Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Topiaries and Boxwoods

Recently I can't get enough of topiaries. Their perfectly manicured shapes (tall balls and double balls are my favorite, but spirals and triangles have their places as well) recall lush English and French gardens and all the sophistication inherent in those spaces. At the same time, there's something decidedly playful about topiaries (perhaps it's their unnatural, cartoonish shapes) that strike me as just a bit tongue in cheek. Indeed, I'd argue that it's this tension created by this sophisticated/whimsical dichotomy that makes topiaries so appealing.

Stephen Shubel

I love the black and white elements in this bathroom -- it's so sophisticated and well planned, but it still manages to be fun and youthful with the striped wallpaper and hot pink towels. What's particularly great about this space is that simply trading out a few bath towels and accessories in a bold accent color (the hot pink is fabulous, but turquoise would be equally fun) gives an entirely different feel to the space. But whatever the accent color, the pair of topiaries compliments the traditional, yet light hearted vibe of this space perfectly, don't you think?

Canadian House & Home

I posted on this house when it first appeared in Canadian House & Home a few months ago, but I love this picture just as much now as I did back in May. The pair of potted domed topiaries on either side of the front door are scaled perfectly for the front porch and add the perfect finishing touch to the exterior. In fact, try and imagine this house without the topiaries...not nearly as cute now, is it?

Bunny Williams

The oversized scale of these topiaries creates wonderful drama in this dining room designed by Bunny Williams. From a practical standpoint, their height also ensures that they won't obscure her guests' views of their dining companions.

domino, February 2007

One of my all-time favorite spaces from the late, great domino (and certainly my favorite outdoor space from the magazine), this French-inspired garden is such a wonderful mix of whimsical and sophisticated. Even better, since most of these boxwoods are made of plastic, it would be essentially maintenance-free! I particularly love the faux boxwood-turned-coffee table.

Nathan Egan

In this kitchen by designer Nathan Egan, three small topiaries do a lovely job of filling in the vertical space between the range and the vent. I also love how the three topiaries mirror the three pendant lights overhead. Additionally, the softer, less structured shape of the topiaries and the warmth of their terracotta pots cozies up an otherwise all-white kitchen.

Steven Gambrel

And lest you think that topiaries must come in twos or threes, remember that one can be just as impactful. Here, Steven Gambrel's artful, assymmetric display on the ottoman/coffee table adds interest to a very traditional room. A large tray corrals all of the books and objects, making the arrangement look thoughtful and intentional, rather than haphazard and messy.

Amanda Nisbet

A few months ago I dedicated an entire post to this back porch designed by Amanda Nisbet for the Hampton Designer Showhouse in 2006, but it's worth reposting here to showcase all the lovely domed topiaries, which are potted in lovely woven baskets lined in linen. The mix of textures creates a casual elegance that suits the space's wonderful mix of traditional and modern elements. Note also how the domed shape of the topiaries echo the potted hydrangeas in the foreground of the picture.

Steven Gambrel

I love the modern country vibe of this entire kitchen. The artful arrangement of on the MCM table of three small topiaries of varying heights mixed with fresh tomatoes is a great example of how simple centerpieces are often the most effective. The scale of the centerpiece helps draw the eye upward to the very cool, woven light fixture. Three more small topiaries sit next to the kitchen sink and help tie together the two areas of this large, open space.

Inspired by these rooms, I decided to add a few small topiaries to my fireplace mantle. While I'm still not 100% happy with the current vignette, I do like how the topiaries partially obscure the sunburst mirror, which I think brings a more casual, layered look to the space. When I bought the topiaries, the plan was to paint the white pots an antique silver finish, which I think will help weigh them down on the white mantle, but I wanted to live with them as-is for a few days to see how I felt about them before taking a brush to them. What do you think? I'm not exactly a master at small arrangements, so any suggestions on what I should add, take away or rearrange would be most helpful.

Boxwood Topiary Dinnerware

And, of course, there's no reason to limit yourself to actual topiaries when the representation alone can be just as charming. I particularly love this boxwood topiary dinnerware by Barbara Barry for Wedgewood. The simplicity of the pattern is perfectly lovely alone, but equally fun when coordinated with her Boxwood Maze pattern.

