sea island garden

Sculptural branches of a live oak frame a fig ivy–coated wall and stone water feature in this lush, Sea Island garden.

Portrait of the artist, Charles Nevinson

Portrait of the artist, Charles Nevinson

The phrase “renaissance man” is one tossed around like beads and doubloons off a Mardi Gras float, so it’s lost some of its punch as of late, but in reference to Charles Nevinson—the owner and visionary behind Atlanta’s Architectural Accents—the moniker fits like a glove. Architectural Accents is a veritable Ali Baba’s cave of antique design treasures gathered from Nevinson’s travels around the globe. He knows where to find them and also where to place them in a setting so they feel original to the space. As an accomplished draftsman, Nevinson also renders interior and exterior structural and decorative elements that he sources from a rich stew of classical references, travel, and his romantic imagination. His aesthete’s eye for proportion, scale, and the relationship between sculptural form and the lay of the land has captured many a client’s attention and appreciation. He’s also a gourmet chef and race car driver afficionado among a very long list of other interests and pursuits.

Nestled into a canopy of live oaks in Sea Island, Georgia, sits one of Nevinson’s favorite projects. With a view of the Serengeti-like marshes on the back of the house, and a walled garden in the front, this coastal canvas was tailor-made for his particular brand of worldly genius.

sea island garden

The homeowner commissioned this fanciful cedar tree house for the front garden. With subtle chinoiserie elements, it harmonizes beautifully with the overall Eastern scheme.

Getting to know the client and as he says, “reading between the lines and reading their minds,” is an important part of Nevinson’s process. So, when he learned that this homeowner was a bonsai collector and a renowned eye surgeon—both disciplines denoting a high level of precision—he had his inspiration. Between the live oaks, which are pruned like bonsai, and the bonsai trees themselves, Nevinson found an Asian voice emerging. He began to dream of the outdoors as rooms that would be orderly and peaceful, almost Zen-like, yet with dollops of drama provided by sculpture of all stripes.

sea island georgia garden

An aerial view of the front parterre garden, which includes throughout the year, among many other plants: Japanese boxwoods, sasanqua camellias, aspidistras, holly ferns, hydrangeas, plumbago, agapanthus, sago palms, aucuba, and Australian tree ferns.

Nevinson’s love of sculpture and statement are beautifully delineated through his use of box hedges, green gardens, hardscapes, and water features. The garden that spills from the front of the house is a winsome, clever mix of these hallmarks each with its own perfectly suited piece of art, while the back garden takes in the striking view of the sweeping chartreuse and strawberry blond wetlands, that are so much a part of the South Georgia coast.

castor and pollux

Castor and Pollux were re-cast in bronze from an original bronze rescued by Nevinson from an undisclosed City of London building.

Nevinson brilliantly let the marsh have top billing, designing a teak-rimmed pool area that rolls right into the horizon. Overlooking the ribbon of green marsh, among the sinuous live oaks around the pool area, sits a bronze statue of Castor and Pollux who appear cooled by the gentle flow of a fountain between them. The pair give the impression that they have things well in hand, and in the spirit of twins, are happy to share their remarkable view with all who visit.

“I always take particular care when I lay out a garden to get to know a plantsman in the area I’m designing for. Mark Owens was that person in Sea Island. He was my right hand and we would chat before anything was selected, in order to ensure season long blooming, and he tactfully would suggest a change of plant that would give the same effect, but also remain alive at the end of the day.” –Charles Nevinson

More Views of the Sea Island Garden

As a gesture of welcome, a stone finial in the shape of a pineapple, an ancient symbol of hospitality, crowns the entrance.

The back garden takes in the striking view of the sweeping chartreuse and strawberry blond wetlands, that are so much a part of the South Georgia coast.

Overlooking the ribbon of green marsh, among the sinuous live oaks around the pool area, sits a bronze statue of Castor and Pollux who appear cooled by the gentle flow of a fountain between them.

The elegant and almost lifelike sculpture of a blue heron makes its home in the koi pond amid rushes and drifts of begonias.

A David Harber armillary sphere emblazoned with the phrase, “There is a time and place for everything.”

Detail of a David Harber armillary sphere emblazoned with the phrase, “There is a time and place for everything.”

 

"Leitzl" sculpted by Dan Corbin, flanked by espaliered pears, stands in stark contrast to the garden wall. See more of Corbin's work at Ærena Galleries and Gardens.
Sculptural surprises like this bronze cherub with dolphin, a recent bronze recasting of an 18th century piece, await around every corner.

Three carefully-manicured 40-year-old trident maple bonsai find a perfect home on one of the ipe wood tables designed by Nevinson.

When Nevinson learned that this homeowner was a bonsai collector and a renowned eye surgeon—both disciplines denoting a high level of precision—he had his inspiration for the garden.

Between the live oaks, which are pruned like bonsai, and the bonsai trees themselves, Nevinson found an Asian voice emerging in the design.

By Margot Shaw
Photography by Julia Lynn

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