No house is truly romantic without a backyard conservatory, say architects in England, where the earliest known conservatories were 17th-century compositions of stone used for storing food. Then in the 19th-century metal structures were used as greenhouses for cultivating plants and resplendent venues for entertaining.
This conservatory is used for a little bit of both. Kim Brandstater shares the structure with her husband, Justin, and their three children. It is made of coated steel with over 100 glass panels and located next to a Victorian farmhouse in Sierra Madre, California.
Placed beside a French potager garden landscaped with willow trees, white roses, lavender and vegetables, the Victorian Grande Dame sparkles amid blossoms spilling onto pathways meandering past aqua French pots and gray umbrellas. “My husband and I traveled to Europe to tour homes and gardens to be inspired,” Kim says. “We came home with ideas for the drought-tolerant yard we designed.”
From the Outside In
The couple’s love for nature and romance extends to the interior of the conservatory where a concrete floor stained with an acid wash settled into an aqua color resembling water. The main room is lined with birdcages housing finches, planters filled with palm plants and fiddle ferns surrounded by teak furniture. “I like the rustic look because it doesn’t detract from the garden; the garden is the view,” says Kim.
By day the room is streaming with light, but in the evening, dinner parties take on their own glimmering beauty. Guests dine under three chandeliers, a glass roof and a star-lit sky. Rectangular wooden tables are pushed together for intimate seating. They are dressed with burlap, ruffle and lace table runners, while French pillows and faux-fur-covered benches add comfortable seating.
Tableware and its placement are bearers of beauty and tradition on any table, so mix and match vintage with new silver pieces and china patterns, antique with country and “use what you have,” suggests Kim.
Plans for live dinner music are in the works, but the best performance is the one nature gives: “When it rains, you can hear the clinking sound of the rain and the acorns falling from the oak tree onto the metal,” Kim says. “I haven’t tried sleeping in it yet … but perhaps that’s next.”
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