Monday, 19 March 2012

Balcony furniture

The weather has been spectacular here for the past three days: so sunny and warm that I've been thinking about furnishing the balcony.

In addition to a pair of chairs for my husband and I, we're going to need a table to set a book, a drink or a plate on.  The floor is made of tire-tread pattern metal which isn't the most attractive thing in the world.  It's also going to get very hot in the sun.  I think some kind of outdoor rug would be great.  I've also yearned for a pair of black iron urns out there, to soften and green the space.  The caveat with these grand plans is that the balcony is only two and a half feet deep (and 14 and a half feet wide, with the door dead center), so it's a tight squeeze for most furniture. 

I would love this table from Restoration Hardware, but at 23" in diameter, it's really probably too big to squeeze past:

Chairs were also a challenge.  These from Pottery Barn are pretty (better if painted black), but just too big for the space:

Smaller iron chairs were either plain and boring or too frou-frou.   So I downsized to the idea of two little stools, rationalizing that we can lean back against the RBB's facade or against the iron of the balcony itself.   I've liked these seagrass stools from Pottery Barn for a long time, though I'd been considering them for the beach house and the front entryway.

They're designed for outdoor use.

Next up is an outdoor rug.  I like this wood block rug from West Elm, in the lighter color.  It looks to be a similar tone to the wood on the dining room floor, just inside the balcony door, so the transition between the two spaces should be pleasantly smooth:

Fortunately, two rugs in their runner size will fit perfectly.  I ordered the stools and the rugs this morning.

Finally, I have to decide on tables.  I'm thinking two little side tables, rather than one larger table-to-share.  My first thought was something ceramic, and among the options I've seen, I this one is probably my front-runner to pair with the stools and ironwork:

Unfortunately, it's not something that's designed for outdoor use.  It's also more expensive than I'm comfortable with.

I like this option too, but I worry that it's not substantial-looking enough and maybe too white:

The next option would be great if the blue was very close in color to the RBB's front door (which is directly beneath the balcony), but I think it has too much green and not enough purple in it and it's also borderline too expensive:
Here are a couple of other options:

Potentially good, since the window sills are the same cement color.

This next one would be a million times better in black, but it only comes in white, which I fear may be too bright:

Feel free to vote for your favorite in the comments below!

I am putting off the decision about whether or not to buy urns for the balcony until I've seen the rest of the furniture on it.  I don't want to crowd things, plus I'm worried about keeping the urns watered when we're away at the beach in the summer.  The exposure is south-southwest so they're gonna bake.  I know you can get some kind of self-watering system, but I'm worried it will be unsightly and that it might not keep the plants happy for as long as a week or more.  And there are few things less pretty than shriveled, neglected plants, so I'm treading carefully!  If I do take the plunge, these, from Terrain, are what I have in mind:

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Roof Garden - Plant Selection, Part 1: Perennial Vines, Dwarf Trees and Large Shrubs

I know I haven't breathed a word on this blog in a very long time about the roof garden we were planning for the red brick building.  Well, it was supposed to go in last year, but the contractor we hired turned out to be a dud, so we fired him, then searched for, found and hired someone else.  We've been discussing the project with this new company since Christmas-time and it looks like everything is on track for the roof garden to be installed at the very end of March or in early April.  I've been afraid to actually make that statement in writing in case it jinxs everything again.  Fingers crossed.

I've been immersed in gardening websites, books and magazines and am putting the finishing touches on the roof garden plan over the next few days.  Everything is worked out except for the final plant varieties and a couple of furniture items.  I'm sure many ideas won't work and there will be changes as the garden evolves but it will be excellent to have a plan that looks complete on paper and to be able to place plant orders before everything good sells out.

The overall idea is of a secret, time-forgotten garden, full of highly fragrant white-flowering plants.  I want the plants to burst over the edge of the parapet and climb or drape down the two street-facing facades of the building, covering the red brick building in lush greenery and beautiful flowers.  The biggest constraint is of size and weight: the roof can only support so much weight but the look I want is of something extremely mature and long-established.  The garden is only about 750-800 square feet.  Everyone seems very skeptical that we can get the vines to drape down the facade (they like to grow upwards) and that we can keep them pruned and looking good given the height involved.  Maybe they're right, but I'm not abandoning my vision without trying it first.

Here are the perennial vines, dwarf trees and large shrubs I've penciled in.  Keep in mind that the garden plan is still subject to review by our structural engineer, who will likely need smelling salts when he seems the size of some of these.

