What happens when the owners of a new garden have a refined taste which has been honed through years of art collecting? The answer is they go out and find a competent landscape designer who can create a garden space that is as artful as the art it is supposed to exhibit. Catherine Clemens more than fits that bill.
“The clients were an exciting couple to work with because their sophisticated aesthetic had been honed through years of art collecting, and yet they consistently retained an open mind about all new ideas presented. They loved pattern, texture and colour. I was encouraged to integrate these elements into the landscape design as often as possible.” explained Catherine Clemens of the firm Clemens and Associates based in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
This landscape architecture, contracting, and fine stonework firm has created some of the area’s most spectacular gardens since 1980.
The firm offers a wide spectrum of professional design, installation and maintenance services for gardens, water features, stonework and garden structures. The firm’s specialty lies in creating and maintaining outdoor spaces well suited for living.
The clients, the Goldsteins also live in Santa Fe, NM, surrounded by their extensive art collection at home. The walls of their house are densely covered with the things they have collected and love.
“Our design sessions were dynamic and much of my time was spent editing and organising design details,” reminisces Catherine, talking about the owners who commissioned her firm with the project of sprucing up their garden in synch with their particular lifestyle.
The property is several acres in size with the gardens providing a transition into the natural landscape. The prerequisites were laid down: patios, a fountain, native planting and places to locate outdoor sculpture.
At the onset a simpler design was envisaged by both the clients and the designer. Catherine suggested renovating the front walkway and presented a landscape design to replace an awkward brick path and transplanting a dense cluster of Pinon trees that blocked the front door.
The clients were delighted as more textures, colours and materials were slowly added onto the design.
“I became concerned that the sculpture would get lost in the texture of the garden. The contemporary, interior exhibition space was clean and stark and allowed the art work to stand unchallenged. I wrestled with these contradictory notions until I was reminded of the opulent palaces of the world that house much of the world’s great art,” shared Catherine, talking about the days when the project was still on the drafting board.
The final outcome saw the art work sitting comfortably within the context of a space that is, in itself, a work of art.
The art based garden design had to take into account the following tenets: the house sculptures that were the owners’ raison d’etre and create a space that would merge both with the house and the surrounds.
Large flat stones now meld into the landscape and serve as pedestals for the outdoor sculpture. The front entry became a smart, invitation to experience a home beyond the mundane. Curved walls in stone, stucco or steel are the underlying theme flowing through the landscape.
An extensive roof-water collection and conveyance system with a 10,000 gallon cistern was installed concurrently with the landscape construction. The natural stone and metal finish materials contrast against the vibrant stucco colours employed. Local flagstone, “moss rock,” and river rock constitute most of the masonry. Mexican porphyry and beach pebbles provide texture and graphic accents.
This project was proof that successful synergy between client and designer can have dramatic results taking a project far beyond initial expectations.
The sculptural garden has much vying for the eye’s attention now and yet it weaves together a picture that is a cohesive blend of natural and man-made elements.
Text By Mala Bajaj
Photographs The Designer