Q: You could use your sexy voice.
A: That’s right.
INTRO ~ Welcome to the Backyards of Key West Podcast with your host Mark Baratto.
Q: So, welcome to the Backyards of Key West Podcast, I’m Mark Baratto, and I have my guest with me, Craig Reynolds.
Q: Here he is, the man, the myth, the legend. If you drive around Key West anywhere and you poke your head behind one of those picket fences and you see the most beautiful exquisite backyards, then the design, the landscape, all of it, it’s his stamp. His stamp is there, he is the one who did that.
A: And some of them you can see in the front yards.
A: Yes, it depends, but Key West houses usually are backyards.
Q: I like to peek. You know. I like to look around the back because, especially in Old Town, you’ll drive by some of these houses and not even take a second look. And then if you do, especially at night, that’s when it really pops. If you look behind the gates, you see this, I don’t know sometimes a quarter of an acre? Sometimes a half an acre on some of these places.
A: Right. For Old Town, that’s big and it’s funny you say that because so many people tell me that they see the properties at night and I tell them it’s like a whole different garden.
Q: Oh yeah.
A: Because you focus on different things and it looks totally different and I’ve had a few clients say that they prefer it at night and they don’t really care for it in the day.
Q: Yeah, I mean, I always recommend spending, if you’re here as a tourist or even if you’ve just moved here like myself, take the time to go down Old Town, go down the roads especially at night.
A: And the back roads.
Q: Yeah, they are so magical.
A: Yeah, the little lanes like Olivia Street.
Q: Oh, I love it. I love Olivia Street.
A: And you can get off on the side streets. Windsor is a good one.
Q: All of those ones are amazing. So, let me roll into a couple of questions here. How long have you been in Key West?
A: This is my 21st year.
Q: Wow. And do you remember the first time you came here, not moved here, just the first time?
A: Right. Yeah, it’s a good story. I got outta college and I was working for Ray Jungles in Miami and he said, we’re gonna move the office to Key West if you’d like to go. And I said, “Sure!” I’m not a big city person, and so I said okay. But this wasn’t going to happen for six or seven months, so Holly and I (my wife), we drove down, spent a long weekend, it rained the whole weekend. We rode bikes around in the rain and we stayed in the tiniest little room over at the Southernmost House and we weren’t all that enamored with it. It just didn’t strike us the right way. In fact, one street we drove by was by the cemetery and it felt kinda, it felt kinda threatening. I was like, “Are we in a bad neighborhood?” What’s going on over here. And then we didn’t know if we were in the right place, turns out, that’s my commute to work now. I love that street. So, the perspective is so different.
Q: Yeah, I mean, I have friends that have come down here only once and they’re like, “Oh, I don’t like it down there.” Because it depends on where you go. Like people associate Duval Street as being all of Key West and my friends in Miami, I say, well just think about Ocean Drive. Is that Miami? It’s not. It’s a big difference.
A: That’s a very good point, in fact, years ago, before I even moved here, I remember asking my grandfather one time, we grew up in Ft. Lauderdale and Orlando, Florida and never came to Key West as a family. I asked my grandfather one time if he had ever been there? He said, “Oh we drove all the way down, and he lived near Tallahassee, and we drove all the way down and we saw the Sears, the Kmart, we said, this town stinks.” They turned around, drove back, and now that I live here, I said, “One more mile and you would have seen something cool.”
Q: I know, I have friends too that say, “Yeah, I went down to Key West and I went to Islamorada and then I turned around.” And I’m like, you almost there, just keep going.
A: Old Town is unique, I think. And the thing about Old Town is that collection of not just the homes, but the way they are stacked against each other.
A: And in my business, that’s the biggest thing is how you turn these backyards into something that relates to your neighbor but also gives you what you want. Because so often you come in the backyard, you look up, and there’s a big house looming over you.
Q: And that’s the thing, I mean there are still a couple of empty lots down here and when you look at just the lot with nothing, you’re like, “How could I even put something on this lot, right?” And then, I’ve been in houses where the lot is 3,000 square foot lot, but it doesn’t appear that way. It really has nooks and crannies and stuff to make it beautiful.
A: Yeah, the way you design that space, obviously matters, I’m always going to say that and I believe that because you can… one thing my former boss said, and I’ll never forget it and we were down here working and we moved down here with him and then he went back to Miami and I went out on my own, but he said, “You don’t waste a square inch in Key West.”
Q: Yeah, it’s like boat. You’re building a boat.
A: Yeah, and it’s funny because I got to do projects down in the Caribbean and I have one in Jamaica that I’ve been working on since 2007, and just the pool deck is the size of my whole property.
A: 3,000 square feet. So, you look at that perspective and you think that’s strange that you can fit a whole house and garden in the solarium where down there, it’s just a pool.
Q: Yeah, I understand that perspective too because I’m in New Town and my mom has a tiny house that’s being built in Longwood and it’s coming down, and it’s almost 500 square feet, which sounds small if you look at a studio apartment in New York City that’s just a box. But when you go in there and it’s tall ceilings and all these different things, it really makes it a much better space because of that.
