It has often been a common mistake of man to underestimate the great outdoors. This week’s challenge caught us wildly off-guard as we were plunged knee-deep in the mud.
Luckily, that’s just how we like it.
Since joining the competition, the strenuous work regime and our endless shopping left us – more than once- longing for the quiet serenity of our boat life. We yearned for a little nature. Four weeks of slaving away tirelessly under fluorescent lights, always starting with four empty white walls that remind you blankly of the enormous task at hand…
When Jamie introduced this week’s challenge: the garden, we knew it would be no less daunting – but at least we would be able to get some air.
Shopping was as hectic as ever, but somehow all the more pleasant as Phil was much happier among bamboo and palms than armchairs and curtains. It felt good to have the sun in our eyes again as we waded through muddy nurseries.
In choosing the plants we began to slowly create our theme. We wanted to apply the principles of interior design to the outdoors: textures, contrast, proportions. We chose plants in complementing shades and contrasting consistencies, with bright flowers as colorful accents.
My mother had previously introduced me to the work of Luis Barragán and I had always dreamed of having the chance to experiment with such bold colour schemes in a space of my own. Being outside gave us the freedom for such creativity and though Phil was not immediately taken by what he derisively called a “disgusting Barbie pink”, in the end, as the paint dried, he warmed up to the contemporary Mexican palette.
So we began, ill-equipped but hopeful. A few shovelfuls in and we realized that our garden plot had some serious irrigation problems. We dug and dug as manure-smelling water seeped out from the soil, causing the holes to collapse in on themselves.
It was by far the most physically demanding task that we have faced as a couple. While Phil dug deeper into the fertilizer, I left him to tend to the back garden where for the first time in my life I planted about twenty small plants in a garden patch. I was so happy with my baby aubergine plants that I managed to suppress my fear of the snails and worms that had already found a home there.
Our bodies ached, drenched in sweat, itchy from plant irritants and caked in mud.
As the night wore on, we began to run out of time. Our big plants were in place, our gorgeous Aztec-inspired light fixtures cast geometrical shapes on the pink walls as our garden started to take shape. We began to add accessories and small ‘accent’ plants, as well as lay our carpet of grass.
Though very much advocates for nature, Phil and I made the incredibly wise decision of purchasing fake grass for our garden. Though much more expensive, the grass looked great and was much easier to lay than the square by square natural alternative. Our lawn looked impeccable as we placed the furniture and added the finishing touches.
For the first time since starting the competition, I felt more confidence than fear walking into Design Court. Thankfully I have Phil, who in my moments of precipitous pride helps to humble me and prepare me for the worst.
Luckily this time the judges agreed with me and we won the challenge!
It is also important to understand that until this challenge, we had been blindly estimating our rank in the competition, with nothing but the judge’s comments to guide our judgment. This week we also were finally able to size up the other teams and visit their respective residences.
Phil and I walked through all the houses and began to gage our skills. It was very interesting to see other teams’ interpretations of each challenge, as well as the strengths and weaknesses of their design, highlighted during Design Court by the judges. We tried our best to make it a learning experience and walk away with a better idea of what to avoid and what to draw inspiration from.
Exhausted and elated, we left Design Court for a fourth time – survivors – already thinking of the week to come.