Summer in the City: Three keys to designing a garden level space for maximum use and style

Are you on #TeamSpritz? If so, come over for drinks.  I’m ready for you.

The truth is, I designed the garden level of my Victorian home for summer living, entertaining friends, mixing Aperol cocktails on the patio, and nibbling Italian olives. It didn’t used to be this easy.

When we first moved in, the main kitchen was in the basement. Needless to say that was inconvenient for our family of three boys. I moved the kitchen up to the parlor level and redesigned the “basement” to become a functional and stylish space perfect for summers in the city, with access to our courtyard patio. 


Here are the three key design decisions I made that transformed my space and could transform yours, too.

1.      Connect the space to the outdoors.  I have a door to the outside, which seems so simple. But if you don’t have one, you won’t use the space as much. Add French doors if you can. If you don’t have large or many windows, consider adding lighting to make the space more inviting.

I also created a bench for dropping sports equipment and taking off muddy boots. This one was repurposed from an old Crate & Barrel farm table. I shortened the legs, trimmed a third off of it for a shelf and used the extra legs for the food prep space cabinet. Of course it doesn’t need to be purely functional with a hearty bench cushion fabric by Maharam I added custom and and ready made pillows from Timorous Beasties. How cute is that lizard!

2.      Build in storage and function for al fresco dining and warm weather entertaining. Add a sink and a fridge. I found my sink at an architectural salvage company in New Hampshire. I had to coerce a couple guys to help me carry in the 600-pound cast iron antique. I love it! Of course, having a fridge for cold drinks and ice is amazing.

Have a prep space for food. Who wants to run upstairs to the kitchen when you are grilling burgers? Not me. I bought a simple Ikea cabinet, added legs from the old farm table hack, added a marble remnant on top and jazzed it all up with a fun tile backsplash, handmade in Mexico. The modern hexagon cabinet pulls are from School House Electric.  I customized the color of the leaf pattern on the handmade Mexican cement tile from Grow House Grow to match the greens in my wallpaper.

3.   Reflect the outdoors.  The inspiration for the space was this amazing Timorous Beasties botanical wallpaper, which I found for a landscape architect client of mine. I fell in love with the colors and the vibrancy of the pattern.  I then layered in the art and decorative objects, mostly Brimfield Antique fair finds that were cheap, fun and kitschy. I kept with the copper metal finish for to match my light fixtures which was a nice change from the other metal finishes in the rest of the house. 

I also matched the paint colors to the wallpaper. Because this was the garden level, I gave myself license to have more fun with the Farrow & Ball colors – all pulled from nature, including Peignoir, which is like the sky at dusk; Yeabridge green, a grassy green, Oval Room Blue, an ocean blue and for the stairs I went with Brinjal, a dramatic magenta.

Of course, given that this is a basement space, I had to have a tile floor for mud shoes and sports equipment. I chose a slate colored porcelain hexagon but added pizzazz with a cut-in pattern at the stair landing.

Designing the space with thought means that now the living is easy. Especially in the summer. Cheers!

Ps. Check out this before shot of me during construction.

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