A: Well, it’s funny you say that because Leah, who works in the office here at Landscape Architects, she lives in a tiny house in Key West. And it’s about 180 square feet.
A: It’s her and her boyfriend and I went over there to see them, for whatever reason, and I look in and the first time I saw it, it was empty. Now it has all the furniture in it and all their spices and food, towels, and everything and I looked and said, “Wow, it looks bigger now that it’s lived in.”
Q: When stuff’s in there, it looks bigger. For sure.
A: Yeah, it’s crazy. Yeah.
Q: So, you came down here with your wife, you tooled around and you’re like, I don’t know if this is for us and then what made you make the decision? Just cause of work?
A: Well, what’s funny is that I didn’t come down and say I don’t know if this is for us, this is odd. I didn’t picture Key West being this way. I went back, I had already committed to come down.
A: And, I wanted to keep working for this guy and he was moving his family back down here. His wife is a conch, and they came to move back into the family house, with their young kids. So, I just came back down. I came down for the job.
A: And then, I sort of, I don’t know if this is the right phrase, but I just kinda learned to love Key West because I was just forced into it. But it didn’t take long before I started looking around and saying, “Oh yeah, it is an interesting place.”
Q: But was there a mindset like, when you and your wife were having the conversation beforehand, “Are we really going to do this?” Were there comments like that? Or, were you just like, we are committed?
A: Done. Because I was committed to work for this guy because he was a real talent in my industry and I wanted to learn from him and I was like, wherever he’s going, I’m going. How long I’ll stay with him, I don’t know.
Q: Right. So, it was the learning from a kind of a mentor that you were like, “Okay, I don’t care where we go in the world, I’m going with this guy” so that I can learn this trade, which now has made you and added to you as being very successful.
A: Yeah. I originally thought I will maybe work for him a year or two and I ended up working for him for about seven years. And then he moved back to Miami and said, Okay let’s go. And, I said, no thanks, I’m staying here. By that time, this was my home.
Q: The reason I ask questions like that is because there’s so many people that are in different towns all over the U.S. that have never left their town, they had these dreams to do things, and they just don’t take themselves up on those things. Now, Key West is even more of a jump, right? Because it is the furthest island south of the U.S., that’s connected to the U.S. and you can consider it being in the middle of nowhere even though it’s not. So, it’s scary and I like to try to understand why people make those kinds of commitments like that.
A: Got it. Well, it’s funny you say that because I had my reason which was to work. And I didn’t care where I was gonna be, in theory, but I’m glad I landed here because one thing, I quickly got into this town because people were so welcoming. Which you don’t find in a city like Miami or Ft. Lauderdale, or even Orlando where I basically lived before that, or even Gainesville, although the student population is sort of an anomaly. But I meet a lot of people who want to come here, because they say it’s so friendly.
Q: Well, that’s one of the reasons why I moved here. See you did it 20 years ago, and 20 years later that’s one of the main reasons I want to come here too is because I feel like it’s still a small town, but without it. Right? It’s a small town feel that people band together, they are behind each other, and yet there’s a lot of tourism, great restaurants, you can always do something new, there’s events happening all the time.
A: Well, that’s the thing also, people say to me, “How can you live down there?” Cause they visualize it like Duval Street. And, I say, when I first moved here, I lived on Poor House Lane, which is right by the cemetery, it’s three blocks from Duval Street and I didn’t even know Duval Street existed. I’d go weeks and weeks without getting in Duval Street. That’s the thing about this town, when people finally realize that? They realize it’s just a great town. And Duval Street, I’m not saying that it’s bad, but it’s just one kind of activity.
Q: Right. And I think because people think, well it’s small, right? The mass size of the island is very small so three blocks from Duval is like being on it. But it’s not. It’s not like Times Square or anything like that, it’s got its own flavor, for sure.
A: Yeah, and you can ride your bike and in 10 blocks, you’ll encounter all kinds of different houses, all different environments, all kinds of different people, and that’s also what’s nice about it is that the diversity is really adjacent. And, there’s something else that came up just through my profession, is that you have zoning which is a big difference here. You have commercial zoning within single-family, whereas when you go to a planned community or west of Miami where it’s all been developed in the last 30 years, it’s zoned where a single-family and then commercial with pockets, one or the other. Well, what he had is a very good point, if you have this conditional use zoning and spot zoning where you have these commercial businesses in residential areas and that enlivens it. Yeah.
Q: Yeah, because it enables you to be able to walk and ride bikes and do things where you’re not commuting all the time. That was a big thing for me coming from Miami, it’s like you are commuting everywhere. I’m a New Yorker, so I love to walk all the time, and you just can’t do that. Even though I’m in New Town, I can still walk to Publix, around my block, it’s beautiful just to walk.
A: Well, it’s funny because you could almost relate Key West to similar to Manhattan. In a sense that it’s a micro piece of that where you have all these areas that are very similar but they are all right next to each other.
Q: Yeah, and the attitude of the locals is similar to New York as far as like, if you’re on the lower East Side you’re like, “Upper East Side? No, that’s too far.”
