As the Victorians well knew, it’s not enough to have a lovely piece of property or even a breathtaking view. You need an outdoor destination; you need to be able to say, “Shall we stroll out to the summerhouse?” This destination may be substantial or the merest nod toward permanence, but it must possess certain qualities: it must be a thing of beauty, whimsy, and delight. It must offer in equal measure a feeling of sanctuary and a whiff of freedom.
Marvin Davis, founder of Romancing the Woods in Woodstock, builds fanciful gazebos, bridges, summerhouses and pergolas for a lot of famous people with second (or third) homes in the Hudson Valley. But the inspiration for his business grew from purely practical considerations. Having bought a second home on a windy mountaintop in Woodstock, he and his wife found that all the garden furnishings they set on the lawn promptly blew away. Not to be thwarted, Davis built a gazebo, modeled on the 19th-century rustic ones at Mohonk Mountain House. And so a business was born.
Davis works exclusively in red cedar, an indigenous, rot-resistant wood that can last 30 years. Because Romancing the Woods builds everything “custom to order,” as Davis says, the work doesn’t come cheap: customers should expect to pay upwards of $850 for a trellis and $6,500 for a small enclosed seating area. A treehouse can easily cost $11,000. (But what a treehouse!) “We get an affluent consumer,” Davis remarks.
The more price-conscious may wish to consider the structures available at Brad’s Barns and Gazebos in Kingston, or the Barn Raiser in Saugerties, where a 12-foot octagonal gazebo might start at $3,600. The Pennsylvania Dutch influence is much in evidence, as both retailers draw exclusively from Amish suppliers in Pennsylvania. Joe Charmello, the new owner of Brad’s Barns, can’t say enough about Amish workmanship. “They can build anything. The quality is second to none. There’s so much attention to detail, functionality and durability. These buildings will last a lifetime.”
Charmello says many customers come back every year, adding to their stock of summer inventory. “This year a garage, next year a gazebo, next a storage shed, a playhouse.”
— A.J. Loftin
Even the most appetizing food loses its appeal on a soggy paper plate. So forget disposables, and add some pizzazz to your picnic or barbeque with these new unbreakables that are every bit as stylish as porcelain plates. They’re made of melamine, so they’re dishwasher safe (but don’t put them in the microwave or the oven). A set of four 9-inch plates is about $30; $40 to $45 for the 12-inch ones.
New designs this year from designer Jill Fenichell include Coral (1), also available in sky-blue or golden sand; and the Lemonade series (4) in lime, pink, and lemon. Her charming Equestrian series (2) includes the Mr. Darcy, the Miss Bennett and the Dressage. All available at Home Infatuation; from Fenichell’s small company, Bongenre; or at Rural Residence in Hudson. The elegant Sable Moroccan (3), is from Home Infatuation.
Ever since the first campfire, there’s been mission creep, proving only that humans will revert to outdoor living given half a chance. First charcoal grills, then gas grills, then monstrously expensive and elaborate gas grills. The latest trend in outdoor cooking? A complete Tuscan kitchen — so now you can bake bread while sitting in front of a roaring fireplace. Skeptics will soon be won over by Italian-born stonemason Nick Cambareri, owner of Shade and Sun Nursery in Stormville. For the past five years, Cambareri has operated an outdoor kitchen-building business as an adjunct to the nursery business. With true authority, and 41 years of masonry experience, Cambareri points to the Tuscan tradition of making bread and pizza in outdoor wood-burning fireplaces partially enclosed by a clay tile roof. Sure, Tuscany has better weather, but Shade and Sun can roof the entire outdoor kitchen for weekenders squeamish about rain.
“People are using their outdoor areas more,” says General Manager Dennis Minelli. “It’s more relaxing to cook outdoors.” An outdoor Tuscan kitchen with all the fixings could run to $50,000 — almost the price of an indoor kitchen — but Minelli says they can make a barbeque for a few thousand. Does the food know it’s being cooked outside? Does it care? Minelli thinks not. “It’s all about atmosphere,” he says. “You can have 35 people on a patio and it’s comfortable. They can walk around the lawn. Having 35 people in your house — even if you have a big house, it’s not relaxing.” Best of all: you don’t have to pour sand on the fire before drifting off to sleep.
— A. J. Loftin
For more information, call Shade and Sun at 845-221-5294 or check www.shadeandsun.com.
Does your garden need a little… something? Perhaps an urn, or an iron bench? Maybe it needs a big something, like an 18-foot fountain with lions, or a bronze depiction of the four seasons in the form of shapely females in scanty Grecian costume. Or perhaps you’re in the market for something truly monumental, like a carved marble entryway. Whatever the scale, you’ll probably find just the thing at From Europe to You Antiques, a treasure house of bronze, marble, granite and iron objets for the outdoors, including decorative fences and gates. There are a few one-of-a-kind originals, but most are high-quality reproductions, so prices are very reasonable. A small cast-iron bench will set you back just $395, although you’ll have to fork over $14,500 for a Parthenon-style marble gazebo complete with caryatids. The outdoor ornaments surround a two-story building that’s packed with antique furniture, so after you’ve selected something to embellish your garden, maybe you’ll find something for inside the house as well. From Europe to You is located at 2910 Rte. 9W near Saugerties. They’re open seven days a week, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
These days, outdoor fabrics look every bit as good as more delicate, indoor-only textiles that wilt at the sight of a sunbeam. The all-weather Sunbrella fabrics shown here are made of tough acrylic fibers that are stain and mildew resistant, yet still have a pleasing feel. And they’re solution dyed so the colors won’t fade or wash out. Direct from Outdoor Fabrics, prices range from $13.95 to $17.95 a yard.
New patterns include Lemonade (1); Debut (2) (also comes in 8 other colors); Wailea Coast (3); Baystreet (4) (also comes in citrus and green); not-yet-named style number 1047-01 (5); and Crimson (6).
Check www.outdoorfabrics.com to see the full range.