Garden Cottage – A New Wave of Personalized Design

Garden cottages can be personalized to each individual client.
Garden cottages can be personalized to each individual client.

Garden Cottage is hot! These landscape elements are being called “she sheds”; however, as a landscape architect, I most commonly call them Garden Cottage. I have completed a project that had two garden cottages at a pool. One was for the men to smoke cigars and play cards (with the bar), while the other was for the woman to gather and visit (and the outdoor kitchen). I felt like a complete cliché designing it and seeing it built. But that was the client’s specification.

I would prefer to stay away from the he/she dichotomy because but who is to say that a ‘he’ wouldn’t like a ‘she shed’ just as much. But, I suspect everyone needs some alone time. . All sorts of research says that our mental, physical and spiritual health requires retreating from our daily routines and making time to relax. Doing that in a space outside of the daily household grind helps free the mind from the cooking, cleaning, bills and whatever surrounds us in our homes.

A far more descriptive discussion that informs the design approach to these small auxiliary ‘buildings’ which is far more fun and interesting as a designer, addresses the big question ‘what happens in the building?’. This is called the program. Other questions that can aid in the design process include: What purpose does it the building serve? Is it about an outdoor entertaining space, an outdoor room? Or is it for some specific hobby like painting, sewing, and woodcrafts? Or is it an office, a private space to write, to think, to read? All of these possibilities can be gender neutral. And the program will direct the design.

What I hear is a structure with more design detail and aesthetic, a Garden Cottage, something that is guided by the concepts of a ‘cottage’, ‘bungalow’, ‘lodge’, ‘Shanty’ or even a ‘shack’ but let’s avoid the word ‘shed’. So the roof, windows and doors need to have some character, be more dynamic, more unique than the ‘shed’. It may not be constructed from the standard cookie cutter materials available. Or if it is, the materials will be used and combined in unique and uncommon ways. So maybe it is the ‘Garden Shanty’ concept with the doors and windows being recycled and reclaimed materials. Or a ‘Garden Cottage’ with additional trim woods added throughout and a multi-layer paint scheme. The key is deciding on a concept then carrying that idea throughout the project material choices.

With all these elements, there are two directing principles to respect. The function and the style define the design approach. The function of the architecture and its elements are directed by the program, the styles are directed by the concept. Program and concept are the two main design principles. The concept is driven by personal taste in this situation, the taste of the owner. The concept help direct the decorating choices. Is it Shabby Sheik, Tuscan, Country Garden Cottage, Eclectic Artist, Modern Contemporary, Mid Century Modern, Rustic Country………… The program is what happens in the space, how it works, flows, is organized. The concept includes the program in a bridge to the ‘style’.

While program and concept are two driving forces in design, budget will overrule in the end. It always comes down to what can be afforded. Start modest. It is always easier to add then subtract. It is also feels much better to discover you can have more than realize you cannot have everything you had hoped.


Landscape Pots – Landscape Containers

One common form of container design consists of an accent plant surrounded by smaller, less dramatic vegetation.
One common form of container design consists of an accent plant surrounded by smaller, less dramatic vegetation. Bold colors and unique texture can also make this element pop out from its surroundings.

The utilization of landscape pots and landscape containers plays a role in the history of landscape architecture, and it continues been seen in many designs today. What may come off as a common and banal subject, landscape containers have the potential to provide aesthetic beauty and substantial benefits to the landscape as well as the buyer. Overall, these containers are low maintenance and have are less likely to become contaminated with disease. Plant materials for landscape pots  have become more versatile over the past century, and there is always opportunity to adapt to your own personal style.

This generation of design permits a wider range of available containers that can be used to store vegetation in comparison to early container design. Early container design, which may use concrete or wood materials remain to be a popular trend; however, some have experimented by creating their own containers, using nontraditional material. It is not uncommon to see synthetic materials used for planters, and it is becoming more common to find containers that are LEED certified. This opens doors for more eco-friendly options and an increase in personalization for buyers. I am personally drawn in the modernist planter designs. The simple geometric planter design combined with complex planting design can form harmonious balance and catch the eyes of visitors due to its contradictory shape in nature.

Vegetation selection is all up to the owner, but it is best to use a larger container to hold the plantings. This will allow room for the plants to grow and to prevent growing competition. Typically planting a large accent plant in the center of the planter and surrounding it with smaller vegetation is common for basic plantings; however, the use of planters is growing to the extent that users are now trying to create small edible gardens.

Edible gardens are growing in popularity, and utilizing planted containers can minimize the labor needed in order to keep up with its growing products. These planters also create learning opportunities for the younger population who are beginning to learn basic gardening skills. Smaller grown vegetables and herbs are excellent to grow in this type of planting condition.

My original thoughts and knowledge on landscape pots agreed with the majority of the population: I thought they were just a quick way to plant a few flowers without making a mess in your yard. After exploring this small element of design, I quickly realized the overwhelming potential of containers, especially with the upcoming trends that are travelling through the field of landscape architecture. People of all ages can use containers, whether it is an elderly couple who want to reduce their large scale garden into a smaller scale or even a child who is learning to create her own garden for the first time.

Planting containers are extremely versatile, providing opportunities in all types of design. They can create barriers for oncoming traffic in a bustling city, but they can also dress up the front façade of a small suburban home. They can be used to grow herbs and spices for your next meal, or they help teach your child the responsibilities of watering and managing a small garden despite living in an urban setting. Regardless of its usage, planting containers clearly demonstrate its significance in landscape design.