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Spotlight on a Tilly Designer: Stephen

By Axis Fuksman-Kumpa November 13, 2020


The Tilly design team is the root of what makes us great (plant pun!). We have a wonderful and talented team that live all across the United States and specialize in different regions. Here we will introduce you to Stephen, a wildly talented landscape architect who currently lives in Florida, but has also lived in the Midwest, among other places. Stephen loves to travel, has an adorable Golden Retriever and has a keen eye for design! Internet, meet Stephen and feel free to comment with any questions!

Why did you want to be a landscape architect?

Landscape architecture combines my passions for environment, design, and people.

Where did you grow up and how did it influence your designs?

I grew up outdoors and mostly unsupervised in the diverse environs of the Florida Panhandle. There were far less houses then and just street after dirt street with nothing but woods. We built many forts and bridges across the creeks and drainages that crisscross the area. I strive to bring that unbridled joy of the outdoors to unexpected places through my designs.

Biggest garden mistakes you frequently see in homeowner’s curb appeal?

People often underestimate the mature size of plants. I often see examples of the right plant, wrong place that I hope to avoid when designing.

Where do you draw inspiration?

I draw inspiration from myriad sources like instagram, other fields (both related and unrelated), vintage magazines, my travels, and my dreams, which I especially love when that happens.

Stephen in Tibet

Favorite garden style?

It is hard for me to choose and so I will say eclectic. 

If you were a plant, what would you be?

I have always wondered what it would be like to come back as a sturdy southern oak, Quercus virginiana.

In your opinion, what’s the most beautiful place you have ever visited?

Italy as a whole is breathtakingly gorgeous on so many levels.

How many plants do you have in your home?

I purged my collection earlier this year, so I went from 40+ plants to just two right now, a cluster of carnivorous pitcher plants and a passion flower seedling I am trying to coax to grow.

Stephen in Chicago

Last plant that died on your watch?

Before the passion flower started, I tried to grow birdhouse gourds, but the heat sapped them as they started flowering and they didn’t make it.

Would you rather rake leaves all day or edge garden beds all day?

Edge beds. I love the look of a clean hand-edged bed with a fresh layer of mulch.

What’s your favorite outdoor activity?

I love going to the beach with my dog, Leo. He is a golden retriever mix that loves the water.

What’s your favorite part about Tilly?

Having lived and studied in a number of places, I love being able to work with plant palettes and styles I wouldn’t normally get a chance to work with, whether that is a modern yard in the Pacific Northwest, or a French-inspired kitchen garden in New Orleans, or vice versa!

What’s been one of your favorite Tilly projects and why?

It was exciting to work on a pool and cabana perched on the top of a terraced yard in Hawaii. Although it was a challenge, it was a lot of fun to work with the site and plant palette to come up with practical and beautiful solutions.

What’s the one thing people get wrong about your profession most often?

Design is not a linear process. There are discrete steps, but they don’t always follow in the same order. Design is messy, but the result shouldn’t be.

Favorite home/decor store?

Shout out to I’m not sure if they coined the term, but they capture the aesthetic really well.

Favorite food? (Just because, who doesn’t want to hear about food).

I love gumbo because it is versatile. It can be simple comfort food or a fancy dinner depending on the ingredients.

Stephen in Montana

Read more about: Designer Profile