This modern garden appears to have sprung up naturally in a traditional Central Gardens setting. It is one of designer Jeff Edwards’ recently completed landscapes, and clearly documents his masterful approach to melding new and old.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the most prominent architects of the day made Central Gardens a showcase and, in turn, home to the city’s most prominent citizens. It is one of Memphis’ most enduring neighborhoods, but because the houses have been standing for many years, current residents are often charged with the task of updating their homes and gardens without disturbing the grand, traditional charm innate to this area.
Jeff, his team at Carlton Architecture + DesignBuild and creative local professionals came together to transform this outdoor space. What was a fragmented arrangement with undefined areas and a small, unused pool near the back of the house is now an outdoor, harmonious blend of texture, pattern and color. Every inch, Jeff says, was used to create outdoor rooms for different purposes. The layout now accommodates swimming, lounging, entertaining, gardening, cooking out around a fire pit and more.
“Strong, organized geometry makes all of this work and creates a simple and relaxing environment,” Jeff explains. “Our detailing takes on updated freshness, so there is distinction between new and old, but both reside harmoniously.” An existing Asian statue was incorporated and served as inspiration for simple design influences you might find in a Japanese garden. Plant selections were simple and maintenance-free. The yard is void of any chemical pesticides or herbicides. In turn, the landscape needed to be relatively low-maintenance. Mass plantings and a limited plant list keep the overall look simple and successful.
Sweetbay Magnolias near the fire pit and sun terrace offer sweet, subtle fragrance when in bloom, and they are wonderful accents at night when uplighting hits the underside of their sage-colored leaves. The trees’ multitrunk structures act as natural sculptures in the landscape. Also pivotal to this garden’s charm are two Corten steel planters fabricated locally by David Doss of Twisted Dimensions. Both of these planters contain mature Japanese maple trees. These planters will develop a beautiful patina to warm the space and act as a liaison between new and old, modern and rustic.
What was an unappointed space on the north side of the main house is now an inviting pathway with an elevated boardwalk. This spot can double as a pitting area for gardening or can be set up with a bar for larger garden parties. Outdoor lighting expands the backyard and draws you through to various spots in the garden, ideal for entertaining. The back house, which now serves as a pool cabana, received minimal, but high-impact, modifications that tie it into the landscape. To the north, Jeff expanded the steps and added new cedar decking. For gatherings, the steps double as extra seating.
Limestone is another thread used to seamlessly bridge new and old characteristics, as it picks up on the original limestone sills of this historic home. It was used for the pool coping, stair treads, wall caps and even as a base for the new fire pit.
Of note are Loll chairs selected by interior designer Greg Baudoin to surround the fire pit. These chairs are made from recycled plastics.
The homeowners call their renovated screened-in porch a “piece of peace,” and say that they spend more time on the porch than in any other part of the house. Natural concrete with an acid-etched surface, which coordinates with the use of limestone treads and accents, was used on the porch. Concrete is common to many porches in Central Gardens. It is also a budget-friendly material.
The architecture of the porch is simple and modern, yet not a radical departure from the traditional architecture of the home. To achieve this, the color palette was key. Jeff and his team emphasized a dark bronze hue, which was present in existing brick. Greg completed the unassuming, contemporary look with a custom outdoor rug that adds distinction and comfort to the homeowners’ favorite retreat. In fact, ever since the renovation was completed this summer, Jeff’s clients say they are traveling less and retreating to their backyard more!
Thank you, Jeff, for sharing this private, serene space in Midtown, an updated outdoor living area where modern influence and traditional appeal establish a “piece of peace” in historic Central Gardens.
Screened porch addition: Jeff Edwards, Carlton Architecture
New Pool and landscape design: Jeff Edwards, Carlton Architecture
Landscape installer: Jerry Smahay
Porch and outdoor furniture and fabrics: Greg Baudoin, Ray & Baudoin
General contractor for the screened-in porch: Paul Davis Restoration
Custom Corten planters: David Doss of Twisted Dimensions
Outdoor lighting: Bill Taylor, Outdoor Lighting Concepts
Photography: Julie Wage Ross
Two images—one of the fire pit and hydrangeas and one of the back house—were taken by Lisa Bertagna of Carlton Architecture + DesignBuild.