ISSUE 33  |  Untamed Gardens

Best Amateur-Designed Small Garden: Pete Joseph

August 17, 2015 8:30 PM

BY Meredith Swinehart

The winner of this year’s Gardenista Considered Design Awards Best Amateur-Designed Small Garden is Pete Joseph of Leesburg, Virginia.

His project was chosen as a finalist by guest judge David Stark, who said: “The structure is adorable and inventive, and I love its scale relationship to the trees and lawn it is nestled in. While the garden itself is clean and simple, the greenhouse did just the right trick of providing a focal point to reinforce its lush green expanse.”

N.B.: This is the first of seven posts spotlighting the winners of the 2015 Gardenista Considered Design Awards. Go to this year’s Considered Design Awards page to see all the entries, finalists, and winners, and have a look at Remodelista’s Considered Design Awards, too.

Pete Joseph’s Design Statement: “I converted an existing pergola to a greenhouse with windows and doors pulled from a dumpster.”

Q: Where do you live?
A: I live in a typical Northern Virginia suburb with cookie-cutter houses and good neighbors. The trees we planted when we moved in 15 years ago have matured and give us nice privacy in the summer when we’re on our deck, which is most nights. Our current garden consists of four raised beds which I built and expanded over the years.

Q: What were your practical goals for the project?
A: First, to find a better use for the pergola that I built five years ago. Second, to provide a way to extend the growing season as long as possible for herbs and cold-weather vegetables. Third, to use as much of the free dumpster material at my disposal as possible.

Q: What solutions did you find to your design problems?  
A: Although I built it out of old and recycled windows, I didn’t want it to LOOK like I built it out of old and recycled windows. The pergola dimensions were set and I struggled to find a combination of windows to fit the available space. My best move was using Google’s SketchUp to experiment with designs. 

Q: What advice do you have for someone undertaking a similar project? 
A: Triple the time you think it will take to complete. Don’t get too locked-in on the design; it will change as you move forward.

Q: What was your biggest splurge?  
A: The biggest single cost was the roof panels. They are specifically designed for greenhouses and provide great light.

Q: Where did you cut corners?  
A: I cut corners everywhere. I was determined to do this using only the materials I could pull from the dumpster up the street. The materials available drove the design.

Q: What project would you tackle if you had an unlimited budget?  
A: A new kitchen.

Q: What is your day job?  
A: I’m a program manager.

Q: Where do you get your design inspiration?  
A: Gardenista, of course! Houzz and Pinterest are also excellent.