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« Sea Green Accents from the Architectural Digest Home Show | Main | DIFFA: Dining by Design 2012 »

Creative Types: Susan Cohan

Today’s Creative Type is proof that the world is very much a small place. Last May, when we were in NYC at Blogfest, our first event was in Hearst Towers. A small group of women had gathered outside of the entrance to the building and were greeting one another fondly. We didn’t know anyone in the group and just smiled at their excitement as it mirrored our own. Then, being the social bunch we (bloggers) are, the group turned to us and introduced themselves. One of the ladies was Susan Cohan.

Almost immediately, we came to find out that Susan lived in the same town as us! When you are with a gathering of around 200 bloggers and within the first couple of minutes meet someone from your small town, it is indeed a small world. Well kismet put us together and we have been determined to not let the universe down and have stayed connected in person and via social media.

Susan is a force to be reckoned with in the landscape design business. She has owned her own landscape design firm since 2003 after a successful stint in fashion. Susan’s in-depth knowledge coupled with her great sense of style and design, have led her to create some of the more innovative and sustainable gardens of today as well as a widely read blog, Miss Rumphius' Rules. She has been featured in over a dozen publications for her work and just recently launched a new online outdoor decorating and gardening magazine, Leaf. It is our great pleasure to introduce you to Susan Cohan.

Shouldn't we all heed these words?


What does a typical workday like for you?
My workday starts very early. I’m at my most lucid and fluid creatively when I first wake up, so I try to guard and use those hours before the phone starts ringing and the day’s details start clamoring for attention. Since I start early, I generally take a break in mid-afternoon and then get back to it until the end of the day. I don’t work well in the evening so I try not to unless I’m on a deadline that can’t be met otherwise. My days flow in and out of everything I’m involved with --my design work, my work at Leaf Magazine and other freelance writing projects.

The two covers for Leaf's new spring issue which will be released on April 1, 2012.


What is one thing you will always splurge on?
Travel. I have serious gypsy feet and love to travel. I also find that going somewhere completely different refuels my creative tank so to speak.

If not a landscape designer, what you would have considered being?
I’ve always been a designer, first as a jeweler and later in fashion. My goal has always been to live a creative life so it’s difficult for me to separate ‘being’ anything from that general tangent. If I have to choose, I would have loved to have been an actor.

What are the strongest and weakest parts of your business?
Me is the answer for both. I am my business, so I have to take responsibility for both. The weakness comes from my undying need to procrastinate and the strength from my creativity and passion for what I do.

Left: Part of a much larger projectthis poolside garden has a specific planting scheme of blues, whites and pinks which provides months of bloom against an evergreen background. Right: An updated version of a Victorian era rockery created for the 2008 Mansion in May. The project made dramatic use of the boulders from the site's original rock garden and was a beautiful model of sustainable landscape design.

What is your best advice for an up & coming landscape designer?

Get training. Don’t think because you can make a lovely garden that landscape design is the same thing. It’s totally complex and there’s a lot to know if you’re going to be successful at it.

What’s your favorite product in the industry?
I have a few and they change rapidly. I love Parasoleil’s copper shade panels and on the other end of the spectrum I’m totally into Link Design’s fabric and trim.

For the 2010 Mansion in May designer show house, an overgrown dog run was transformed into a large
multi-use working garden complete with organic potager, cutting garden, small orchard, and entertaining
spaces (including a full-size bocce court!).

What are your favorite books or resources on art, style and/or design?
I have a fairly extensive library for gardens and landscape, but that’s largely for reference. I tend to look other places for inspiration—fashion, interiors, industrial design and fine arts. My favorite ways to spend an afternoon is to go on a gallery crawl, to a museum or just to the bookstore and browse. If you use it well and follow people who actually curate and edit, Pinterest is fabulous (check out Susan’s Pinterest boards).

What's on your radar or coming up soon that we can look forward to seeing?
The obvious choice there is the Spring issue of Leaf Magazine which is launching April 1. I love everything about the new issue and we’ve been working on it for months. I also have some fun projects this season—a courtyard for three Westies and their humans is probably the most fun one.

A sneak peek into the upcoming issue of Leaf: a piece on "kids, outdoor exploration, parties and cocktails."
Can't wait!

With spring here, there's no better time to follow Susan's blog and Leaf's Leaflets to get ideas and inspiration on how to spruce up your outdoor area.

We are also looking forward to seeing more of Susan, who was our host as we toured the historic Glynallyn, as she completes her work there for the Mansion in May fundraiser.

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