By Fred Leary
A Tuscan Landscape Gateway
Successful landscape projects require cohesive designs. This is true whether you are building a simple patio and walkway or an extravagant porch addition, pool, outdoor kitchen, and fireplace project. Choosing a theme is one approach to developing a unified design that ties together all of the various elements. Themes can be based on regional styles such as Tuscan designs, English Cottage, Mediterranean or Japanese Gardens. Design paradigms from periods such as modern, post-modern or contemporary, can work as themes. Wildlife gardens, children’s gardens and sensory gardens focus more on experiential element than the forms of style. The possibilities are far ranging so a creative designer can develop a theme that will fit any project.
Designers can use a theme to guide all the decisions regarding a project. First, a theme will inform the concept designs for a project. This is the big picture phase of design focused on the overall forms and gestures involved, the delineation of uses for various spaces, and the choreography throughout the spaces designed. At this stage, an English cottage garden theme will tend toward informal, organic gestures with the definition of a series of quaint rooms throughout the project scope. A cottage garden is designed to be experienced hands on and to evolve over time as inhabitants change aspects through that interaction with the landscape. On the other hand, a modern garden theme will be formalist in approach with large sweeping design gestures and specific powerful points of interest. It is designed to be experienced through the views of the gestures, not through active hands on involvement. Whether rustic or modern, formal or informal, themes help the designers keep a consistent, cohesive approach to the project.
Once the overall concept design is complete, the theme can be used to inform the detail designs of the various project elements. The specific design for an outdoor fireplace in a Japanese garden will not be similar to a fireplace for a contemporary landscape. Japanese garden design is rooted in the representation of nature, while contemporary design focuses on innovative combinations of modern materials. Planting designs for a wildlife garden will involve a wide range of native, food bearing plants arranged to reproduce the natural appearance. A formal English garden tends to use limited numbers of plant species arranged in strong architectural gesture such as boxwood hedges. Having a theme will create a unified appearance to the range of design details throughout a project.
Finally, the plethora of material choices involved in a design project will be guided by the design theme. Everything from the choice of building products to the outdoor furniture style should fit the style and intent of the theme. Contemporary designs will call for combinations of clean, simple materials. Contemporary designs tend to focus on combinations of woods and various metals. A contemporary deck may use elegant South American exotic hardwoods combined with stainless steel braided cable railings. The lighting fixtures and furnishings would have clean, simple lines and the color pallet would be neutral. Contemporary design tends to use innovative cutting edge gestures that don’t reference other times or places. Tuscan design themes are influenced by the Mediterranean Italian countryside with French and Spanish undertones. Materials will tend to speak of a past period of time and will be organic and vernacular in nature. Natural stones, rough antiqued timbers or columns, antique fixtures and furnishings, and warm, rich colors fit the Tuscan design theme. A theme can ease the sometimes challenging process of choosing specific materials, styles and colors for a project.
Themes are a helpful tool to guide the design. When questions come up, or struggles arise in the design decision process, the theme will help resolve those decisions. If a theme is followed throughout, the final project will be unified and cohesive. When choosing a theme, pick one that related to the existing architecture of a home, the lifestyles and personalities of the family members and the preferences of the homeowners. Then follow that theme throughout the project and the final result will be a functional and beautiful project.