Q: So, people here, if you’re in New Town and like me, you’re like, I gotta go to Old Town, I don’t know, that’s a trek for me. But it’s like four miles.
A: I had a contractor, I asked him about a job in New Town, he said, “Oh no, I don’t go past White Street.”
Q: Yeah, and God forbid you want to go to Stock Island. That’s like another universe.
A: No, it’s over a bridge!
Q: No, no, it’s too hard for me. So why don’t we tell people the profession you’re in. I don’t think we did that yet.
A: I’m a Landscape Architect.
Q: And, what would your friends say that you do?
A: That I’m a landscaper. And there’s nothing wrong with that, we use them a lot, but they think I’m out in the field a lot, but the difference is that I do a lot of design and then field management. I work with general contractors, pool contractors, landscape contractors, lighting and irrigation guys, and we all put these things together. So, I do what an architect does, because that’s more commonly understood. I draw drawings, submit them for permit, and then we build from that. So, I am putting together the master plan and the drawing, and then we assemble a team of people that are going to build, typically a general contractor for the hardscape. We do a lot of hardscape, whereas a lot of landscape architects or landscapers will just focus on planting. But we say, we do it all, we want everything to be integrated so we do a lot of the hardscape drawings.
Q: What’s a hardscape? Is that like a deck?
A: Pool, deck, fences, walls, trellis, gazebos, driveways, everything from the doors out.
Q: Right, everything not connected to the house. You don’t need to get FEMA approval on?
A: Well, some of it you do.
Q: Well, that’s only if it’s connected, attached.
A: That’s right, attached, although in certain areas where it’s in a V.E. zone, swimming pools, you can only come about between 8-18 inches depending on where you are in the Keys, above the existing grade if it’s a V.E. zone. Otherwise, they want the swimming pool at second level. Which is strange.
Q: Well, mine is five steps up. So, I guess.
A: You’re probably pretty good. But, one thing I always tell people is that a landscape architect to us, a swimming pool is like an architect of the house. It becomes the core of a project.
A: The thing we design that everything relates to, because you can’t have a pool if it’s done right, that doesn’t impact everything around it. So, that’s what kinda makes our office a little different, and that is what I learned from my mentor, Ray Jungles is that you design everything at once, you integrate it, you design the planting in mind while you are designing the hardscapes and it all fits together so that when it’s done and it may sound like a cliché, but you want it to look like it was always there. Like it was supposed to be that way.
Q: Well, when I’m going through you Instagram and I’m reposting your pictures, that’s a lot of comments that I make that draws me to it. It just seems like it’s natural. It seems like a crater hit that land and put a big hole and it happens to know be a swimming pool with nice design and the materials that are there look like they are a part of the earth.
A: Well, that’s the other thing about what I’ve developed over the years is an attention to detail. In my former life, I was a potter and that was my type of art that I did was very crisp and refined.
Q: Like, pottery?
A: Yeah, pottery. I do a lot of that, but that’s a segway, but I’m just a detail-oriented artist.
Q: You’re an artist.
A: But I’m more about the detail as opposed to say a Rauschenberg with splashes of paint and everything. So, it lent itself well to this profession because I like the detail, I like to look at every different material from the coping around the pool to the deck to how it relates to the steps even the river rock that goes in between, what color that’s going to be, that’s kinda what gets me going. So, when I look at a project, I look at all the detail and how I can integrate it and the thing that I tell a lot of clients if they start to drill me, like how do you do it? What do you want to do? Where are you going to start? I say that, well I’ve come to the conclusion that every project has a fingerprint. I just keep drawing and sketching and drawing and sketching…
Q: And it evolves.
A: Until I find that fingerprint and like you just said in the Instagram posting it looks natural. Like it should be there. And one part of the process is that you design and sketch and turn something upside down, rotate it 90 degrees, look at all the different options, then what I find is that certain design layouts keep coming back. And when they keep coming back, I stick ‘em. And then I develop the other area and when that one pure design comes out of that, I stick it. And then as they all come together, that’s the fingerprint.
Q: So, do you, when I see some of your imagery, and I’m like, “Oh, I know that this is Craig’s.” Do you like to stick to a particular style or do you find that it evolves based on, like if I’m the homeowner and I say, “Go at it.” And I don’t give you any stipulation, do you find yourself in the same realm, or do you like to express out?
A: That is a great question. I would say if someone had just said, “Go at it.” My style is going to be from a planting standpoint, I like it lush and full, but organized. I like a lot of contrast with sizes and shapes of plants because I really enjoy plants and the variety, so my go-to would be more of a variety of planting without it looking like, and this is a phrase I use a lot, “A tossed salad.” Not just one of everything. Big masses of things, so that’s how that would work. Then when it comes to the hardscape, I always gravitate towards natural materials maybe a little on the darker side because I like a garden to feel cool and calm and when it’s a little bit darker, like my back patio when I haven’t done on a project yet, I have black travertine. Even though it’s Key West, I have enough shade. It feels comfortable and relaxing all the time.
