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I recently saw a Gardenista article recommending a book by Ethne Clarke titled The Midcentury Modern Landscape. I’ve ordered and have just read it in preparation for an upcoming project. I’m going to Long Island, NY to plan a renovation and remodel. I will be adding an extension, a swimming pool, as well as (in Clarke’s words) “an easy-care landscape that ties it to the site.”

In an effort to achieve “total design,” I will be devising a framework that connects all the parts. Knowing that the client will delegate most of the responsibility to me, I can dream big and get into the mindset of experimentation.

The book puts me in the mood. Clarke focuses my attention on “three R’s of garden fitness: Relaxation, Recreation, and Reconnection.” Before I get the inspiration directly from the site, I am dreaming of establishing the “all-essential connection to the land.”

Focusing me on the project, the book outlines basic truths that resonate and energize me. I write down a quote by Lao-Tse, the sixth-century Chinese scholar and founder of Taoism: “The reality of the building does not consist in roof and walls, but in the space within to be lived in.”

Yes, we express who we are by shaping spaces we live in. They represent our hopes and dreams. We imbue them with individual character to convey intention. Through them, we have a chance to make a bold personal statement.

Midcentury modern design, bursting with color, texture, pattern, and shape is a great inspiration: these are so much more than surface treatments!


midcentury, modern, landscapes


Even though I’ve never seen the site, I know the client. Most certainly, he will want informal. This residence, a couple of miles from the sea, is all about easy living. It’s all about creating a happy home, improving the quality of life.

My objective is to create a “sensory delight,” rooted in indoor-outdoor lifestyle. Once there, I will identify opportunities for seamless integration and unification. It should be welcoming. I envision a living room continuing as an outdoor patio.

I must find a way to connect with the landscape — Clarke refers to it as the “threshold between building and site.”

Looking at photographs in the book, I muse about well-designed edges, deep overhangs with delicate supports, and elegant terraces. I envision indoor-outdoor paving spreading across. No doubt, there will be a chance to design furniture. In the spirit of midcentury modern, it needs to be versatile, something that could be moved in and out.

“Understatement was the byword for perfection.” That’s my favorite sentence in Ethne Clarke’s book The Midcentury Modern Landscape. Doesn’t that evoke pared down and uncluttered clean lines? I’ll strive for that and will keep you posted. In the meantime, if you have any questions, please contact me here.

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