Fine-Tuning Your Garden Furnishings
Choosing garden furniture used to be simple. The once-basic French wrought iron table, wooden or cement benches and a birdbath or two are no longer the norm. Things have changed. Now there are many choices in garden furniture and accessories. For those who wish to give their garden a European flair, the choices are even more tantalizing.
"It's surprisingly simple to bring a European ambiance into your garden," says Darren Schmahl, garden designer and owner of The Copper Leaf Garden Store in Niagara Falls, Canada.
Schmahl has plenty of experience with European gardens; he graduated from the John Brookes School of Garden Design in England and has been helping others design their gardens ever since. While Schmahl himself doesn't favor a certain style of furniture, he suggests people take a cue from the interior of their homes.
"As a designer, I would recommend choosing a style (or combining styles) which best suits the home and the homeowners," Schmahl says. "It is important to establish a connection between the home and garden. Think of it as the 'room outside.'"
Mix and Match
Whether you choose garden furniture with clean Scandinavian lines or intricate wrought iron furniture in the French tradition, it's hard to go wrong with classic designs.
The accessories used with the furniture can affect how the style comes across. For instance, wrought iron can lend an austere, formal touch to your garden, or it can be softened into a French romantic style with a bright floral tablecloth and a pitcher of flowers. The spare style of Scandinavian furniture can be used in a purely modern garden or given an oriental flavor with a few Japanese sculptures.
"Many different garden designs can be created with the same type of furniture; it just depends on what accessories you are using," Schmahl says.
Elizabeth Schumacher, owner of Garden Accents in Conshohocken, Pa., believes that furniture styles can be mixed, but cautions against going too far. "Americans live in a melting pot and have become comfortable with mixing styles in our homes and gardens," Schumacher says. "It is possible to become too comfortable and create a ridiculous clash, such as using a Japanese lantern next to an Italian cherub."
Schumacher thinks the key to using different styles is to create various areas with different moods or feelings. "If that is not possible and you really want to mix Scandinavian simple wood featuring sleek lines with something heavier and more ornate, like French cast iron, it would be best to limit the more ornate pieces to accents," Schumacher says. "Rather than mixing the ornate pieces directly with the wood, place them in a separate small grouping in a prominent spot."
To add a European feel to your garden, Schumacher suggests that showcasing a French blue or yellow in the color of a bench or chairs is a popular way to add a French look. Contemporary sculpture from Europe and elsewhere mixes well with streamlined furniture.
Using natural stone in walkways or patios lends your garden a European feeling of permanence. French wrought iron furniture on a stone patio can help even a newer garden look as if it has been there forever. Hand-crafted pieces of antiquity and vintage garden sculpture with character can mix with your garden furniture to achieve an elegant look.
"Americans admire the long tradition of gardening in Europe and love all sorts of European antiques and fine reproductions," Schumacher says. "These can add a wonderful settled look and sophistication to their gardens."
For More Information
4 Union Hill Road, W.
Conshohocken, PA 19428
The Copper Leaf Garden Store
3845 Main Street
Jordan Village, Ontario
L0R 1S0 Canada