Exterior Lovin’ Posts

Serene and Strong: Zen Gardens

By: Danielle Clockel

Everyone needs a place they can go to be still and quiet, and unwind from the stress of the day. For some, that place is a comfy chair nestled within a room in the home. For others, it’s a luxurious bath. And still others find their peace in nature. The garden has long been a place to go to reflect and regroup, and none is more up to this task than Japanese zen gardens. (I mean, it’s in the name!)

zen1

Photo courtesy of Pinterest.

While they are called “rock gardens,” don’t think you have to completely forsake your beloved plants. Most zen gardens heavily feature stonework and pebbles, but mossy patches and petite trees are also right at home here.

zen2

Photo courtesy of Pinterest.

Maybe you just don’t have a green thumb. Hey, we’re not judging you. Immerse yourself in the meditative process of raking intricate swirls (symbolizing ripples on water) into the pebble gravel of your rock garden. It may be neutral in color, but this garden has visual interest galore!

Minimalism may be a common theme in these kinds of gardens, but don’t fret, maximalists — you can still go big! Shapely trees, peaceful ponds, meandering bridges, different levels…this garden has it all.

zen3

Photo courtesy of Damien Douxchamps.

You can still feature color even if you’re more into rocks than roses. Different stones have different hues, and arranging them in a geometric patchwork creates a fun, modern look.

Because of Atlanta’s climate, it’s easy for us to get wrapped up in landscapes full of lush greenery and bright flowers. But that’s not the only way to turn your outdoor space into a personal paradise! Just picture yourself in the quiet serenity of these zen gardens, and find your inner peace.

Our Picks: The Ideal Poolside Chill Spot.

By: The Balance Design Team

Things are heating up here in Atlanta. Summer is just around the corner, and in our neck of the woods that is one long season! How do we plan to beat the heat? Dive right in!

Stephanie’s pick:

PoolSA

Photo courtesy of Home Designing.

I feel very inspired by Japanese zen gardens, like this one in Kyoto, Japan. My dream includes a natural pool with Koi, moss, pavers and boulders, wonderful Dr. Seuss-like trees and zen temples. Every place I look would be a place for my eye to rest and marvel.

Elisabeth’s pick:

PoolEP

Photo courtesy of Stylish Eve.

I imagine a scene where an architect, landscape designer, electrician, and pool installer held hands and sung “Kumbaya” when they designed this perfectly transitional poolscape. Always on the search for such cooperative examples of indoor-outdoor space, this patio has it all: outstretching architecture, multiple hang-out levels, sultry lighting, tropical foliage, even an impressive outdoor shower. Let’s throw some Moroccan tiles on the side of that hot tub and call it a day (or night), folks.

Shelby’s pick:

PoolShA

Photo courtesy of My Design Chic.

The foliage, the loungers, the incredible and beautifully set table — this pool area incorporates my two favorite ideas: hostessing and relaxing. This photo screams summer garden and pool party to me. Who wouldn’t want to sip on some bubbly rose at this beautiful pool?  Swoon worthy!

Danielle’s pick:

PoolDC

Photo courtesy of Life With a View.

Look, I’m just gonna say it: I hate hot weather. But I love water. How do I reconcile these two extremes? Natural hot springs, of course! This geothermal pool is nature’s hot tub, surrounded by a sturdy yet beautiful rock ledge and the delightfully gritty Icelandic fields beyond. Be still, my icy heart.

Melody’s pick:

Melody Pool

Photo courtesy of Decoist.

When I think of relaxing poolside my mind immediately goes to my childhood summers, where I would spend several weeks in Turkey. To bring that feeling home requires special touches of the mediterranean. In my ideal poolside setting there is beautiful blue tile work to channel the feeling of the crystal clear waters. It is also incredibly important to me to have a space to entertain and/or lounge from day to night and still interact with people in the pool. This setting gives me just about everything I could hope for; there is space to comfortably lay out and tan, swim, entertain, and even build a fire in the evenings. It is my ultimate mediterranean oasis.

Deirdre’s pick (our newest team member!):

PoolDF

Photo courtesy of Ritz Carlton.

I love the greenery surrounding this pool, the lines and dropoff of the infinity pool, the wood deck, and the water feature gargoyle spouting water into the pool. Total eye candy. And the most beautiful and spa like pool I’ve been in! Dorado Beach, Puerto Rico.

However you choose to kick it poolside, we hope our favorites have given you the get-up-and-go to head outside.

Proud Plants: Five Foliage Choices For a Modern Sculptural Landscape

By: Elisabeth Paulson

Here in the southeast, the spring flower power of azaleas, redbuds, and dogwoods have bloomed and left us in awe, but ultimately shed their petals. Now what?! Let’s consider a smattering of sculpture, texture, and sheen to complement our homesteads. Here are five plants that add a force of form to your modern landscape.