Napa Afternoon stationery

This topiary stationery from Iomoi is equal parts preppy and fun with its pink pots and modern monogram.

Pixie Dust Decor topiary fabrics

If you're decorating a nursery or little girl's room, these topiary fabrics from Pixie Dust Decor are darling options worth considering. You can score these fabrics by the yard or pre-made into a variety of poufs, tuffets (both of which make darling pet beds as well!), blankets, and pillows.

What about you? Do you have any topiaries at your house? If so, I'd love to see pictures of how you've incorporated them into your decor or landscaping!


sarah @ realestatestyle said...

I really love topiaries too! Really like these pics, esp the stationery!

Style Redux 2 said...

I adore topiary and use it in my garden and indoors. You asked for ideas-I would relocate the three topiaries to the kitchen, keep the blue and white pieces where they are, and reposition the Blanc de Chine at the two ends. I think there are too many little things on the mantle, and I like the center clear with the mirror unobscured. Just my two cents-I love your home and what you are doing with it.

Isabella & Max Rooms said...

My mom had a fake topiary when I was growing up, I thought it was really cute. Haven't thought a whole lot about them, but now that you point out that they are everywhere...how great are they!Love them on the island in the kitchen by Nathan Egan.

To answer your question, I like your idea of painting the pots a silver tone, and perhaps move one of them from the center to be placed next to the one on the left or right...mix it up to be less symmeterical? Play with it, you'll figure it out!!

Anonymous said...

I like topiaries too! A lot of great inspiration in this post. I like the idea of your painting them. I would also move the one out of the middle (either to one side or completely) because I feel like it detracts from that GORGEOUS mirror. I would leave the middle empty. Like Janelle said, sometimes you just have to play until it feels right.

Kitty said...

we had topiaries at our november wedding, so this was a especially timely post for me! loved it. as for your mantel, which looks so fab in blanc de chine and blue and white, i might consider painting the pots to match the mirror, or even just gold or silver leaf them. i think leaving the pots stark takes away from the lovely chinoiserie! your home is coming along so well!

Cristin said...

I too would paint the pots dark gray or metallic silver. And I agree that the middle topiary distracts from the gorgeous sunburst mirror and would remove it. The Asian figurines are sweet and I would keep them together, but perhaps off-center. Yes, play with it and you'll find an arrangement you like.


Dallas Decorum said...

I love topiaries too - a must have outside flanking the front door! Great photos!

Kellie Collis said...

I adore those black and white stripes!

Kara said...

I think silver on the pots would be a great idea. I like the three instead of the predictable two. But I think you are right - something is missing.

Couture Carrie said...

Stunning topiaries, darling! What a fabulously well-researched post!
Love the second space ~ reminds me of Henri Bendel!


Laura@JourneyChic said...

I'm a fan of the spiral variety of topiaries, personally. The all-white kitchen is fantastic, and i love the topiaries with the yellow door house.

I agree with PK about moving the middle topiary around a bit. The mirror is fantastic, and while I understand the layered look you're going for, perhaps moving it to the side would still have the affect without obscuring one of the long prongs of the mirror.

MyLittleHappyPlace said...

Always loved them, imagine I always will. I've never been particularly successful at growing them (topiaries). Good thing is, there are some really nice-quality faux versions. And Ballard does a lovely preserved boxwood garland, wreath, etc.

Sarah Klassen said...

Great theme for a post! They are lovely -- Amanda Nisbet's is my very favorite. The look is so chic.

Your mantle is looking pretty, though it's almost a shame to take away from that stunning mirror. You might try some very low accessories to keep the attention on the mirror. Perhaps a few long, skinny vases, filled with box? In the centre, perhaps keep your figures. Looking beautiful, Averill. It's so nice to see your home!

And I'm thinking those plates might need to find their way into your place...

Have a delightful weekend*

stacy said...

Hi Averill,

thanks so much for posting our fabrics!! I love your topiary inspirations!

take care,


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