As the long-awaited summer reveals itself with warmer temperatures and bright, sunny skies, I’m increasingly lured outside.
Having outdoor space in New York City is a luxury that I appreciate crazy amounts. To be able to grill on warm nights, relax with a book at sunset, plant herbs, and gather around the fire pit into the fall, that pretty much sums up swooning for me.
Designing and executing my garden layout and plantings was both exciting and time-consuming, and thinking about how I wanted to use the space was key. Let me take you through my process.
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I wanted the terrace to feel rustic, relaxed, slightly bohemian — not slick or overly designed. I knew I wanted twinkly lights strung overhead to mimic the Manhattan skyline across the East River. Using inexpensive knotty pine that would weather and grey, was essential to stay within my budget — and it achieved that rustic look for the built-ins.
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Hiring a builder and gardener was where I splurged a little, but it assured me that I was choosing the right plants and materials. Built-in seating and planter boxes around the perimeter of the terrace was costly, but it maximized every inch of the space as I created zones for lounging and dining. I purchased outdoor cushions from West Elm, on sale at the end of the season, and had the contractor build seating to fit those dimensions. There is always a way to balance high and low.
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I’ve been known to be crafty (which can also help you stick to a budget), so when I snooped some massive ceiling beams being ripped out at a construction site, I asked the construction team if I could salvage them. My goal was to create a simple table from these time-worn beams. A quick peek on eBay yielded a pair of cast-iron industrial machinist worktable bases, and boom!, that became my table!
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The exterior of my apartment is unique, as it is clad in corten steel, which appears rusted. I riffed off this, adding corner steel on the wood planters, and rusted planters along the concrete wall. I even found a round fire pit made from corten steel. That firepit has become the sweet spot for gatherings, as friends and family lounge on seating adorned with bright ethnic throws and colorful pillows. A glance into my finished terrace on any given night will reveal laughter, full bellies, and marshmallow roasting in progress.
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Lastly, the planting. I knew I wanted a restrained palette of vibrant greens set against deep purples, and a combination of leafy textures found in wispy trees, plants, and bushes. I also wanted structured and architectural succulents, alongside sturdier evergreens found in the pines. I sent representative images to my gardener, and he recommended plants appropriate for my space’s particular exposure to sun and wind.