For Gary Fabro, pairing a navy blazer and white dress shirt with jeans is just the blend of formal and casual he loves. The Hallmark e-commerce executive and freelance graphic designer also translates that style to the home he shares with Mike Mead, a menswear expert at Halls on Grand.
“Masculine. Tonal. Monochromatic,” is the way he describes the interior of the low-slung Brookside Tudor, all taupe and white and black with clean, modern lines and contemporary art.
And that’s the look he wanted for the garden so the line between indoor and outdoor would be blurred. “We wanted the garden to be an extension of the intimate seating areas in the house,” says Fabro. “And just like indoors, we like vignettes of objects like statues and mirrors and urns that tell a story.”
The masculine shows itself in the extensive hardscape designed by Kristopher Dabner of The Greensman, including the bluestone patio and the cut gray flagstone that borders the Eau Claire pea gravel.
The tonal appears in shades of leafy green—everything from English ivy to boxwood to ferns.
And the monochromatic kicks in with black and white, garden style. “Anything flowering is white,” explains Fabro, who planted oak leaf hydrangea as well as white impatiens. “Dark magenta is the closest thing to black in plants, so I used Japanese maple, coral bells, and crabapple.”
Over the past 20 years, Fabro has worked with a small, L-shaped space complete with a giant apple tree that rains down tiny green fruit the squirrels nibble then chuck. “In season, I probably sweep up a bushel of little apples a day,” he says. But everything else is meant to be low maintenance. “We put in drip irrigation to the thousandth degree, in-ground and over pots with a timer, so we didn’t have to spend all that time watering by hand.”
“Ninety percent of the garden is permanent; 10 percent is annual,” he adds. “That makes it easy to manage.”
From the living room, you step out onto the side porch, which Fabro completely re-did as one of the first projects. An oeil de boeuf mirror from J’adore Home & Garden on one side of the door balances with a modern painting on the other side. An antique glider from Mead’s grandparents is now painted a chic black and upholstered in a gray Sunbrella fabric. A bronze-hued chandelier and a pot of white orchids on the coffee table help make this the perfect place for an after-work cocktail.
Fabro hopes that he can one day train the Virginia creeper to line the top of the privacy fence that surrounds the garden. A curving pathway, bordered with hosta and a white-flowering magnolia, leads from the side porch to another garden vignette.
Fabro had shown antiques dealer Christopher Filley a page torn from an old Kansas City Spaces magazine of an outdoor console composed of architectural salvage pieces, hoping to replicate it. “That’s in my garden!” Filley said with a laugh. But Filley was able to create a similar piece featuring dressed, stacked stone pillars and a smooth stone top. A tall, wrought-iron frame backed with mirror and vintage grindstones complete the vignette.
Near the house, Fabro planted vintage species that fit the era of the house—lily of the valley, which likes shade, and spirea, which favors the sunnier spot.
Another vignette deploys mirrors, which catch the light of the moon and stars, along with lanterns in different shapes and sizes. An assortment of finials from Nell Hill’s adds a sculptural accent. Succulents that play on the burgundy, green and white color scheme fill a nearby birdbath.
On the bluestone patio, a black metal table and chairs underneath an umbrella is the perfect spot to dine when Fabro and Mead grill chicken and vegetables to go with a vintage wine. Yet another seating area is set up on a black-stained deck. Like the indoor seating areas, the chairs have black-and-white punch, this time with a Greek-key design.
Mirrored Palladian trellises bounce light from the darkest recesses of the garden. On the back wall of the garden, a French metal lavabo or washbasin and a Mexican molcajete or lava rock bowl are a study in textures.
A bubbling stone fountain adds another layer of sensory detail to the garden and also helps mask traffic noise from nearby Wornall Road. “If there is one thing on my wish list, it’s another water feature,” says Fabro.
And he just might get it. After all, this garden is a blend of “wishful thinking and experimenting,” says Fabro. It’s a little piece of sophisticated calm, where Tudor meets bungalow and they both live happily ever after.
J’Adore Home & Garden
GARDEN STATUARY AND ANTIQUES
Christopher Filley Antiques