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