Q: Yeah, and now, what about natural as opposed to, or native as opposed to non-native?
A: That’s a very good question. That comes up all the time. So, I’m not a slave to natives, but they are a huge part of what we do. They are the backbone of every job. The way I describe it is if we do, especially in Key West where you often have to create privacy. I use the natives that are durable, long-lasting and can handle these conditions as the frame work or the background, then we layer the tropicals in front.
Q: Yeah, cause they are so pretty those tropicals, and it’s hard to say no to having them and have it just be native.
A: We are subtropical here; we get 50% or 20 inches less rain a year than Miami. So, in reality, we have to group our plants for the water usage. But at the same time, there’s a phrase that a landscaper used years ago, Chris Cowan coined it and it is brilliant is, Caribbean natives. So, you can have native palms from Cuba, native plants from Jamaica, or Dominican Republic do great here. And some of those are more interesting looking than ours. Like the Old Man Palm. People see that and they say, “That’s just so unique, it’s like a sculpture.” So, we use those a lot. So, I use the natives, the tropical where we can, without being insensitive to the environment, as well as then adding all this Caribbean natives that work great.
Q: And what about growth and non-growth? Do you plant something that may be in three to four years will double and triple in size?
A: Oh yeah. I always plan for the next 10 years. Because too often Areca Palms are perfect example of something I don’t ever use, but people buy them at Home Depot and put them in and there’s nothing wrong with this I’m just pointing this out. Six feet to block their neighbor and then in 10 years, they are 25 feet and all you see are trunks and you’re looking at your neighbor again. So, we definitely plan for that. That’s where the native shrubs comes in handy.
Q: Right, so you’ll fill in those gaps with the natives and then knowing the rest will grow without it being sparse. Yeah, that’s really interesting.
A: Yeah. And I’m a big proponent too, and this is another element to that is; right plant – right place. You hear that a lot, you read that a lot, but what it means is that even if you don’t want to put everything in big, put the right plant in so that in 10 years, as it matures, they are together. They work together, this is eight feet and this is five feet and that’s the way it’s gonna be.
Q: Yeah, I bought this house when I was living in Orlando and it was so lush. It was full everywhere and then five years later when I left it was like a big mess. It was disgusting, and everything meshed into one big plant, it was too much.
A: It’s too much. Overplanting is the first mistake that new designers make because they are so excited and they put everything together, and I will admit, I’m not immune to the way a tropical garden can grow. That’s the thing about tropical plants, they want to keep going. So, certain tropical plants and certain tropical gardens have to be maintained on a regular basis. That’s probably the biggest misnomer in what I do, and what landscapers do in this town is that a garden if it’s native, then it needs no maintenance. Things are gonna grow.
Q: Of course.
A: Sometimes they are gonna grow toward a pocket of sun that you didn’t count on and then you’ve got to bring that plant back into control. Or maybe just take it out.
Q: Yeah, it’s like getting a good hairdo once and thinking you’re never going to go back to the barber. It’s gonna be a big wreck in a month.
A: Yeah. You’ve gotta have maintenance and it’s unfortunate because it’s a huge part of what we do because I always tell clients, if it comes up, not always, but I say, “When your house is done, that’s the best it is ever gonna look.” When your garden is done that’s typically the worst it’s ever gonna look.
Q: Yeah, I like that. That’s a good catch phrase of yours. Have you always been interested in this? I know you’ve got your pottery, but how did you get into it?
A: No. Not at all. It’s funny because I was not a plant person at all, not one bit. I was into art, into the ceramics, pottery and then I got a degree in Fine Arts and tried all the different mediums, and then when I got out, I realized that the economics of art suck. I didn’t have a job, I didn’t know what I was gonna do, so I wanted to get a professional degree and do something that maintained the artistic side of things and I’ve always been an outdoors person. The decision was that simple.
Q: But how did you know that was something that would pay well? Did you think, “Ah, a landscaper!”
A: No, I looked into it. I looked into architecture, interior design, industrial design which I almost went into which is more product design, and landscape architecture. And an old roommate of mine was a landscape architect. So, I spent a couple of hours with him and he showed me what he did and I thought that’s pretty interesting. And, it’s outdoors which I always want to be, as much as I can, so these two go together. So, then I started researching L.A. and landscape architecture and I talked to a couple of professors at Ohio State, where I went to undergrad and they told me how the profession works. Then I applied to University of Florida, got in, and after going to the Bahamas on a boat for a year, I went to school and I actually really liked it. Because of the artistic side and University of Florida is more focused on design than they were on the technical side of materials and plants, which I then learned when I got out from this Ray Jungles guy and obviously, just doing the job.
Q: What a name. I mean, he’s in that field and his last name is Jungles. You can’t get, I mean what a business card, you’re like alright.
A: People think he made it up. They ask him all the time. And he didn’t.
Q: Of course not, I mean, you would have to be too much to be making up that name. And I’m like, I’m Ray Jungles but I’m really Ray Jones. Did you ever think as you were growing down here as a business, okay, Key West is only as big as it is, I want to now branch out to other locations? Which I am assuming you did branch out?
