By the time the bus unloaded from our trip to the governor's mansion (see last post) I had gotten a bit more comfortable with the bus and had started taking pictures through the windows along the way. Eventually we turned onto a long driveway leading up a hill to a majestic looking house. Chickens greeted us with a heartfelt expression of fluttering and clucks as we poured out of the bus and into the shade of a noble post oak for our introduction to Moss Mountain. Appropriately enough, the tour would begin indoors.
Here's a little known fact: I fell in love with interior design before I had an affair with gardening. My mother and I used to watch all of the decorating shows on Discovery Channel and HGTV, that is, before they became overrun with 'reality' and real estate shows. I even met my wife when I was a manager at Bombay Company, helping customers choose the right accessories for their style of decor. As you could imagine, touring P. Allen Smith's dream home was quite an experience for me!
What struck me most about the Garden Home was how every little vignette remained cohesive and harmonious without looking the least bit cluttered. This was attained by using a restrained color palette of apple-green and lemon-drop yellow against a clean and inviting backdrop of white. Each and every object served a purpose - be it the bowls of tasty apples and lemon candies, or the fresh air afforded by the durable bird's nest ferns. Jenny Nybro Peterson and I were the two houseplant authors in the crowd, and he heartily approved of the choice. The bird's nest fern (Asplenium nidus and A. antiquum) is a very tough plant with a graceful form, lending itself to almost any style of décor.
Cut flowers and foliage were abundant in almost every room, but as in the case of the kitchen vignettes, the limited selection of colors kept them from looking like mere afterthoughts. There was even a room that appeared as if it was devoted to arranging cut flowers, and the rustic lighting made each bouquet glow with warmth in the dimly-lit room. I heard a lot of gasps when the other bloggers rounded the corner through the doorway and got their first glimpse of the scene. I stuck around for a while to enjoy the fragrance and ambience, leaving only because I knew that each room would be more inspiring than the next.
Ferns weren't the only houseplants sighted at P. Allen Smith's house, nor were they the only elements worthy of mention. The furniture, the paintings, surfaces and embellishments were all chosen with an impeccable eye for detail, yet never seeming out of reach for the average homeowner. We were told all about the artwork on the walls; some of which were bought for hefty prices at auction, while others were attained by more affordable means. Best of all, since Allen is an accomplished artist in his own right (what can't he do?) we got to see his own artwork gracing the walls.
Sure, the grand doorways and airy ceiling space would be a stretch for most of us, but it doesn't really matter. It's easy to get 'the look' of most of these rooms with nothing more than good design. Sticking to only a handful of colors, repeating certain elements (using three of the same chair instead of three different ones) and using functional (yet attractive) pieces instead of knick-knacks are guidelines that any of us can follow without breaking the bank.
I'd like to jump ahead to my last evening at Moss Mountain to show you a sneak peek behind the scenes. Allen was kind enough to show me and a couple of others around his art studio, which was one of the few places that wasn't pristinely styled for the cameras. I hope he doesn't object to me showing this, but it was one of my favorite vignettes from my entire trip and I think that it gives some insight into how creative people like P. Allen Smith really work.
There are the artists who buy a lot of art supplies and brag about being an artist while the paints and pencils sit idle in their original packaging, and there are the ones who actually use them. Opening the book on the table, Allen excitedly told us about how George O'Brien Wyndham, the 3rd Earl of Egremont gave J.M.W. Turner the opportunity to stay at his home and create artwork from the everyday scenes that unfolded there. As he explained to us the special relationship between patrons and their artists - a thought popped into my head. Was P. Allen Smith much different? By bringing people into his home on his bill and allowing them to share their experiences with the world, it seemed to me like he was different kind of patron. A patron the practical arts like gardening and homesteading, or maybe something like a patron with a purpose.
As Mimi gathered all of the bloggers for the next stop on our tour of the grounds, I hesitated. "I haven't even gone upstairs yet! Both Mimi and Allen insisted that I head upstairs before leaving, and I was very happy to do so... and my day had only just begun!
The majority of this trip including room, board and a bunch of neat swag - were provided to me at no expense for participating in the Garden2Blog event. There was no obligation to write about my experiences and all opinions stated here are my own.