One perfect June summer night, my fellow Bunny Williams colleague Jonathan Preece and I attended garden antiques collector Barbara Israel’s 30th Anniversary Celebration on the grounds of her almost six acre rambling country property. The evening garden party was as beautiful as can be – the sun beginning to set in the distance over the Hudson River casting sumptuous light upon the gardens and trees, tables with hors d’oeuvres, cocktails and bouquets of country flowers scattered amidst the gardens, with enchanting garden sculptures, benches, urns and antiques everywhere you turned. Barbara even thoughtfully stashed a miniature figurine display of the fairy tale story depicting the festival of the summer solstice at Midsummer’s Eve under a tree, only to be discovered by the wondering guests.
Barbara Israel Garden Antiques is located in Katonah, New York on her home’s property where the by-appointment only ‘showroom’ is literally a strolling tour of the woodland gardens. Her business started in 1985 as she adventurously purchased an entire lot of 40 garden statuary pieces from the private estate sale of Adele Lovett in Locust Valley, Long Island. Lovett’s husband, the late Robert A. Lovett, was Harry Truman’s Secretary of Defense. With that single purchase, a career was launched! She has since passionately collected 15th through 20th century garden antiques from the United States, Europe and Asia for decades and is truly the leading expert in this unique decorative field.
Also adorning the property is Barbara’s house which is a nineteenth century Hudson Valley clapboard farmhouse wrapped with an inviting porch anchored by floor-to-ceiling double hung windows. The oval drive approaching the house is aptly named the Sugar Maple Circle, lined with magnificent old trees. Aside from the Formal Garden dating back to the early 20th century, and rumored to have been designed by the famed Olmstad Brothers firm, there is an Allée, a Woodland Retreat, a Rose Garden, a Display Garden and an Orchard. The property has several follies including two playhouses. All in all, it is truly a magical experience to visit Barbara’s much loved home and garden.