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From Grunge to Gorgeous

Tiny patio, small budget, six seasons, much joy.

March of 2020: lockdown.

What I crave more than anything: a garden.

What I’ve got: 100 square feet of broken concrete, surrounded by a broken fence, looking onto a vacant lot which the guy down the block insists is his. (It’s not.) I’ve gotten into a guerrilla gardening war over this lot, and lost. 

So I start with what I’ve got. 

At this point, I had virtually no budget. My materials are:

  • Plants and junk salvaged from vacant lot (under cover of darkness)
  • Stuff in my basement
  • Cuttings and seedlings from fellow gardeners
  • Some amazing finds from Philly Reclaim, which offered $100 free store credit on Instagram in the midst of the pandemic. 

The pictures don’t look like much, but I got SO MUCH JOY from tending my tiny sanctuary. I spent hours out there every day, tending, listening to music and making plans. 

In May of 2020, my next-door neighbor informed me that the guy squatting the vacant lot was stomping my plants. I turned the hose on him. He left me alone. 


By April of 2021, I had a few more resources. 

  • Perennials, bought on clearance in November
  • The roots of last years’ plants
  • Stimulus check (thank you, Biden!)

There was also a house going up in the vacant lot (I TOLD YOU HE DIDN’T OWN IT) so I was strongly motivated to replace the fence.

While tiling the cinder block wall, I listened to podcasts by Brene Brown and Amanda Palmer. Bliss. 

August 2021: A zero tolerance policy with morning glories, and anti-mosquito incense, means that I can spend my evenings chatting with friends in FREAKING FAIRYLAND. I can’t believe I get to live here. 

Two things:

  • Transformation is a PROCESS. It takes time. 
  • That process must be full of joy on a moment-by-moment basis, or why bother?

Joyful Transformation: What We Do

Over the months I was transforming my patio, I was leading numerous interior design clients through similar processes of transformation. When we got stuck, we’d dig into the obstacles–physical, psychological, spiritual. We sat with the tough stuff, and we turned a few hoses on bad actors. 

And that’s how we created Restorative Interior Design. Accountability, sustainability, joy and transformation: built in. 

Phase 1: Take stock.
Phase Two: Plant seeds.
Phase Three: Nurture roots.
Phase Four: Grow.