Photo courtesy of Plant Zone.

Photo courtesy of Plant Zone.

Trachycarpus wagnerianus. While we may not be beachside, we can still enjoy a palm. This dwarf windmill palm adds immense sculpture to any modern structure. Give it some space and let it swank up your garden.

Photo courtesy of Buchanan's Native Plants.

Photo courtesy of Buchanan’s Native Plants.

Farfugium japonicum ‘Gigantea.’ We’ve been admirers of the leopard plant’s glossy saucers since seeing them at the Atlanta Botanical Garden. While they will bloom a tall spike in late summer, we appreciate these round clumps sans flower as well.

Photo courtesy of K. Bourgondien & Sons.

Photo courtesy of K. Bourgondien & Sons.

Muhlenbergia capillaris. Cotton candy grass! Need we say more? Plant several of these together to get this dreamy pink cloud.

Photo courtesy of K. Bourgondien & Sons.

Photo courtesy of K. Bourgondien & Sons.

Colocasia esculenta ‘Tea Cup.’ The teacup elephant ear has an upright form that holds water. Well shucks, we’ve got these guys coming our way next week…fingers crossed for greatness!

Photo courtesy of Gardenista.

Photo courtesy of Gardenista.

Allium, allium, allium. What flower could be more shapely than this onion relative? Loving this combination with the delicate texture of fern fronds. Depending on the type, these can bloom early spring to mid-summer, and range from 8″ to over 4′. The allium millenium can even be planted this spring for those of us who can’t wait.

Get out there, take some risks, and bask in the stately/feathery/proud beauty of mother nature.

Before and After: Outdoor Planters

By: Elisabeth Paulson

It is hot out there, folks. If your planter boxes are anything like ours, the spring annuals have lost their pep and blooms are melting before your eyes. Fear not – we have the solution. Here are three of our own transformative foliage additions that are sure to last…as long as we remember to water.

plantbefore1

plantafter1

Our doorway planters were looking less than welcoming and needed a major facelift. We kept our healthy heavy-hitters (lambs ears and Heuchera) and added the eye-popping Kong Coleus, impatients for color, and potato vine as a trailer. Come on in!

plantbefore2

plantafter2

This modern zinc planter box has followed me from my Chicago rooftop to my current Atlanta backyard. Such a shaded area loves the hovering, paper-like Caladium ‘Aaron’ and sculptural addition of ‘Bossa Nova’ begonia. A fragrant geranium doesn’t have blooms but a satisfying citrus smell that keeps the mosquitos away. Kong Coleus made an encore appearance that should last through the fall.

plantbefore3

plantafter3

We love a wall planter – this one flanks my own front door and welcomes me home. Staghorn ferns thrive in a vertical position during humid summers, and ‘Mona Lisa’ lipstick plants are an experiment in this felted-pocket home. Finally, a mosaic plant adds a geometric stripe to the plant party.

Celebrate summer and switch out the old for the new – embrace depth in color and a variety of leaf shapes and sizes. Even if your thumb is less-than-green, you can achieve a fresh foliage facelift.

Recognizing the “Potential” in Your Potential Home.

By: Shelby Adamson

When purchasing a new home it is so easy to get discouraged over cosmetic details: Smurf blue paint, gaudy brass light fixtures, orange shag carpet. We encourage you to look past those minor details to see the knock-out potential behind the home!

EXTbeforeafter

Photos courtesy of Better Homes and Gardens.

We know first impressions are everything. Don’t get discouraged by a drab exterior. Small renovations can completely refresh a home’s look, as well as a simple coat of paint and basic landscaping.

PRbefore

PRafter

Photos courtesy of Amber Interior Design.

Boring, dim powder room not doing it for you? Make an impact with a new mirror and/or vanity. A simple upgrade to something more stylish can save the day.

KITbefore

KITafter

Photos courtesy of Cook Republic.

The “make it or break it” room for many people is the kitchen. These renovations usually take a little more time (and money), but there’s always little things that can be done to update — painting cabinets, changing tile, switching out hardware.

LRbefore

LRafter

Photos courtesy of My Domaine.

Sometimes the room itself is fine, but you’re stopped in your tracks by less than stellar existing furniture. Try not to get hung up on someone else’s choices. You’ve got style! (Or if you don’t, consult with an interior designer after move-in.)

Buying a home can be a stressful, sometimes daunting process. Keep an open mind about cosmetic aspects when you’re shopping around. There is a fix for pretty much anything!