Inspiration Provence: Romantic Gardens, Casual, Country-Style Furnishings & Candlelit Dinners Beneath the Stars…

Michel Klein’s Garden – Image â“’ Provence Interiors by Lisa Lovatt-Smith

Provence… What an incredibly evocative word. Even the sound of the letters, rolling sensuously across the tongue, seems to magically slow time. The Mediterranean landscape seduces with golden light; teasing as it flickers through massive plane trees. My memories of southern France are bound by sun-warmed fragrance; lavender, rosemary, ripe olives and red earth. And in this romantic setting — seated at a cloth draped table, surrounded by shadowy gardens at the end of the day— the taste of fruity rosé and peasant bread dipped in tapenade has never been more delightful. A meal shared in a beautiful outdoor room is one of life’s richest pleasures.

Currently, I am working on two projects involving plein air dining spaces. The first is a new garden planned to enhance the outdoor seating area of a lovely local restaurant. This project is in its early stages, and at the moment I am gathering inspirational ideas from favorite books, travel journals, photo albums and scrapbooks.  I absolutely adore enclosed garden spaces, and this particular location —surrounded by brick and stone on three sides— is the perfect spot for festive family gatherings, intimate tête-à-têtes and romantic dinners for two. The second project on my agenda is a private dining terrace; an open space in need of a bit more privacy and transportive mood. Both places are calling out for softening elements — vine clad pergolas and trees to filter light, as well as plants with dramatic foliage to add sensual movement and color.  Both in the courtyard and on the terrace, I long for living canopies —  filter for the sun and frame for the stars.

Over the years —since finding them in my favorite book shop— Lisa Lovatt-Smith’s Provence Interiors and Barbara & René Stoeltie’s Country Houses Of France have provided me with more inspiration for outdoor rooms than many of my garden design books. Beautifully photographed and richly detailed, both books are excellent, stylish resources for casual, elegant living. I highly recommend either title for further study and inspiration. Why not take a cue from these authors and blur the boundaries between inside and out in your home and garden? It seems quite natural to me (perhaps it’s just my European roots) to think of the outdoor spaces surrounding a home in much the same way you might think of an open-plan dining room and kitchen inside the house. Potted plants and shade trees help relax outside architecture, of course. But by adding casual cafe-style or flea-market furniture —movable tables and chairs, comfortable weather-proof pillows, twinkling chandeliers, lanterns and/or strings of tiny lights— the space becomes infinitely more inviting. In this way, a garden or back terrace becomes a three or even a four season extension of your home; a part of your living space as opposed to merely your ‘backyard’. Can you envision such an outdoor room in your own garden? A shadowy nook for quiet lunchtime conversation, or later in the evening, a place for candlelit rendezvous; filled with the sounds of music and secrets shared beneath the stars?

Jacques Grange Garden – Image  ⓒ Provence Interiors by Lisa Lovatt-Smith

Christiane &  Serge Cagnolari’s Beautiful Garden Dining Room – Image â“’ Provence Interiors by Lisa Lovatt-Smith

Antique French Iron Chair with Twisted Metal Detail $298 from Terrain

Antique French Metal Chair with Scrolling Detail $228 from Terrain

Antique French Folding Chair $198 from Terrain

The French Country Garden of Jean-Marie & Jennifer Rocchia – Image â“’ Provence Interiors by Lisa Lovatt-Smith

Foundry Style Candleholder with Teardrop Shaped Votive Lamps $68.40 via Amazon

Marrakesh Wrought Iron Pillar Candle Chandelier – $155 at HomArt via Amazon

La Buissaie, France – Image â“’ Country Houses Of France by Barbara & René Stoeltie

3 Piece White Metal Bistro Set, only $79 at

The Garden of Siki de Somalie, Provence, France – Image â“’ Country Houses Of France by Barbara & René Stoeltie

3 Piece Red Metal Bistro Set – $79 at

The Garden of Siki de Somalie, Provence, France – Image â“’ Country Houses Of France by Barbara & René Stoeltie

Pretty Metal Bistro Set in Blue – $79 at

Tiered Plant Stand in Blue Metal – $129 from Gardener’s Supply Company

Beautiful Blue 3-Piece Bistro Set – $179 from Gardener’s Supply Company


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Article © 2010 Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden.

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