Book Review: Take It Outside by Mel Brasier, Garrett Magee, and James Desantis
My notes and favorite quotes.
I just wrapped up reading Take It Outside: A Guide to Designing Beautiful Spaces Just Beyond Your Door by Mel Brasier, Garrett Magee, and James Desantis.
Doesn’t that cover just make you swoon?
I’m finding I distinctly enjoy garden books written by interior design experts. They may be lacking in more specialized horticultural insights, but they make up for that in photography that gets my mind churning and practical wisdom and design detail.
As I dream about what I’ll do with the new-to-me 1.5 acres I now inhabit, this book was timely. Here are a few of my favorites quotes and takeaways.
On Getting Started/Building a Plan:
“Start by thinking of how you want your space to look and, importantly, how you want it to feel—in other words, the overall vibe.”
This was a good reminder for me. Articulating how you want any space to feel is a much better starting point than just referencing established styles. You’ll make different decisions with that filter, and the result will be more personal.
“Start with the general shape of the space and then work within it to strengthen your concept. Even some of the most unstructured-looking gardens begin with a well-drawn plan, with thoughtfully considered proportions.”
This quote reminded me of the principle from Planting in a Post-Wild World: Accept the constraints of the site. It’s so easy when planning to start imagining what you would do with a blank slate. But drawing a plan around the existing constraints ultimately leads to a more creative direction.
“If you’re graced with a nice vista, orient your seating area toward the view you want to see, and then frame it or flank it with plantings. (Be careful not to obstruct it in the process, of course.) This method of highlighting a view is called “borrowed landscape” and it’s an incredible way of incorporating part of your property or an adjacent one into a frame to finish off your space.”
How many times have you seen people place benches or seating under a tree facing a road? Always makes me giggle. It’s like we don’t even consider what we want to look at here in suburbia.
There’s almost always a nice view you can borrow, if you’re looking for it. In my last home, our neighbors behind us had a stunning ornamental cherry, and then later on, a row of Green Giants that actually turned our backyard view rather cozy, despite being close to the other homes.
On Choosing Plants:
“…sequencing extends beyond pathways to include softscape choices in the garden. For example, you wouldn’t want to plant a large tree beside a small bush without considering the area between them. It’s about connecting the dots to make one cohesive outdoor space.”
This is one reason so many front yards in our area look weird. BIG trees underplanted with tiny flowers. Or, BIG house, medium size shrubs, no underplanting at all. Too much space between things disconnects them.
“You may miss the striking textures and shapes of a flower, for example, if it appears only once. A healthy dose of repetition pulls a space together, so it feels unified rather than sparse or random.”
Reminding myself—MORE Of THE SAME—before I head to the nursery over the next few weeks.
“We look at multiple ways to grow [plants]—directly in the ground, in raised beds and containers, and vertically up walls and pergolas. Such variations in planting make any garden look lush. Even a relatively new garden will appear more established with a few different planting methods.”
I thought this was a great tip, especially if you have few or no established plants to begin with, or are creating a new blank slate, like I’m planning to do where my veggie garden will eventually go (after I have some trees taken down). Varying heights gives a more instant sense of lushness.
On Planning for Space to Play:
“For families with children, we put a premium on room for play, but we design with changing needs and priorities in mind, too. We aim for child-friendly elements that are designed to adapt with children as they grow. It’s difficult to imagine that an energetic 5-year-old will ever stop swinging and sliding, but before you know it, the oversize playset that takes up half the yard will be obsolete.”
“Not every backyard needs to stand in for a playground or sports field.”
“By design, the play zone doesn’t have to be redesigned or scrapped entirely but instead will shift and develop right along with the family.”
Yelp. This was all timely for me. I literally have that 5-year-old right now. But after reading the chapter on spaces to play I started forming some new ideas for what to create for the kiddos that both they (and we) will still enjoy as they grow older.
I only review the garden books I loved and would recommend to a friend. This one is worth your time!