June 2009 Issue
Get in touch with your inner idea maker by carving out a creative place in your everyday living space.
Rich Kanary, owner of Kanary’s Landscaping in Sheffield Village, makes his living on inspiration. After 37 years in the landscaping business, his company continues to win awards for cutting-edge concepts and designs — including Best in Show for garden design and water feature entries at this year’s Cleveland Home and Garden Show.
With nearly four decades in the same field, it’s amazing the veteran landscape designer manages to keep his idea pump primed. His secret: “I bought a caboose,” he says.
“I’ve always been into trains,” he explains, recalling a toy train set he had as a child. “I always wanted a caboose.” For that reason, the landscape architect located and purchased a 1932, 9-by-33-foot Akron-Barberton line caboose, and with the help of his co-workers, gutted it and transformed it into office space.
“I knew it would be my presentation office,” he says. “We win lots of awards because of our creativity, so I suppose we should look the part.” His “office” is equipped with electricity, heat, air-conditioning, a tin ceiling and insulation (via the 1,000 holes he drilled into the steel walls and filled with foam). The car is fully furnished with a suede settee couch in “railroad green,” an antique desk and chair from the factory in Lorain where his father worked, and a flat-screen television. The caboose rests on tracks, and can roll forward and back on the rails. “I used to move it back and forth to mess with my neighbor,” he laughs.
Kanary says it’s this sort of thinking that guides him when he’s creating an outdoor space for clients. “First, you have to think about what pleases you,” he says.“For some people, it’s materials like stone, or partial walls from an old barn,” he says. “For others, it’s plants.”
From there, you should decide what sort of mood you want to set. “We usually landscape from the inside out,” he says. “We stand inside and look out to see what, exactly, you’re looking at, and how it lines up with the feeling you want to create.”
Over the years, Kanary and his colleagues have helped countless clients who want to fuel their creativity using their outdoor space. At the Goldwood Primary School in Rocky River, the company transformed a bare outdoor courtyard into a natural patio with a water feature. “It looks like an old-growth forest,” he says. For another client, a professional string bass player, Kanary recalls creating a music-themed garden space that included shrubs trimmed into the shape of a string bass and lamium planted to look like sheet music. The musician wanted an area where he could sit outside and practice, he explains.
And there are plenty more. One client, a photographer, wanted a meditative area that was functional and inspiring throughout all four seasons. “So we overwhelmed him with color and [fragrance],” from winter plants like barberry and aromatic plants like thyme, says Kanary. For another client, an artist, he put a series of benches around his yard to create different views of the same landscape.
Kanary says the trend has gone from building one big outdoor space to creating several small areas within a property. “In the old days, landscaping was make a big patio, add a grill and that was it,” he says. “Now, we spread it out, because some people just want an area away from it all to read.”
For some people it’s one object that inspires their creative space. For Julie Davis of Westerville, it’s a memory.
“[Fifteen years ago] we went on a vacation with some friends to Three Lakes, Wisconsin, and stayed in a log cabin on a lake,” says Davis. “It was an instant connection; I thought, ‘this is what I want someday.’ ”
Because she and her husband, Kenny, are still working, that someday is still more than a few years off. So for Davis, finding ways to recreate that connection in her suburban home — using earth tones and natural wood, for example — helps to keep her creative fire fueled. “It helps me think,” she says.
Davis, who works from home as the festival director for the Olde Worthington Business Association and is the president of Columbus Audubon, appreciates being creatively nudged by her indoor space as much as her outdoor area. “Because I’m here most of the day, I want to have a space that makes me happy and inspired,” she says.
For that reason, four years ago she converted her first-floor dining room into a den and moved her workspace from a small “closet-like” room upstairs to the “heart of the house.”
“I wanted to be in the center of the house all the time,” she says, interrupting herself to call out “goldfinch,” as the bird’s song flutters through the open door. An avid hiker and birder, her love of the outdoors is everywhere in her den and throughout her home, from the nature books on the shelves next to her desk, to the cedar waxwing batik lampshade.
When she needs a break from work, Davis retreats to her screened-in back porch, where she finds inspiration watching birds at the feeders and listening to the sound of the water from the backyard pond. “I put the pond in about five years ago,” she says. “Again, it goes back to the lake in Wisconsin. I’ve always wanted to be around water,” she says. Davis says she bought the initial flagstone locally, “but every time I travel I bring back stones for the pond, so it has pieces of Belize, Costa Rica, Colorado, Montana, Florida, southern Ohio, and Lakes Erie, Michigan and Superior to mention a few,” she says. “And those memories always keep me inspired.”