15 Sep 2014
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Metal Urges

Metal heads take the stage in Studio City.

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If they forge it, weld it, solder it, chisel away at it gardeners and landscape architects will find a use for metal, chrome wrought iron, copper and aluminum.

From the earliest days of the blacksmith’s traditional forgework that identified the General Store in the Old West to the wares displayed in today’s West Coast big box stores, garden-rooted metallurgy has never gone out of style. 

In recent wanderings, we’ve spotted sculpture, wagon wheels, captains’ bells, south-of-the border tin mirrors, brass doorknockers, old cast iron bathtubs, horseshoes, steel gliders, Moroccan lanterns, copper birdbaths and weathervanes. 

But the most striking piece of heavy metal resides in Colfax Meadows. There, a 12-foot hand crafted iron giraffe named George stands watchfully in the front yard belonging to  Lysbeth and John Chuck.  The couple plunked down the heavyweight red-rust colored creature under the Modesto ash tree.

George, Lysbeth explains, immigrated to the United States from south of the border.   “We were driving back from a fishing boat in Mexico when we spotted on the side of the road a menagerie of huge animals,” she recalls. “The giraffe was head and shoulders above the rest.” They continued driving but Lysbeth couldn’t get that nob-eared giraffe sculpture out of her head.

“Why in the world would you want a giraffe?” John asked her.

“Well,” she answered, “when people come to visit us we could tell them turn left and it’s the house with the giraffe in front.”

“That’s good enough for me,” John said.  They turned around and purchased two giraffes.  One went to their daughter in Mar Vista. 

Besides being a handy landmark for visiting guests, George, it seems, is a good listener when neighborhood kids pass by and want to engage in conversation.


At a front entry garden on Valleyheart stands a sheep, life-like in its articulation and size, set against a backdrop of bamboo.  At first surreal glance, it seems as you’ve just stumbled across a pasture with one sheep in it.


Patio furniture has long dominated the metallic jungle.  Wrought iron seating made its statement in the late 30s, got firmly planted on 50s suburbia patios, and turned bistro chic in the 80s. Today, the trend is lightweight zincs and sleek chromes.

Making a comeback at cottage front porches, stylists have turned once more to the iconic lines of 50s metal gliders and ever-popular shell-back or pie-crust “bouncer” chairs (available in shabby condition at vintage stores and on ebay, re-conditioned and sold online, and modernized versions of the classics sold at retail).


Of course you don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.  Still, it’s pretty darn cool to see that weathervane going round and round on the rooftops around town.


Zinc big. Since last summer, zinc planters have added a new twist to the garden. Two will do. Both should stand at least three feet tall. Place one on each side of an arbor. This will instantly define an otherwise unremarkable walkway.

Shop thrift stores for mismatched metal or wrought iron chairs. Spray paint with an unexpected color (retro = salmon; for modern go gray).

Shop the aisles of Pier One, Target, World Market and Marshalls for metal objects that will work in a large outdoor space.


Lanterns come in finishes from rusty browns to enamel red to high polish nickel and in shapes round, slatted, square. Use them to create a mood: silver clean lines paired with buddha and solid fabric creates a zen-like retreat. Hang slatted white or nickel lanterns on sailor twine and pair with hurricane lamps for beachside getaway. Oblong open-work lanterns can be paired with multicolor fabric and pillows to evoke a trippy Moroccan vibe.

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