Each Friday Simplifying Fabulous! presents Fab Fridays, an up-close-and-personal look at how one of our community members simplifies fabulous in their own life. Is there someone you’d like to see featured? Email your submission to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Simplifying Fabulous! with Robin Horton of Urban Gardens
ABOUT Robin Horton is publisher of Urban Gardens: Unlimited Thinking for Limited Spaces, the award-winning green lifestyle and design blog showcasing fresh, innovative, and eco-friendly designs, trends, and ideas. She is also the principal and creative director of Robin Horton Design, a strategic and creative print and web design consultancy, and also co-facilitator of The Blog Workshops, creative writing/social media workshops.
Robin Baron: Tell me a bit about your site!
Robin Horton: In 2009, I launched Urban Gardens, a green lifestyle and design blog, as a platform for sharing with urban dwellers and others with limited spaces my love affair with design, city life, and nature. Informed by my years of design experience as a creative director and designer I view, source, and share everything through that designer lens. Urban Gardens offers fresh, innovative, and eco-friendly designs, trends, and ideas. I explore and showcase what’s out there in the urban garden universe–from the amazing products of talented new designers, to community gardens experimenting with edible landscaping, sustainable urban agriculture and micro-farms, to guerrilla gardeners transforming derelict abandoned properties into lush, or at least, provocative garden spaces.
RB: What do you love most about your work?
RH: I love uncovering fabulous ideas and products from all over the globe and sharing them with my readers, both on the blog and through my social media outposts. In the process, I am able to engage people in dialogue, both positive and negative, about design. I have always enjoyed stirring things up a bit, so getting people talking is a good way to stimulate interest in design and sustainability. Being in the blogosphere has connected me with many wonderful and talented people. In the two years since launching Urban Gardens, I have made so many connections in the design and garden communities, many of whom have become good friends.
RB: What are the most interesting things that you’re seeing happening in the green lifestyle and design area?
RH: Maybe it’s rise of the “staycation,” originally driven by the economic down turn, or the increasing number of individuals telecommuting from home, but the result is that people are investing more in creating outdoor living areas that extend the boundaries of their indoor spaces. Whether it’s a need for respite from our virtual worlds or just a desire for time outside, it’s no surprise that taking the indoors outside is becoming a bigger and bigger trend. People are creating outdoor spaces that function much like their indoor rooms– stylish places for lounging, dining, entertaining, and even working.
As the line between indoors and outdoors has become blurred, we see things normally found indoors, like chandeliers, in outdoor dining areas. I really love Fatboy’s RockCoco chandelier, a contemporary, outdoor take on a Louis XV chandelier. There are a wide variety of outdoor fabrics and pillows available, and some, like those from Trina Turk’s collection for Schumacher, would look equally great in a formal living room. To further define exterior rooms, or separate a dining from lounging area, even the big chains like Restoration Hardware and Pottery Barn offer outdoor drapes. Herman Miller is reintroducing the Eames Aluminum Group, originally designed in 1950 for indoor-outdoor use for the Miller House, whose interior designer bemoaned the lack of available well-designed outdoor furnishings. The Miller House was ahead of its time with multiple outdoor living and dining areas, even back then blurring the distinction between indoors and out.
There is big interest in bringing green inside with vertical gardens and green walls. For the Shippan Designer Show House last fall, I co-designed the transformation of a utilitarian potting shed into a creative retreat. We had a interior vertical garden wall, a mural of moss birds, and upside down terra cotta garden pots upcycled into pendant lamps.
At the entrance we had this “lawn chair,” a chair built from reclaimed fencing with a planted sod seat.
RB: What design elements in your home have you personalized?
RH: Because I pick up things from here and there, nearly everything in my home has an accompanying story or sparks a particular memory. I like to mix modern pieces with antique ones, though a friend once referred to some of my things as “junktiques.” I scour flea markets and fairs like Brimfield, and have picked up some cool pieces at thrift shops too.
Once I found a giant metal cowboy boot planter in the back of a junk shop at a roadside convenience store in Arizona. It now holds firewood and matches by the fireplace in my living room.
An old African barber shop outdoor sign hangs in my family room. I choose things because they feel right. I didn’t “decorate” my home. That is, there was no plan for which I went out and procured all the things to fill it. I just had a sense for what felt right, then the colors, the furnishings, and everything else just followed and fell into place. Something grabs my attention and I think, “Oh, that would be great in the red room or on the patio!”
I think one’s living space should always be evolving, kind of like a living organism. We all change over time, and our surroundings should change too to reflect who were are or have become.
RB: What impact has writing a green lifestyle and design blog had on you?
RH: I have become much more aware of where my food comes from. I didn’t know until last year that the average carrot travels 1,500 miles to supermarket. Now I would rather buy a local apple than an organic apple from several thousand miles away. I have seen a big rise in edible gardens replacing ornamental ones and even entire front lawns. Urban chicken raising and beekeeping are growing in popularity as cities begin changing their zoning to accommodate this in response to demand. Restaurants are growing their own food on their rooftops and some even in their cellars.
I have realized that one of the greenest things one can do is keep something forever so it never ends up in a landfill. So if I have a great piece of furniture that is made well and I love it, it is going to be around for a very long time. I may slipcover it or change the pillows, but the basic piece is a keeper. Before I ever heard of the idea of “reusing”, I was culling from flea markets and thrift shops. One of my favorite things is to use an object, like I did with the garden pots as pendant lamps, for a purpose other than what it was intended for.
As much as I love interesting and beautiful things, I have also become more interested in reducing the amount of stuff I have. Someone once told me they could remember when everything they owned could be carried on their back. Sometimes that sounds pretty good. Except shoes, I really like shoes and I will always have too many!