With the ever-growing emphasis on outdoor living, we’re all well-acquainted with fire pits, performance fabrics, and pod-like seating groups that seem plucked from the latest boutique hotel. But what about greenery? Bluestone pavers, porcelain tiles, and exotic hardwood boards could all benefit from verdant vines and bright blooms, or at least an array of herbs for your kitchen. For that matter, you could even grow tomatoes poolside.
These avant-garde planters are more artwork than workhorse, but they function all the same. Bradley L. Bowers turns a vegetable on its head, so to speak, with his curvy cast iron “Cala” planter with a rusted finish that feels at once contemporary and traditional. Gary Fernández of Concrete Poetics invokes a similar sensibility with his cast concrete planters that echo the irregular, stratified, layers of the earth. Mermelada Estudio takes a wholly different tack with its unapologetically modern illuminated outdoor planter for Estiluz.
UFO, Giovanni Mengoni
Flying saucer, creature with a sweet, stylized face or postmodern planter? Trained painter and lifelong ceramicist Giovanni Mengoni revels in forms of all types. “I shape rather than decorate,” the Umbrian artist declares. “The object is decoration itself.” In creating UFO—a glossy white, multi-legged cachepot—Mengoni blends traditional production methods of his central Italian homeland with current applications of three-dimensional drawing and printing. Luckily, he has studied them all. This chunky-yet-petite handmade design delivers doses of whimsy without distraction—while keeping plants safely contained and within reach. $525
The designers behind Mermelada Estudio in Barcelona came up with Bols, a modular, multipurpose collection that decreases patio clutter and adapts to almost any outdoor set-up or need. The starting point for Bols is a glowing ball—an LED light fixture clad in a polyethylene shade. The strappy dome can be used as a pendant lamp, but we prefer to deploy it as a floor lamp in both tall and short models. Add a solid surface for use as a tabletop or better yet, as a bowl where you can place a plant. From $2,630
Cala, Bradley L. Bowers
The Cala planter is nothing if not a team effort. The New Orleans–based designer conceived of Cala—a 21-inch-tall, patinated cast-iron planter that’s twisted and slumped—at the behest of gallerist Emma Scully who in turn fabricated the work with the O. K. Foundry in Virginia using 3-D-printed molds. Bowers, who enthusiastically embraces multiple materials rather than working in a single medium, found inspiration for Cala in the calabash, a curvy gourd that, once hollowed out and dried, is used in Africa for everything from storing food to playing music and even serving as an unlikely hat. With just 13 produced, Cala easily earns its spot in any sculpture garden. $5,500
Large Vessel 008, Concrete Poetics
Gary Fernandez’s rugged, asymmetrically bulbous Large Vessel 008 appears to have been carved out of layers of sediment from deep inside the earth. While rock strata and vegetation formations clearly influence his work, the designer shapes his one-of-a-kind pieces from cast concrete in his Brooklyn studio. Committed to waste minimization and technological interventions, Fernández employs traditional techniques to achieve intentional imperfection. The raw, brutalist nature of the planter offffers an organic, authentic complement to 21st-century architecture. $1,900
Coral Rock Moon, Lilian Mustelier
Miami creative Lilian Mustelier drew inspiration for her fairy tale–like planter from Coral Castle, a romantic limestone structure built by an eccentric Latvian immigrant during the second quarter of the 20th century. Mustelier has placed her crescent moon onto a pedestal planter crafted from Florida keystone—a type of bedrock native to the Florida Keys that is salvaged from building sites. Coincidentally, her fabricator—who cut the brittle stone using a futuristic CNC machine—helped restore the original Coral Castle and lived in a house made of coral rock. Dreamy and chic, the porous piece will naturally patina when exposed to the elements. From $6,000