A: Yeah, what ended up happening was the little catalyst was that I had a client here that I finished a house over there on Washington Street and then two years later, called me up out of the blue. I hadn’t talked to him for that long, he said, “We just bought a house in Jamaica and we have a set of plans, we have the plants and the landscape architect we had decided to quit. So, can you come down and sort of interpret this for us and finish it.” And, I hadn’t even thought about branching out. So, I went down there and there were, and I counted, there were about 1,250 plants that were in bags that were as big a Pepsi can.
Q: Oh my God.
A: And, the drawing didn’t even look like it was for that property. I was surprised. I was like, I don’t know what that person did, so I just started laying plants out and I would go around and buy plants and basically, I built it as a design-build. Then I realized through doing that there’s other places you can go and have bigger property. I mean this was a three-acre property.
Q: Yeah, so you were like, “Holy cow!” That’s like…
A: That’s like, well it became the carrot. I said, “Wait a minute, I’m not gonna shy away from branching out because I can do bigger properties.” Ironically, after doing that, so that was when back in 2004 when I went down there, so all these years later, I really realized I liked that kinda work, but my favorite are these small projects because it’s like a jewelry box. You know, all that detail that I keep going back to which I really love. Not saying you can’t get the detailed bigger properties. So, I guess what I feel fortunate for is that I have a mix. I’m down in the islands, I have projects in Anna Marie, Naples, Palm Beach in Miami where the properties are bigger, so that fills that void. And then down here, I still get to do a lot of these here.
Q: So, you are all of Florida and then some in the Caribbean, like you mentioned the Bahamas.
A: Yeah, I did one in St. Vincent, St. Kitts, Alex and I went down to Curacao, interestingly enough about two years ago to do one. They only get 10 inches of rain a year and the guy that wanted the garden, I said, “Wait a minute, he wanted a tropical garden and I said, there’s a little bit of a disconnect here.” And he said, “No, I know, I love tropical plants, born and raised in Curacao, and I have to have a tropical garden. So, I’m building this new house with 150,000 cistern, and I will fill it daily if I need to because I want my tropical plants.”
A: So, we went down there and designed him a tropical garden and he just loves it.
Q: Yeah, it’s like a desert except for this …
A: Yeah, it was the weirdest place in terms of plants.
Q: So, let me ask you a question. What advice would you give your younger self or somebody just starting, not necessarily in Key West, but somebody wanting to get started in this business that has this same passion and the love like you do?
A: I would say figure out as soon as possible, if possible, what style of landscape architecture you want. And what I mean by that is, there are landscape architects who wear suit and tie and only deal in 8 ½ x 11 sheets of paper. They are almost like planners; city planning, city development.
Q: Yeah, engineers.
A: Yeah, exactly. Then there are some that just work for large firms, like there’s a firm in Ft. Lauderdale and they do projects all over the world. The compete with a company in Hawaii, that’s their #1 competition. They do these 3,000-acre resorts in Dubai and all over. That’s just not my style. But for some people, it is. Coming from an art background, I kinda knew that I wanted to get my hands in there and I wanted to be on sight and I wanted that detail, but I think I see over the years, I’ve met a lot of landscape architects that really don’t know where their passion is, or what part of design gets them going. Because I don’t want to be the guy that says I can design anything, because I’m a designer. I can’t. The big project…
Q: So, they dabble in a number?
A: They dabble in a number, yeah or they are at a firm, or a big firm and they’re doing these huge land planning things when in reality, they want to design a garden like what we do. Or, vice versa. So, I think that would be the advice, to figure out what it is that turns you on, and go find a firm that will support that.
Q: Yeah, I’m assuming also, find a mentor or that person that you can work with.
A: Yeah, that’s helpful. I stumbled onto Ray and I got lucky. But that’s the other thing I always tell people, I think landscape architecture kinda has an identity crisis because they think they can do (they, the profession in general) no one person, they try to do everything. Branding, marketing, resort development, theme parks, all the way down to a pocket garden. And that’s great, but I don’t think any one landscape architect can do it all.
Q: It’s, that’s wise advice for any business you’re in. You should be dangerous enough in all of those different things, but specialize, the main course and then the side dishes. You know your main course is what you love to do, and the side dishes are all the other things like the marketing and the stuff.
A: Yes, correct. That’s well said. Yes. It took me a while, I was doing some commercial stuff and I did a few projects that were larger like that, and I realized that a friend had the comment “narrow deep trench” and he’s right. I’m happier when I have a narrow deep trench of just this residential stuff where I can create this dream garden, for lack of a better term, for the client because they are willing to go to the links to make all this detail and all these elements work.
Q: And, being in this town, you can kinda drive by those houses too and have a little smirk, knowing that you helped this person make it beautiful. Or maybe five years later go back and peek behind there and go like “Wow, look how this thing is growing”
A: Yeah, I go back often, in fact, clients will call me three or five years later when things mature to a point where they need edits, that’s definitely not out of the question, and that happens. I mean, a garden is a living, breathing, growing thing. It goes without saying. Whereas a house, like a wall is not gonna move. The plants will change enough so that sometimes they’ll say, “Hey, now I want it more open. Let’s edit this.” And that happens.
