We Live in a Material World

A lot of thought goes into our choices for materials that contribute to the overall design of a garden. We’re not only talking about the plants—which are indeed important, crucial actually—but the ornament, tile and paving materials like brick.

garden brick walk

I’m working on a garden that complements a house built shortly after the turn of the century (1918 to be exact) and designed by Francis Townsend Underhill. Sadly, much of the original hardscape was lost to unfortunate remodels from 1980s to the 2000s. I hate to think of the gorgeous terracotta that was pulled out and discarded.

Casa del Herrero
Casa del Herrero    Photo credit: Garya5

In the Santa Barbara area, most of the houses of that era took advantage of the local clay and feature extensive terracotta elements, including brick, which are appealing on many levels. The natural color of the terracotta looks beautiful in the California sun, and the elaborate patterns that were created to transform this inexpensive material into paths that are nothing less than works of art should have been preserved.

Lotusland    Photo credit: Mike Yarwood

There’s another local resource that we tap into on the Central Coast: Lotusland, the estate and gardens in Montecito, which was built in 1919 by the Gavit family and significantly embellished by Madame Ganna Walska in the 1940s. The use of terracotta brick on these grounds is much like the original brickwork on the property where I’m designing a garden now. So, I sent Dawn to scope out the brickwork there, an investigation that would yield appropriate ideas for my current project.

Lotusland    Photo credit: Mike Yarwood

Based on her findings – plus our research of other estates from that period – we developed sketches to help our client decide on some patterns.brick design layoutbrick design layout

With the help of the project’s historical consultants plus our own research, we’re able to get fairly close to what the original paving might have been.

brick design layout

…Finally, a footnote on terracotta, since we’re on the subject: in and of itself, it’s a lowly material. It’s not hard to find or exclusive in any way. It’s all about what you do with it. No matter what the scale of your garden, you can find someone local to design and install terracotta brickwork that’s eye-catching and unforgettable. Unlike the expensive imported tile that’s often used in our projects, terracotta is attainable. It’s the ultimate populist garden material.

brick pattern design

Are you doing any fun brickwork these days?  Please share photos of your project with us on facebook


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