Friday, December 30, 2011

My left foot

I've looked everywhere for a supplier of these pavers. I saw these on 17th between Park Ave. South and Irving Place, just across from Union Square Park. For scale, I put my left foot (shoe, actually) into the picture. About four and a half inches across. Squarish cobble stones, used in historic areas throughout New York City. If you know where I can buy these, let me know. Please.

It's all about scale. Like my foot defines the scale of the stone surface around it, measuring the extension of the paved surface, giving rough dimensions of 6 by 8 feet in abstract measure, but more significantly, a feeling for the space in human terms, relating the space to the human body, my body.

The more I think about how to design my new city garden, the more I find myself wrestling with the concept of scale. In memory, things seem larger than they really are. My 20- by 40-foot space is smaller than I think. Much smaller. I look at similar spaces, and see the need to cut back, edit, make choices, simplify.

So I need to start with my foot, then my height, my body, how I move in the space. I need to walk the garden space more. Sit out there. Get the feel of the space, the objects around it.

I like the scale of these stones, their elegant patterns, the way their small size can play off larger slabs of stone, contrast with gravel, I like their texture; they break up the space and carry the eye toward detail.


  1. I know what you mean about trying to get the feel of the space. I've been walking around my current garden for 3 months (it can be nice to be your own client) doing the same thing. Now, as I fall asleep each night, I close my eyes and try to "walk" through the gate and see what I would like it to look like. Of course, design's not that easy, but occasionally, I get some inspiration. I also find when I go out late in the evening when the light is nearly gone, I get some insights into the essentials of the space.

    We have those cobblestones here in Rwanda. I see them all the time on side streets and they're been laid in the last 10 years -- usually in a scallop pattern. I've got to find out more about them too.

    Have a great 2012!

  2. Interesting you find them there. I have found sources for extremely large quantities (something like 200 square meters minimum!). They seem to come from China, or through a Chinese company. I had been told by a local quarry that they come from India and must be obtained by the ship load. Yes, I see them often in scallop patterns too.

    So I may use concrete pavers from Lowes or Home Depot. Simple, basic materials. And cheap.

    I like your idea of seeing the garden at different times of day, at night.

    Have a great 2012 too. Are you in Rwanda for a prolonged period?

  3. Three years, which is why I can take some time thinking about the garden. (My husband is the U.S. Ambassador.)

  4. As I guessed. It looks like a very exciting opportunity. I look forward to seeing what you do with the garden.

  5. James,
    We have a great supplier of granite here in Peterborough and we used small granite pavers at Peter's Gate in Depot Park to good effect. I might suggest visiting some small gardens this year for inspiration. There used to be a tour of the private gardens of Beacon Hill in Boston that gives you the idea of different ways to design a small space. Maybe there is something like it in Brooklyn. I'll bet even visiting the Cloisters Museum, for instance, might inspire you. Small ares or rooms of large gardens can be another source of ideas. Good Luck and Happy New Year!

  6. Michael,
    Thanks for the suggestions. Peter Holt tells me he's seen the small pavers in Nova Scotia and they are pricey, so I may have to go the low budget route. I've toured small gardens in Brooklyn. Actually, I used to have one. But at the time, I'd never had a large garden. Now I have to think small for a change, and changing gears seems to be the hard part, learning/remembering to think in a new way. I still take a lot of inspiration from Dan Pearson's book.

  7. I know what you mean about the garden being smaller than it seems. When I was planning the backyard last winter, it seemed so spacious. I made dozens of different plans on the computer...and everything seemed perfect. As soon as we actually put up the fence and put in the pathway, however, I realized that that 10x20-ish space was, in reality, smaller than I had anticipated. Plans were altered (thank goodness I hadn't bought many plants yet) and it all worked out in the end. It definitely reinforced for me, however, the benefits to really getting to know a space, and not rushing into things. The reality is always a bit different than our perceptions of it seem to be ;-) Good luck with your new garden, can't wait to see what 2012 holds for you!

  8. Have you seen the "Belgian Block" which seems readily available in your general area and comes in several sizes including a 4-inch cube? I googled a web site of the same name. Regarding the cost, you may begin to realize one of the benefits of having a smaller garden--smaller quantities of materials are required so it's kind of like splurging on the use of using an expensive accent tile in a backsplash or bath vignette.


  9. Emily - Thank you so very much. I've always called the large blocks Belgian blocks, but you're right. Your comment led me to a New Jersey source. Now I just have to call and see if they will sell me the small quantity I need.

  10. Scott, I got back to Brooklyn tonight and walked out into the new room (no roof yet, back still partly open to the "garden." Even in this incomplete state, I can look out and see the garden space "feels" more like a square than a longish rectangle, which is what I see when I draw it to scale. My perception of the space is entirely changed just from this one glance out after the walls were put up. Can't wait for the construction to move inside so I'll have the outside to explore at more leisure.

  11. This guy does good things with stone/paving.


  12. Thanks for that link. I just spent a few minutes exploring it and already see I need a few hours. What a trove of inspiration and ideas! A Happy New Year to you.

  13. Yep, feeling the space is just so important and so often it is extract, extract, extract. The simpler the better so that it feels almost underdesigned. And again you are right about the integers of the hardlandscaping and the effect it can have on the space!
    Interested to follow you!

  14. Thanks for confirmation, Robert. Extract, extract, extract (I notice you did not say subtract.).



Related Posts with Thumbnails