Q: Does your firm do the ongoing, like where you’d say, “All right, you’ve made the property look like this, now you’re hiring me twice a year and I’m gonna come in and make sure everything is good, or that’s totally separate?”
A: Not against it, hasn’t happened, few people it happens with, but most people hire the landscape contractor to do the maintenance and then they’ll call me as they need over the years. Yeah.
Q: Because Key West is kind of a small town, but not, what do you to maintain and grown and continue to learn to advance your profession for yourself? Is it reading books, is it, listening to a podcast? I know you’re going to different locations, but…
A: Yeah, I see where you’re going, well part of it is definitely all of the design magazines, I’m constantly looking at those as they come out. Ocean Home, Architectural Digest, I forget the other one, El Décor actually has some good exterior stuff. And, if you look around the room here, you see all these?
Q: Yeah. Yeah.
A: This stack right here, they’re all cut-outs from magazines and books. I cut them out and put them on the wall and I just constantly look at all these colleges of other people’s design ideas and see how I can morph them or integrate them into what I do. Sometimes I’ll take three or four design ideas that I see, modify them to fit, put them together and then by putting them together so they work, there’s an artistry in that, too.
Q: Of course, do you ever look and I’m sure, look at Pinterest and Instagram?
A: Oh yeah, all the time.
Q: Those are great for you. But do you look and see, because I follow so many different styles and locations, do you ever look and see like, New England home and see all those gardens and go, but you know you can’t do that down here, right? You can’t have that kind of garden here.
A: Yeah, right. No, you can’. But I sorta look at that but more than anything I guess, now that you ask me the question, I’m sorta digging in my head and try to figure out what I look at, I’m always looking at details. I’m looking at how other people are using materials and details, and shapes, layouts, and things like that. And on Pinterest, like if I start a project and I don’t really have a starting point, I will just… like let’s say I’m doing a pool and the owner says, “I don’t want it natural shaped, I want it orthogonal or I want it square as they would call it.” I just start looking on Pinterest or Instagram at different pools and say, okay well there’s a piece of that that’s interesting to me and that’s going to be my starting point.
Q: Right. No, I love that, it’s great to get that inspiration, and what I took away from that is, that it may be a different type of plant that won’t grow here, but it doesn’t matter because there’s different heights, different positioning, and you can just take this one out and put this one in.
A: Correct. Oh, yeah. And there’s a lot of cool plants from California that are the same zone as ours, Zone 10.
Q: Oh, I didn’t know that.
A: But it is dry over there so the same Zone 10 plant there won’t grow here so I look at a lot of projects from California, Australia, Northern Australia has a lot of interesting subtropical gardens and so you get some inspiration from that. But I would love to build and work in California.
Q: Yeah, so maybe that’s…
A: Cause those kinda plants are really interesting.
Q: So, they are really pretty over there. We went into the different areas that you cover, possibly moving into California in the future, you never know, just slip up there you never know. Name one thing and then and this will be the last question and then from here, we’ll get into the personal questions I like to call them. Name one thing that people don’t know about your business that maybe you and only your close select few know about it. And that could be something like you really enjoy digging the first plant in there, or you really like coming in when the project is 10% planted and you being the ones to move things around. You know, something like that that is very detail oriented.
A: Well, I think that it’s a two-part answer, which is the thing that people don’t know is how much we actually design. So often, because the word landscape is in our title, they think it’s plants.
Q: Yeah, that’s what I thought!
A: Exactly. It’s a huge part of what we do. And it’s everything to tie it all together. But we really start with the hardscapes. So, the big thing to understand, to know about us if I were to say would be that we start from the doors out, is what I like to say. That’s my phrase and design all the hardscape and then all the earlier we are brought into the project the more integrated the design, the exterior design can be with the house. Because we have a number of projects where the architect will say, “Get him involved or some other landscape architect involved now, as we are laying the house out, so we can talk about what’s happening outside and it’s more integrated.”
Q: Yeah, that sounds like it would be better if you are doing it from the beginning.
A: From the beginning.
Q: As you are building this and you’re working hand-in-hand with the house architect so that you can get it all together. There’s also, well the design of the house, which way does the sun go? Right?
Q: If it’s taking up all the space here, and now the sun is going just over the whole house, it may make it a little more difficult.
A: Yeah more difficult. Or, I’ve had instances where we’ve decided where the house goes on the sight, or if they are doing an outbuilding or a guest building, how that’s going to be located to best take advantage of whether they want it to be private, or not private, based on what we’re doing. But again, I think if there was one thing, gun to my head I had say it, it’s that landscape architects do more than just plant things.
Q: Okay, that’s a good ending on the business portion of this section. So, the personal, I always scare people by saying the personal things, but they’re not that personal.
A: I didn’t do it.
