Perhaps you’ve caught an episode of Bravo’s Backyard Envy and watched them transform New York City's hidden outdoor spaces into dreamy oases. Gotham caught up with Garrett Magee, James DeSantis and Mel Brasier, the trio behind Manscapers New York to discuss the do’s and don’ts of summer entertaining and their latest collaboration with St-Germain.
What was the impetus that led to the creation of Manscapers? You all came from various design backgrounds, so how did the idea for Manscapers come about?
Manscapers was formed when we found a hole in the market for exterior design and creating outdoor spaces for New Yorkers. Mel and James went to interior design school together and worked together on an off for almost a decade, and Garrett was working as a graphic designer and editor when the three of us formed the company. We would throw backyard parties every season in May to kick off the summer for Garrett’s birthday party in Mel and James’ backyard. The response to our design style and gardening was so well received, we decided to take a crack at it, and ever since then we’ve been growing exponentially.
How do you play off of each other’s strengths when designing?
Each of us has a strong design point of view and we’re all very opinionated, but almost always agree on the same aesthetics. We work well together taking on three distinct roles—we all are designers at the end of the day but stick to a formula that consists of Mel being the build and construction manager, Garrett specifying all things plants and James tending to all client requests and project needs.
You’ve partnered with St-Germain on a very exciting project, a grand-scale floral exhibition at Greenpoint Terminal Warehouse. Tell us about how this collaboration came about?
We’ve always admired St-Germain as a brand and were fans of the past two Maison St-Germain interpretations by Lily Kwong and Kate Young. When the brand approached us earlier this year to collaborate on the annual celebration of the summer solstice, it was a natural fit. We’re excited to unveil our installation that pays homage to the 1,000 handpicked elderflowers used to create St-Germain on June 21.
What can we expect to see at Maison St-Germain?
We’re excited to host Maison St-Germain in the creative arts district of Greenpoint, Brooklyn, making it the first time the brand has crossed the river for the annual event. For this year’s iteration, we’re fusing the industrial façade of Greenpoint Terminal Warehouse with the brand’s floral roots, paying ode to the ephemeral celebration of summer indulgence. Guests are invited to view the large-scale floating meadow that is suspended from the ceiling, which symbolizes the liqueur’s versatility and elevation of cocktails. Underneath the meadow, curtains of living florals act as an invitation to explore a world that represents the elderflowers used to craft St-Germain, while bringing life, beauty, and joy to an unexpected place. The exhibit will be open to the public from Friday, June 21 to Sunday, June 23, where guests can take home a bouquet of fresh florals. It’s the perfect way to kick off the summer season. Following the close of the installation, all florals will be donated to GreenThumb, a nonprofit that supports community gardens and programming.
A rendering of Manscapers New York's floral installation at Maison St-Germain
Backyards are hard to come by in New York City, but can you tell us about any favorite projects you’ve worked on?
A beautiful secret garden in the West Village is a favorite project, and an ongoing client for many years. The project was shot and photographed for Architectural Digest and was featured as a stand-alone episode on our show Backyard Envy. The client has four distinct and amazing spaces that have landmarked and historical elements, along with a collection of beautiful antiques and new elements and plantings to make the space shine. It has a lot of character and is a stand-out project.
As summer comes into full swing, what are your top tips for summer entertaining?
Bring your textiles outdoors, if even for a temporary event or party. If you can spice up your outdoor space with some interior elements for an evening event with pillows, throws and beautiful décor, it will help to complete your summer party.
Lighting is key—incorporating dim-able string lights that can be controlled as the sun goes down into evening is a great way to make sure your summer get together has the right ambiance.
Lanterns are a must have, along with candelabras, to really give your party that beautiful summer glow.
And no party is complete without a cocktail; the St-Germain Spritz is our go-to for a summer gathering. A premium, French twist on the classic Spritz, this cocktail is light and elegant for any occasion. Made with St-Germain, sparkling wine, sparkling water, and a lemon peel twist, its simple ingredients also make it easy to pre-batch before any large party.
What are the biggest summer entertaining no-no’s?
Running out of ice! Make sure you're well stocked so no drink goes unreplenished.
Making sure you have sunscreen and bug spray for all of your guests—this is crucial for any get-together.
Not having an activity for your outdoor event makes the party dull. Something as simple as a tarot card reader can really liven up a summer party.
Always have sparkling water for friends who don’t drink!
Everyone loves a floral moment at a party. What are some fun and fresh trends in florals that you are seeing these days?
A large element that we are incorporating into the Maison event with St-Germain is making sure that participants and guests get to leave with something in their hands after visiting the space. The idea of what we are growing in Greenpoint will be unveiled on June 20, and with that guests will have the opportunity to take home a piece of just what that is after they experience it!
2019 is less so about things being controlled and polished and more about letting things grow wild. Plants and floral have never been more relevant and sought after. As our lives get more and more complicated, and as we stare at the screen and never shut down, we want to reconnect with nature, so creating lavish, wild, and overgrown spaces filled with floral and green is both keeping everyone happy and refreshed, and letting us keep our jobs!
Favorite summer hangouts in NYC?
Hands down, Gitano Garden of Love. We worked closely with owner James Gardner last year to lay out and specify and install the lavish gardens here. We absolutely love the ambiance and the transportive nature of the space. Where else can you go in NYC and immediately be in Tulum? Celestine in Dumbo is another amazing spot with a gorgeous terrace that we've worked and frequent. We also love Llama Inn in Williamsburg, another project of ours, and soon to be Llama San in the West Village, which we created beautiful interior potted plant stories for. Hotel Americano rooftop and pool is another space we refreshed last year that is always an easy place to pop in and get a drink in their newly refreshed courtyard or rooftop. So basically all places we've helped out on—we have to support each other!
The 3rd annual Maison St-Germain is open to the public on Friday, June 21 through Sunday, June 23 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. (Greenpoint Terminal Warehouse, 73 West St, Brooklyn). Visitors will have the chance to take away their own florals and receive a token to redeem one St-Germain Spritz at a variety of neighborhood bars including Sauvage, Magazine, Elder Greene, Ramona, and Threes @ Franklin + Kent.
Photography courtesy of St-Germain and Manscapers New York