Kentucky Wisteria 'Clara Mack", which is supposed to be much better behaved than the Asian wisterias:

Japanese Hydrangea Vine 'Moonlight, which has such interesting flowers, as well as lovely foliage':

Honeysuckle 'Mint Crisp', which has fantastic variegated leaves:

I chose several climbing and rambling roses and had a hard time even narrowing it down to half a dozen.  I tried to use as many old roses as possible, but I also wanted ones that flower repeatedly or continuously rather than just once and ones that are fragrant.  So it's Rose 'White Eden':

Rose 'Madame Alfred Carriere', whose flowers fade from blush pink to white:

Rose 'Climbing Iceberg':

Rose 'Lunar Mist:

Rose 'Darwin's Enigma', which I like because it's single-flowered, like a wild rose:

Rose 'White Dawn':

Moving on to clematis....I tried to take advantage of the amazing range of shapes and sizes that the flowers have.  I also favored varieties that bloom in the very late summer and autumn.  Lots of the flowers I like are summer-blooming, which is the time I will be able to enjoy the garden least, since we go to the beach when it's hottest.  I love the black eyes of Clematis viticella luxurians alba:

Clematis 'Huldine' seems classic and a healthy grower:

Sweet Autumn Clematis:

The extra ruffle-y Clematis 'Isago':

Clematis Macropetalia, whose petals are a lovely shape:

White-flowering Chocolate Vine is a plant I hadn't heard of before beginning my research, but I want to include so less common vines.  I read that it has a fragrance like white chocolate ice cream and I thought "Hey, I like white chocolate ice cream", so here goes:

Native White Passionflower:

Last summer I scored two of the largest size of these large planters for cheap at the Restoration Outlet sale:

In one, I'd like to plant a dwarf magnolia tree.  The two I'm considering are Magnolia 'Lyle's Legacy':

And Magnolia x Lobneri 'White Rose':

In the other Restoration Hardware planter, I'd like to plant a Sweet Mock Orange:

The other shrubs I've included on my garden plan are dwarf flowering quince 'O Yashima':

Lilac 'Angel White':

Or Lilac 'Betsy Ross':

Winter Honeysuckle, which is a shrub rather than a vine and flowers very early in the spring:

Another completely new discovery for me was sweetshrub (Calycanthus x Venus):

Also on my garden plan for the red brick building's roof garden are two espaliered fruit trees: a dwarf peach and a white currant.  I like the idea of adding a little structure to the garden but I've never tried formally pruning anything before so it might be something of a project.  More discussion of fruits - specifically, berries - coming up in my next post about the garden's smaller plants.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Round Two: Curtains for the exercise room

Sorry for the long silence.  After ordering the curtains I posted about previously (along with a few others for the pantry and the guest bathroom shower), I went out of town.  On my return there was an enormous pile of boxes.  I unpacked excitedly, but felt worse and worse with every box I cut open.  Nothing looked exciting, even while still folded up in plastic.  I dutifully took a panel out of each wrapper, unfolded them and draped them on surfaces in the relevant rooms.  Then I looked at everything again the following day.  No dice.  The reds and blues were utterly boring - straight ahead preppy.  The most basic color you'd think of when you think "red" or "dark blue".  The weight of the silk curtains from West Elm was flimsy and pathetic. 

Anyway, I spent hours running around to the various stores, making returns and time on the phone with Ballard trying to figure out their return system (which, by the way, is a complete rip-off cost-wise).  I still have all the Ballard stuff in a stack, looming by the door two weeks later, waiting for me to bring the car around, load it up, make the excursion to the UPS terminal and pay the pricey shipping.  Will. Not. Be. Ordering. From. Them. Again.

Realizing that I'm really in need of a not-boring color and thinking about some of the lovely fabrics I have stockpiled, I rummaged around and pulled out this bolt of antique silk velvet:

As you can see, it's still in that blue-and-orange color scheme I was considering in the last post.  I like the fabric a lot - the texture, the sheen, the way the color shifts with the light.  And I like that the coppery color echoes the copper in the kitchen and helps tie the rooms together.  But the velvet feels maybe a bit heavy to me to use for window treatments in the space.  When I'm working out, I want the space to feel light and bright - like standing outside under a blue sky on a warm day and I worry that shrouding the windows in wintry velvet might be stifling.  (Though ideal for the rare days when the workout room converts to a second guest bedroom.)

Around that time, I scored a fabric that I love on eBay.  It's this extremely lightweight cotton Clarence House print:

The scale is absolutely tiny (that's the whole width of the bolt in the second photo) and the background is a natural beige color, not white.  I propped it up in the exercise room and it looks pretty good.  But I think maybe I want to go with the dark blue color scheme instead (more somber and masculine) and the sprigs make it maybe a touch too feminine.

Then I came across an image of this Japanese paper that I've bought before for wrapping gifts on a design blog (click image to supersize):

That's pretty much as geometric as my taste gets.  My first thought about the image was "exercise room"!  My second thought was "roller shades".  With this paper glued onto cheapo Home Depot white opaque roller shades, there would be the smallest strip of blue at the top of each window when I want to let in maximum light during my morning routine, but when a guest stays overnight in the room, the shades could be pulled down to provide the cozy and masculine look I want for the sleeping space. Plus it's extremely economical!  And fast!

Yesterday I made a special trip to an out-of-the-way Paper Source and bought a sample sheet.  Taped it up and was disappointed.  I was worried the pattern would be too small when seen from a distance and it does: it just looks like a solid but interesting midnight blue.  So in a sense back to square one (still don't have a fabric/paper/style for the exercise room windows and don't know how to find those things).  In another sense, I feel like my thoughts about the window treatments for that room are getting clearer and clearer.  We'll see where this goes next....