Q: They are really not that personal. It’s more fun things that if you’re a tourist or if you’re local and you want to know things about Key West, then these are like your recommendations. So, what is your favorite event to attend in Key West, throughout the whole year?
A: The locals’ parade. The Friday before Fantasy Fest.
Q: Yeah, okay.
A: So now I just gave it away and everybody’s gonna go.
Q: I need to go, I didn’t even know about it, so I’m going.
A: Oh, it’s fun. Because, you are the parade. They start at the cemetery and they shut down the Fleming, you go the wrong way down Fleming and it’s thousands of locals dressed up and walking slowly and going down the street. And then dumping out on Duval, it’s like a river of people, it’s fun.
Q: That’s really fun, yeah. Any story behind any one of those you’ve done? Any crazy thing you’ve seen, or it was just, they are all crazy maybe?
A: They’re all crazy, yeah. Although I always tell people when I worked for Ray when I first got here, my office was in the front of this building, so my desk sat at the window looking on Duval, so I spent 6 ½ years looking down at Duval Street almost all day everyday for 40 hours a week, or 50 or 60, or whatever it took and you would think I would see something stranger. One thing I never saw was no people, except right before a hurricane. But there’s always people on Duval Street. But the strangest thing I saw was the middle of the day on a Tuesday, in some off month, a guy was walking down the street and you can tell it was a guy because he was dressed sorta like a lumber jack and you could tell it was a guy, but on his head was a disco ball. Big, huge, disco ball with two eye holes and he was just walking down the street like nothing mattered.
Q: Like he was just, like, whatever. And that’s the similarity with New York too. It’s like celebrities like going there because nobody pays ‘em any attention. Someone could be naked walking around and no one would care. It’s kinda like that on Duval Street.
A: Yes, it is.
Q: It’s like people would shrug their head and go, “Oh, al right another naked person.”
A: Oh, one more is, and I actually saw it or I wouldn’t have believed it, somebody said there was a dog that had a cat on its back and a mouse on the back of the cat. And I said that’s B.S., you’re making it up. And then one day, I come down the stairs on Duval Street and I’m going to get lunch and I turn the corner and I see it right there walking by me. I don’t know if they were taped on there or what, but it happened.
Q: Stapled. That’s great. All right, what is your favorite restaurant?
Q: I like me some Salute.
A: Yeah, good food and good location.
Q: And I love because we are in New Town, I love always taking the ocean side.
A: Yeah, South Roosevelt. In fact, when we come into town, we always go South Roosevelt instead of going north because it’s just prettier. It takes you what? An extra five minutes?
Q: Not even, it’s a couple of minutes and I have a motorcycle so it’s really pretty taking that drive. What is your go-to order there, if you have one? Food wise?
A: Oh, I get the snapper special, and they have it every day. So maybe it’s not a special.
Q: They, well I’ve been there now enough that they’re like, “Oh, we have specials.” And I am like, I’ve been eating that same special only the past six times. What about hidden local spot?
A: Hmm, it used to be when I first moved here was El Siboney. But now that’s not, it’s busy 24-7 and it’s hard to even get in. Let me think, that’s a great question. So apparently, I don’t know of many. They’ve all been, oh you know what? And we just talked about this the other day, Cole’s Peace. They have a great restaurant in there and it’s inside the Restaurant Store, the sign out front says Restaurant Store. But there’s a restaurant in there that sells great sandwiches and they have a breakfast.
Q: Wow, I didn’t know.
A: See? You didn’t know. That’s right.
Q: Now I’m going there for the breakfast, awesome. Best place for live music?
A: Live music? I don’t know, because I don’t go to a lot of them, but I’m over 50 so I went to the Rick Springfield concert just for nostalgia and it was hilarious, it was great. He was actually pretty good. Although his new album is weird, but they had it up on North Roosevelt between those two hotels, I don’t know what they call that, I think it’s like the yard, or the garden.
Q: Yeah, the Green?
A: Yeah, that’s it! The Green. I thought the sound quality and you sit in your own lawn chair that you bring onto this grass, that was great.
Q: Yeah, I like that location, it’s really nice, they do free movies there for the kids, too.
A: Yeah, it’s a really nice location and the landscaping there, whomever did that design? They did a great job with those oak trees and everything because you don’t see many oaks in Key West, now back to the business side. But, because I find places like the Green Parrot which his real popular, it’s just too loud. And the people talking is just kinda weird, but it’s a lot of fun.
Q: Right. There’s so many places for music down here that are fun, but I like the little hidden spots.
A: The other one is that Smokin’ Tuna Saloon. They have a good stage for that.
Q: They always have great artists on there, too. And, it’s non-stop. What about your best place for Happy Hour?
A: I think it’d be the after deck at Louie’s.
Q: Nice, okay.
A: Just because of the setting, location. It’s probably not the best price? But it’s the best location.
Q: What about your favorite drink?
Q: Just beer?
A: I like beer. I don’t drink liquor or wine. I like lagers and I like good heavy lagers.
Q: That’s why your friends are like, “He’s landscapin’ and he’s got a Bud in one hand. And a plant in the other.”
