One may not believe that putting too much time and effort into utilizing outdoor space when buying a home is worth your while, but Robin Kramer an award winning New England-based garden designer may make you think otherwise. Kramer presents the opportunities to be had when landscaping the exterior of your home.
A former children’s book illustrator and stay-at-home mother, Kramer now successfully owns a garden design firm that also offers an exterior design division that includes furniture, umbrellas, planters, landscape lighting, fabrics and outdoor pieces from all over the world. She believes that the same amount of time spent interior designing should be spent on exterior designing.
Kramer and her husband built a home in Greenwich, Connecticut where they currently live and English garden designer Simon Johnson assisted in landscaping the property. The home was featured in a garden education tour which sparked the start of her career where she met her first client out of the blue. This past summer, Kramer hosted a wedding on her property which may sound like an unusual venue until you find that it was hosted in her parking court. Unlike most circular driveways, Kramer has a large square courtyard with extra wide paths. Also, her parking courtyard leads to a raised area that doubles as a badminton court, an area that was perfect placement for a tent do dance the night away with wedding guests.
“Our parking court is such a special place; you would never know you were basically sitting in our driveway,” says Kramer. “What I try to do — I don’t think of a front yard or a backyard — I think, ‘What can the experience be here?’ A lot of what I do is rooted in European garden design philosophies. People there live outdoors more, sit around and have more conversations.”
Kramer has seen European garden design first hand having lived in England and Germany for many years. Also, due to her husband working as a global investment banker, she has moved nearly a dozen times not realizing as she dragged her children to every public garden and historic location in Europe that she was really nurturing her new career.
To Kramer, landscape is more about life than just a collection of plants, shrubs and trees. “Every lesson in life could be learned in the garden. There are setbacks and disappointments, triumphs and successes, and all the good stuff is fleeting. But people who garden are never deterred. Every season has something to offer. Every season is an opportunity to do something differently. It’s magical to watch these things happen. It’s so part of who we are. To me, it’s inspiring,” says Kramer, showing her passion for garden design.
What Kramer finds most challenging is convincing her clients to understand the importance of utilizing their outdoor space to its full potential. “I want to change the way they experience their homes and create something they’re going to want to have other people experience with them. It’s going to bring not only a deeper connection to nature, but to their family experience as a whole.”
Not only does Kramer spend time outside the home, but she also equally observes the inside of the home. She notes decorations, colors, patterns used, and the view to the outside. She likes to not only enhance the exterior but the home as a whole. “You have this structure, which is organizing your outdoor spaces, and it speaks to the architecture. Near the house, most of my work is quite linear. As you move away from the home, it is in a more naturalistic way,” says Kramer. “I think there’s a connection where you slowly move from the building back into the physical landscape. Houses here in the states are very big and I’m trying to anchor them back to the landscape.”
One then may ask about the role that weather plays into outdoor landscaping, unlike Europe, winters are much longer and unforgiving here in New England. This does not pose a problem in Kramer’s eyes, “We use boxwood endlessly. Perennial beds go to dirt in winter and you still want to see green in winter. I tend to use a lot of hedges to create more order in the landscape.”
The spaces that Kramer works with have a destination feel somewhat like an interior room. Home buyers use each room in a home for a specific purpose as should be done the same with outdoor space. Interiorly you go to specific areas at a certain time of day to trigger or create a certain mood. Ultimately, the same should be done exteriorly.
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