Wrought iron is an elegant addition to landscape design. It can be used in a beautifully functional way or purely for decoration. Wrought iron makes a strong statement when used as a garden gate, a grill insert in a fence, a balcony railing or an impressive front door. As decoration, it can accent porch columns, showcase an outdoor water fountain and adorn a garden gazebo.
You will find a remarkable variety of artistic motifs done in decorative iron, from the refined figuration of the Renaissance to the sensual and sinuous designs of Art Nouveau. Both intricate and graceful, it creates an eloquent vocabulary in your landscape and expresses our individuality.
In its functional usage, decorative iron is most often used for security and privacy. In fact, there are those design professionals who believe that, because it is a strong material, it works best where it displays its intrinsic strength.
Ornamental iron fences, driveway gates or window balconies are just a few of iron’s utilitarian purposes. The beauty of iron, however, is that by adding the small decorative details, such as dainty flowers or pleasing trefoils, the ordinary and practical become extraordinary.
For aesthetic purposes, however, iron is limited only by your imagination. A decorative iron chandelier in an outdoor kitchen. Accent pieces on doors, such as knobs, door knockers, locks and hinges. Garden arches. Friezes, copings and finials. Garden arbors.
One design note: while decorative iron enhances any landscape, it needs to work with the extant motifs. A gate done in an Italian design from the Rococo period doesn’t work well with a Colonial style house, for example. So use discrimination when picking the design of your choice.
From an historic perspective, true wrought iron is only made in small quantities today and primarily for preservation projects. Most steel products found in modern landscaping materials are made of mild steel which has the advantage of being relatively inexpensive to produce and easy to manipulate.
The old nomenclature still applies, though, because the modern steel balustrades, balconies and flower boxes (and a hundred other landscape items you could name) retain the original look handed down to us from the Middle Ages. As does our delight in this stalwart substance.
Perhaps Samuel Yellin, the Polish-born iron artisan and blacksmith of the early 20th century, best describes our enthusiasm for wrought iron. He arrived in Philadelphia in 1906 and his work was eventually commissioned across the country. It can be found in nearly 40 states.
He said, “I love iron. It is the stuff of which the frame of the earth is made. And you can make it say anything you will. It eloquently responds to the hand, at the bidding of the imagination. When I go to bed at night, I can hardly sleep because my mind is aswarm with all the visions of gates and grilles and locks and keys I want to do. I verily believe I shall take my hammer with me when I go to the gate of heaven. If I am denied admission, I shall fashion my own key.”