A terrace designer takes fresh outdoor ideas to new heights
"I'm not a minimalist, but each design element should serve a purpose and be attractive."
How did you get into this business? My first job after college was in LA with a nonprofit called Tree People. From there I worked with well-known landscape architects, Disney Imagineering, Mattel, Universal, and then started my own consultancy. My first terrace was for a friend’s wedding, and this gift became the inspiration for Just Terraces. Who are your greatest influences? Yacht designers and builders are my greatest influences. Your terraces are great places to relax, but they function as entertaining spaces too. How do you make them work for both? Each project is about well-being. To me, part of well-being is functionality—ease of use combined with low maintenance. An uncluttered space is essential for quiet use and for entertaining. I’m not a minimalist, but each design element should serve a purpose and be attractive. How do you create a year-round terrace in the Northeast? In the late spring through late fall you get the full experience, and the rest of the year you’re limited to a visual experience. Furniture should be sculptural and beautiful, so that uncovered, with rain and snow, it looks appealing. Likewise, we have cushions made by a yacht maker in Fort Lauderdale who has a proprietary foam that is the standard for year-round use. Fabrics that can’t handle the realities of an outdoor space should not be selected. Halogen heaters make cool nights bearable, and evergreen, winter-hardy plants are bold design elements for backdrops. What makes an ideal terrace? Well, that’s totally subjective. I don’t have an urban terrace, so I can only project. But I do have a beach house in Amagansett, and on my deck there is an outdoor shower stall, dining table, lots of chairs and lounges, a portable fire pit, stacked firewood, easy access to the kitchen for food and drink—all with a view of a nature preserve with no one looking back and the sound of the waves all day long. Ideal? I think so.
How does an urban terrace differ from something in the country? The views are completely different and that’s what makes a city terrace so exciting. In the city, a pool isn’t always an option (you can’t always make the people below you move out). How do you choose the plants for your terraces? Survivors. If it can grow on the steppes of the Rockies or in Nepal, it’s a surefire winner for a terrace. That’s only partly true, but it is a factor. The expression used in the industry is right place, right plant. We push it and experiment, though. Not to be callous, but we’ve definitely sent our fair share of plants to plant heaven. How do you create impact with greenery in a limited space? There are numerous ways to do this. A simple hedge of beautifully shaped boxwood is a simple, elegant statement. A twisted sculptural Japanese maple with light on the trunk is spectacular year-round. It really depends on what kind of impact you’re after. As a rule, less is more.