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Christopher Spitzmiller

by Kathryn Boughton

Pottery is older than, well—dirt. But in the hands of a master like Christopher Spitzmiller the ancient art is as modern as the moment.

Spitzmiller crafts a line of upscale hand-thrown lamps that have been featured in publications such as Architectural Digest, House Beautiful and Elle Décor. He has made lamps for three White House Administrations as well as for many other distinguished American homes.

Spitzmiller describes his lamps as being “timeless” but with “a real life and presence.” “There is no greater satisfaction than blending beauty with utility,” he says.

Starting in Washington, D.C., he moved his studio to New York City in 1996 where he created his own little empire, but, like many successful urbanites, he has discovered the joy of decompressing in the peaceful environs of Dutchess County.

Spitzmiller purchased Clove Brook Farm in Millbrook, N.Y., ten years ago and rehabilitated the dilapidated 1830 Greek Revival farmhouse over the course of three years. Another two were dedicated to selecting the interior decor.

He worked with architectural designer Jonathan Parisen to rebuild the home’s three porches and cut triangular windows into its gables. Light pours through new windows to illuminate the once-dark dining room where 18th-century papier peint now creates a faux Eden of bamboo and birds.

Looking through the windows in the opposite direction reveals a real garden, a garden that will be open to the public Saturday, September 24 from 10 AM to 4 PM as part of the Garden Conservancy’s “Open Days.

Spitzmiller created the garden with input from his friend, Arkansas landscape designer P. Allen Smith. A custom fence encloses the space, inspired by the balustrade on the Louisiana Plantation “Felicity” in the movie 12 Years A Slave. The plantings went in in 2014 and were inspired by many visits to the garden of close friend, lifestyle maven Bunny Williams in Falls Village.

“The horseshoe-shaped layout begins with two long, mixed perennial beds towards the front, filled with vibrant blooms,” he said, “and the additional rectangular beds include a mix of mostly flowers and some vegetables planted to bloom seasonally. In spring and early summer, the wattle fence supports sweet peas and snap peas, then dahlias grow up in their place, creating colorful fireworks in late summer.

“Allen chose topiaries, Japanese willows and white 'Phantom' hydrangeas to accent the front perennial beds and create a focal point,” he continued. “There are no beds of single flowers because, for me, gardening is all about the mix, juxtaposition and seasonal change. Allen gave me a terrific frame work to work in so there is always something to enjoy.”

Spitzmiller says, “This garden is so young, and has a huge amount of life to it for something that is so newly planted. I’ve been very lucky.”

But the garden is not all contained within the South-inspired fence. On the southern end of the property, near Clove Brook, he planted a collection of young specimen magnolias. And this year a Greek Revival style-garage and dove cote has been added.

“I also have a large collection of Heritage breed chickens, doves and honey bees that keep me busy,” he revealed.

Admission is $7. Tickets can be purchased with cash or check at the garden. Photography is allowed and the garden is handicap-accessible.

The garden—GPS may list this property as 857 North Clove Road, Verbank, NY, 12858—was recently featured in the July 2015 Country House issue of Architectural Digest.