A: That’s right.
Q: And then, tourist attraction that you’ll take friends to when they come to visit? Like your go-to?
A: Oh, hmm, I draw a blank. Usually they tell me where they want to go see. They have researched it enough, but that’s a really good question. I can’t even answer.
Q: That’s okay, you can come back to it. You’ll wake up in the middle of the night saying like, it’s the conch train.
A: Yeah, exactly.
Q: All right, this was fun, I had a really good time.
A: Me too, thank you.
Q: One last question before we get into where people can find you and the stuff like that. Give us your tip of the day. This could be a new gadget, a new book you’re reading, a new show on Netflix, just any cool little thing that, it could be I love this new ballpoint pen, I mean it can be anything.
A: Tip of the day, well, I don’t know.
Q: Like for me, I’m getting more, I’m always into audio books, that’s just a thing that I do all the time. And, it’s always been educational ones on marketing, business, and stuff like this, but now I’m like, and I hated history but now I’m really getting into history on Roosevelt, Vanderbilt, and these people and the books are like the normal book is like eight hours, or six to eight hours, and these are like 30 hour books and they are like massive. And they get into the beginning, so like the first 10 chapters are about the kids’ youth and you’re like, thank God I’m not reading this or I’d be asleep. But they are great, so that for me would be a tip that I would give people. Hey, sometimes especially in business if you want to learn where you’re going, you need to learn from the past, because they do repeat itself.
A: Okay, well it’s funny because I have a friend who just started his own business and I was trying to think what to get a new business owner. So now that you’ve suggested it in that way, I’d have to say an App called “Wunderlist” is awesome.
Q: Okay, and what’s that?
A: It’s basically just a list App. But the way it’s designed and done is the best I’ve ever used and you can then share the list, so actually, our whole office uses it.
Q: Oh, that’s cool.
A: So, when I finish something and I check it off, boom it sends a notification to everyone else and vice versa and we all know what we’re working on and we just put down what list we are going to do. Like okay, say we have this project is priority one, and you can just drag and drop them and we just work down the list.
Q: Yeah, that sounds similar. I use something called Trello.
A: Yeah, I’ve used Trello before. And that has the columns and you move them from column to column and the guys from Toyota developed it.
Q: Yeah, because there were like sticky notes on a board and they are like, let’s just make this digital.
A: And that’s good for like web development, and millions of tasks, where for the Wunderlist it’s just simplified version, but it just goes straight down and then you can add notes to each one. You can add images to each one. So, what happens, sometimes when I’m not in the office and Tamara comes in, who you know, and she is only in two days a week so Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and I may just throw stuff on that list and then when it gets in she just sees new things at the top and she just starts getting those things knocked out.
Q: And then you get notified when they are done.
A: Yeah, I get notified or she’ll call me and say, “Hey I see this third thing, what’s up with that?”
Q: Yeah, cause sometimes Trello for me is way too much stuff going on and I don’t need all that stuff that it can do. I just need the one list. It would be easier.
A: Yeah, so anyway that would be my one thing.
Q: Perfect, shout out to Sunny Side Up, too. https://www.instagram.com/the_sunnyside_up/
A: Yeah, she has a great Instagram.
Q: Oh yeah, I know her and she’s amazing. She’s an incredible photographer, too.
A: Yeah, we’ve gotta say that her photographs, when she started with me, she had a background in photography and she was working actually at a florist shop. She has an artistic eye and she has definitely been in the arts all her adult life; I’d guess. And I didn’t even know she can take pictures. And I hired her so that she could support me and we were doing project management stuff, and office management, and then she said, “Oh yeah, I do photography.” And she started taking these great shots, so now that’s one reason why our website looks so good. THE reason is that we can get real time excellent basically professional quality photographs.
Q: She’s definitely an artist because you can see in her pictures that they are not all saturated and not all…
A: Not all blown out.
Q: They are very much natural.
A: Correct. Like you’re standing there.
Q: Yeah, real. Like real high.
A: And a depth of field, which I never really realized how good you can get that with the right lighting because she’s obsessed with getting the right lighting when she takes them and it shows.
Q: All about lighting. Yeah, for sure.
A: Because she can really capture it. And I think she can capture anything and I think fortunately she really likes capturing gardens.
Q: So, where can people find more about you, your website.
A: Yeah, okay the website is: http://www.craigreynolds.net/
Q: And then what about on social? I’ll put all these in the show notes, too.
A: I’m embarrassed to say I don’t know exactly, but I think it’s https://www.instagram.com/craigreynolds.design/is the Instagram feed.
And then on Pinterest if you just type in my name: https://www.pinterest.com/search/pins/?q=craigreynolds&rs=typed&term_meta=craigreynolds%7Ctyped
Q: Great, well it was great talking to ya’. I learned a lot and I know that you don’t just have a Budweiser and petunia in one hand. You do a lot more than that and there’s a lot more that goes into the profession and I learned why you’re here in Key West. It was great talking to you and I look forward to maybe doing a Round Two. Awesome, thank you.
A: Awesome, thanks.
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