Design & Décor, Living with Style, The Newport Diary


Realizing a Dream: The Creation of the Parterre Bench

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When something has been a dream for so long, it begins to take on mythic proportions…and begs that inevitable question…am I really going to design this bench? Somehow in my heart, I knew that I would. Writing now, I realize that this process was really about something so much more powerful than a piece of furniture…it was about believing! Heavens, I didn’t even have a picture of the original bench. But believe I did, visualizing just the image above of my finished gardens and what place the bench would play in the overall picture, imagined for the Winter Garden.

Fondly I look back now at the littlest signs that this dream, this bench was going to come into being (i.e. the doodling and sketching I always found time to do).

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Once the decision was made, I put out calls within the Newport craftsmen’s community, one of my hometown’s many assets. And that is how I found Bill Nagle, principal in New England Woodworkers. You know when something is “right?” That’s how I immediately felt about Bill. His integrity, his innate kindness, his native honesty, plus his talents were another green light that this was “meant to be.” His firm tweaked my design, produced the CAD drawings and went to work. In summer 2007, the Bench took up residence at Parterre where it became my go-to spot.

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In 2009, unbeknownst to me, Bill’s company suffered the fallout from the recession and closed their doors. He moved to New Hampshire with his wife and eight children.

Ever since the Bench came into being, friends and garden visitors have suggested I share it with others. So often I hear, “it’s just so unusual;” ”there’s no other bench like it out there.” It took me a year to locate Bill through the grapevine. Out of the blue one day he called, as thrilled to be talking to me as I was in hearing from him. Back in business in Newport again, we put the wheels in motion.

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The new bench would use exactly the same CAD drawings (which he still had!) and be made to the same specifications…Honduran mahogany, 62 inches long, 63 inches high, approximately 120 lbs.

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No cutting corners; no manufacturing offshore. If what I had produced for myself was good enough for me, I didn’t want any less for my friends…which is what I would consider anyone who, as an owner, becomes part of the Parterre Bench Circle.

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Every time I look out the library window at my Bench I’m beyond proud of this so personal accomplishment, this divinely well-made, solid piece of furniture. Yes, it was expensive but didn’t the publication of my first coffee table book, Private Newport: At Home and in the Garden, merit this gesture…and represent its success?

I’m reminded every day that I’d rather have this Bench than a piece of jewelry.

And it’s not just for a garden; it would be happy to greet guests in a covered area outside the front door or to be brought indoors for an entry hall, great room or greenhouse.

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The Parterre Bench, understandably, deserves some lead time to produce…it’s not too soon to start thinking about Christmas.

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Bettie Bearden Pardee

About Bettie Bearden Pardee

Author of Private Newport and Living Newport, garden furniture designer (The Parterre Bench), national lecturer, and entertaining expert. An honoree for the second year on "The Salonniere 100 America's Best Party Hosts", she was also the host and creative producer of "The Presidential Palate: Entertaining at the White House".

4 thoughts on “Realizing a Dream: The Creation of the Parterre Bench

  1. Dear Bettie,
    I love reading the Back Story on your beautiful bench! After seeing it In Person, enjoying the comfort of it and even having my picture taken with you on it, I am a Big Fan!!
    Congratulations and thank you for sharing your Dream with the world!! Louise G

    1. Dearest Louise, I love hearing from you…and you added so much to that treasured evening in the garden (not to mention adding chic to my Bench!). xox B.

  2. Dear Bette, I have had the pleasure of buying and reading all your books thus far. I too, have the privledge of owning a second property since 1986. I love Newport in so many ways and never take it for granted. Being a member of the preservation society is how I found your wonderful books. Your bench is amazing,and your gardens as well. Thank you for being the wonderful person that you are. Regards, Brenda Hansen

    1. Dear Brenda, thank you for these kind words. We are so very lucky to live in this town and call it home. It has been an absolute delight to have had the opportunity to document approximately 34 homes in the Newport community. I like to refer to my two books as my “valentine to Newport.” Happy Fall, Bettie

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