add illumination and interest. “When it’s dark out, they sparkle like constellations,” says White. 

Zen Associates

Woven Wonders
Lightweight and luxurious, Kettal's Cala Collection features an open rope weave paired with robust curves. Pieces have a bold presence while latticed openings maintain connection with the surroundings. Sofa pricing from $9,508, Casa Design Outdoor, 450 Harrison Ave.

Zen Associates

Going Green 
When Matt McKenna, creative director of garden design at Winston Flowers, is developing a new planting scheme, his starting point is the vessel. “The most important part is selecting the right container for the space,” he says. “We’re all about a cool, sculptural vessel.” Given that his specialty is the container garden, whether for urban balconies or suburban patios, the attention makes sense.

To fill the container, the Dorchester native takes cues from what’s happening in Europe. That means editing down the varieties of plant material, often to just a single specimen that melds perfectly with the vessel. While traditional designs incorporate three to five elements that mimic a floral arrangement, McKenna assigns each of those elements to its own container. He might do a grouping of three bowls ranging in size from 12 inches to 24 inches, with an ornamental grass such as carex or mondo in the largest, a flowering plant like New Guinea impatiens in the midsize one and a trailing element such as dichondra in the smallest. The result is a trio that reads as a mixed planting.

It’s a more modern approach that keeps a container garden from looking too classic or too pretty. The pared down plantings tend toward the textural and even architectural. With all the clean-lined architecture going up in the city and the emphasis on modern dwellings in the suburbs, cute flowers just don’t cut it.
Instead, McKenna embraces textural greens and grasses, which are aesthetically edgy and require minimal maintenance. Some of his favorites include foxtail fern, asparagus fern and sedums. He also favors Heuchera, which comes in colors that correspond to the seasons, like chartreuse for spring and burnt orange for fall. “I like to re-create what happens in nature in my designs,” McKenna says.

As for the ever-trendy succulent, he says: “They’re overplayed in interiors, but I still like them for summertime container gardens in New England.”  

Zen Associates

Material World 
Although inspired by old Hollywood, Evitavonni is anything but black and white. The London-based fabric house has released Outdoor|Indoor, a new collection that harkens to the sophisticated, genteel aesthetic of three classic films: Roman Holiday, starring Audrey Hepburn; Summertime with Katherine Hepburn; and High Society with Grace Kelly. Simple, beautiful and made by expert weavers from around the world, the textiles are designed to withstand the elements, including light fade, stains, water and mold. To the trade

 

Zen Associates

Bringing the Heat
For his recent collection with Frontgate, interior designer, author and television personality Martyn Lawrence Bullard—who counts celebs such as Tommy Hilfiger, Kendall Jenner, Cher and other notable names as clients—went characteristically bold with the Arcadia mosaic tile fire table. Rated for 50,000 BTUs and featuring black-and-white granite tiles placed in a striking graphic pattern, the stylish, luxurious fire table will heat up chilly evenings in more ways than one. $11,995

 

Zen Associates

On Tap
A longtime leader in commercial refrigeration, True Residential’s newly bowed outdoor under-counter refrigeration offerings allow homeowners to craft a chefworthy kitchen, poolside. Options include a refrigerated beverage center, wine storage, an ice machine and a drink dispenser. Conceived for the ultimate entertainer, the single- or dual-tap draft beer dispenser uses an exclusive airflow technology, ensuring an always-frothy pour. To the trade, Yale Appliance + Lighting, 296 Freeport St.

Zen Associates

Bright Eyes
For his sculptural lighting collaboration with Dedon, award-winning designer Stephen Burks brings a whimsical element to the outdoors, combining handwoven bodies with Italian-milled marble bases and optional acrylic eyes to create an eccentric collection dubbed The Others. Alone, each personality-packed lamp makes a strong visual statement. But when stacked in totemlike formations, playful characters emerge. “I imagined a colorful community of dreamers, full of personality, gazing back at the rest of the world with ambition, sophistication and pride,” says Burks. “They appeared to me almost like ambassadors or guides into our imagination.” From $900, Showroom, 240 Stuart St.

Zen Associates

A New Day
“The Daybreak collection was developed around the idea of combining casual comfort with bold design,” says Marc Kurlander, Link Outdoor’s director of design. For the rectangular Daybreak dining table, which spans 120 inches and seats up to 10, Kurlander mixed teak and stainless steel to create a versatile piece that would be at home indoors or out. The table also comes in a variety of finish options. To the trade, Webster & Company, Boston Design Center

Zen Associates

Lounge Act
It’s a brand built on the breezy attitude of coastal California, so it was only a matter of time before Serena & Lily debuted the Capistrano outdoor daybed. The Sausalito-based company turned to its own Avalon bed for inspiration, reimagining the airy design for a porch or patio using a handwrapped resin that mimics rattan. A French mattress with piped edges and button tufting looks as polished as an indoor lounger, but offers the durability of Sunbrella fabric designed to withstand the elements. $2,498