Mediterranean-Style Garden

Garden designer Amber Freda of Home & Garden Design didn't let rigid landscape rules deter her from creating an outdoor space that suggests a faraway oasis.


By: Barbara Ballinger
From: Amber Freda

When garden designer Amber Freda was called in to help New York University redesign an outdoor space connected with teaching Italian, what could have been more appropriate than a Mediterranean-style room?

Because of the difference in climates, she took some artistic license with planting and hardscape materials, yet still conjured up that romantic destination.

Describe the homeowners' wishlist.

We wanted the look and feeling of a Mediterranean garden, with comfortable, inviting places for people to eat, read and enjoy the outdoor space. The client also asked that the garden be as low-maintenance as possible, which is why we installed an automated drip irrigation system.

Mediterranean Garden Patio

See All Photos

Mediterranean Influences

Wrought-iron furniture, a fountain and tiled floors suggest a Mediterranean-style garden.

Pay Attention to Scale

In a small space, use tables, chairs and pots that fit the scale so there's enough room to maneuver about.

Creating Tranquility

The fountain acts as white noise blocking out sounds in busy, frenetic New York City to add tranquility.

Add Height

Big planted pots and tall columns add verticality to the space and define it more as a room.

What were the homeowners' design problems?

We wanted to use high-quality terra cotta that could stay outdoors year-round and wouldn't crack in the winter, so we chose thicker, handmade pots that are at least one to two inches thick. Also, this garden is surrounded by trees and buildings in New York, so it's very shady, unlike most true Mediterranean gardens. We had to choose plants that look like they came from the Mediterranean, but would also tolerate partial shade.

What was your biggest obstacle in this space?

We needed to create the look of Italian cypresses and boxwoods, which are staples in Old World gardens, but there simply wasn't enough light in this urban small garden for either of those plants to survive. Our solution was to use clipped "Manhattan" euonymus in place of boxwoods and Japanese plum yews in place of the cypress trees.

How does the end result match up with your original vision?

The biggest obstacle we had initially was that we ran the irrigation lines up and over the pergola beams, but squirrels kept scampering down from the trees and chewing up the irrigation lines to get to the water. Our solution became easier when the client decided to upgrade the terra cotta tiles to a pedestal system that allowed us to run the irrigation lines under the pavers.

What lessons did you learn?

It taught me that you don't have to do things by the book. We were able to create a Mediterranean-style garden using plants that wouldn't necessarily even grow or do well in the Mediterranean, but which look similar enough that we still managed to capture the spirit and essence of that area of the world.

What are the "hidden gems"?

I think the columns really contribute a lot to the classic design style. The white door frames and the space give it some structure.

Keep Reading

Next Up

Wasted Outdoor Space Given New Life

Expecting to start a project working on a staircase, landscape designer James Bertrand saw an outdoor space he just had to rescue.

From Wicker Nightmare to Colorful Outdoor Space

Designer Deborah Bettcher transforms a dreary, rundown sun room into a colorful oasis full of charming details.

Casual Kitchen and Living Space

San Francisco designer Tineke Triggs makes a smaller home feel more spacious by creating a light and airy great room.

Backyard Stuns With Mediterranean-style Pool

Designer Steve Chepurny turned this basic backyard into a Mediterranean paradise, complete with a pool, outdoor living space, and total privacy.

From Old Deck to Outdoor Masterpiece

How do you enjoy outdoor life but have a retreat when weather’s too hot or bugs too plentiful? Designers Barbara Elliott and Jennifer Ward-Woods show you how.

Mediterranean-Inspired Backyard

Landscape designer Michael Glassman creates an outdoor oasis with beautiful plantings, a flagstone patio and al fresco dining.

Picturesque Garden Entrance

Designer Margie Grace created this stunning garden area after a garage renovation consumed the home's front yard, leaving a less-than-desirable mark on the entrance.

Eclectic Black and Yellow Guest Room

Designer Ashley DeLapp used creative furniture choices and funky patterns to maximize space and make over this guest bedroom retreat.

Backyard Upgrade With a Pool

Landscape designer John Cowen transform a basic backyard into a relaxing retreat for homeowners who wanted a place to get away from their busy lives in New York City.

Old World-Inspired Patio

Landscape designer James M. Drzewiecki creates an outdoor living space with a rustic, timeless atmosphere, where the whole family can relax.

Amber Freda

Contact Me
Amber Freda Home & Garden Design 646-546-1592