The Outdoor Living Room: P. Allen Smith Style

May 12, 2011 by

Intimate covered outdoor dining cabana beside pool at Brockington residence.

Not many marriages are truly sustainable these days. But the kind that P. Allen Smith creates are. The award-winning garden and lifestyle design specialist aims to “blur the lines between inside and out,” with designs that marry the garden and the home, doing so with a keen eye toward sustainability.

I witnessed Smith’s creativity first-hand two weeks ago when he and his sponsors hosted 20 bloggers at their first annual Garden2Blog event, two days of inspirational trend and idea sharing that included tours of Smith’s designs across Little Rock, Arkansas including the city’s largest urban garden, the one at the Governor’s mansion in the city’s historic Quapaw Quarter District.

Roses climbing the pergola at the Arkansas governor’s manion.

Delivered with warmth and a relaxed sense of humor, Smith described for us how he really considers himself, in his words, “more of an teacher than a celebrity.” Throughout the tours and visits to his clients’s and his own two properties, it became very clear that the fusion of home and garden is a catalyst and major theme in Smith’s design work and teaching. Whether an outdoor living room, a porch space, or an interior room, all the environments he designs demonstrate an intertwining of exterior and interior design elements.

X marks the spot: Peering beyond the hedges into another little outdoor room at Brockington residence.

Ooh La La
At the home of Kim and Mark Brockington, we were transported from Little Rock to, you might say, Petite Roche? Smith and associates brought a bit of Provence to Arkansas with this design. The ochre exterior blended harmoniously with the surrounding gardens–making me crave some good runny Brie and a glass of chilled Rosé.

Brockington pool framed by the dining area and plantings.

The Brockington home’s gardens were a great example of beautifully executed design for a not-so-large space. The property is just 150 x 100, yet the designers managed to create a number of outdoor living spaces that offer a sense of spaciousness and intimacy without feeling cramped. We didn’t have time to see it, but the owner, Kim, is an interior designer so I can just imagine what the interior is like!

Front of Brockington house: Provence comes to Little Rock. I love the planters!

More French Influence on a Different Scale
Smith must attract clients who love southern France. Local philanthropists, Chip and Cindy Murphy, also wanted to bring the essence of Provençale countryside to their own home. A bit more formal than the Brockington property, this one is used to host a number of charity events and includes a corner area designed to hold Little Feat concerts, a band with whom Chip has a relationship.

Looking down at the pool and cabana area from one of the elegant staircases flanking the Murphy house.

The design masterfully separates two outdoor living areas–one for lounging and entertaining around the pool, and the other an expansive space for larger gatherings and concerts.

Indoor Details Migrate Outdoors En Plein Air
In the Murphy estate’s pool house, it was easy to forget for the moment if you were indoors or out.

Curtains with tasseled tie-backs flank the pool house opening onto one of the intimate patios and its fountain.

Interior details brought outdoors.

Never mind the rain if it arrives, as it did during our tour, one can dine comfortably dry inside this open air pool house.

A view through the iron fence out to the property beyond. Isn’t all a matter of point of view?

Small Urban Oasis: The Original Garden Home
Smith’s original garden home property in downtown Little Rock is the charming urban oasis that just makes one feel at home. As the tornados were whirling around us and the the clouds opened up, we only had a chance to run through the property. But it was long enough to get a sense for the charming integration, again, of interior and exterior that Smith is so adept at creating.

Just a bit of inexpensive trellis fencing and you can create a garden room similar to this one. Hang some hats and planted baskets, and you’ve created an outdoor space with warmth and character that ehoes some of the feeling you might have in your living room.

The original P. Allen Smith garden home, above, in downtown Little Rock.

Serenity in the garden at the P. Allen Smith original property.

Stay tuned for a visit to P. Allen Smith’s 500 acre Garden Home Retreat.


  1. Seasonal Wisdom said:

    What a nice post! You really seemed to capture a lot of the natural beauty we experienced at the Garden2Blog event. Lovely photos too. Teresa

    — May 12, 2011 @ 18:26

  2. Annie Haven | Authentic Haven Brand said:

    Hey, looks just like some beautiful places I just visited with the neatest group of Garden pals : ) Lovely post can’t wait for you to come visit…Much more rustic here but the bones are good : )

    — May 12, 2011 @ 20:56

  3. Laura said:

    WOW! So beautiful! How lucky of you to be able to view the gardens first hand!

    — May 16, 2011 @ 16:50

  4. lawnchair said:

    It’s amazing to see the quality of out door living as part of a home. Beautiful pictures! thanks

    — May 27, 2011 @ 19:00

  5. that lung said:

    Garden design expert P. Allen Smith demystifies the process of designing beautiful gardens and opens up new possibilities for homeowners looking to create their own garden paradise. P. ALLEN SMITH’S GARDEN HOME highlights colorful gardens, easy how-to projects and expert tips that novice and experienced gardeners can apply to their own homes.

    — March 5, 2012 @ 00:16

  6. Road Trip in Arkansas! Roadside BBQ, Ghosts & Gardens Pingback said:

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  7. Road Trip in Arkansas! Roadside BBQ, Ghosts & Gardens Pingback said:

    […] two plastic squeeze bottles of barbecue sauce on the table come with a story, as many things do in Arkansas. “This one here, the Savory Sweet, is mild,” Anita told us, adding, “But if you […]

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