Growing Modern

By W. Barksdale Maynard, Better Homes and Gardens

PHOTO BY KRITSADA
PHOTO BY KRITSADA
PHOTO BY KRITSADA
PHOTO BY KRITSADA
PHOTO BY KRITSADA

For 20 years, Sean Quigley’s San Francisco garden and curiosities shop, Paxton Gate, has delighted visitors with its eclectic mix of old and new, conventional and surprising. His garden designs do the same.

They’re clean and contemporary, to be sure. In fact, Sean often starts with a bold geometric framework-“a spreadhseet,” he calls it. But to avoid the sterile look and feel that often defines contemporary designs, he includes elements that have an organic character. “Rustic, aged components bring life into a design and humanize the garden,” Sean says, “Lush plantings soften the hard lines.”

For example, in this garden, his spreadhsheet is a striking geometric patchwork of natural hardscape materials, such as gravel, mulch, bluestone, and river rock. He softened them by filling some of the squares on the “floor” of the garden room with plants, and then lining the perimeter of the garden with bamboo. Its dense, lush foliage makes it a great screening plant, concealing a not-so-pretty privacy fence, while its distinct structure adds to the contemporary feel. Likewise, Sean chose a privet hedge to form a living separation. The tightly clipped shape reinforces the geometric theme while adding life to the garden. Inanimate materials, such as furniture and decor, are chosen for their organic vibe.

For someone who begins with such an orderly foundation, Sean describes his as surprisingly instinctive. “It comes from a place I’m not really conscious of,” he says. “Really, what I try to do is make things look good and make a space function well.” Conscious or not, it’s a mix that works magic.