In the 15 years Elizabeth Przygoda-Montgomery has worked as a residential and commercial landscape designer, she has become a pro at spotting a quality piece of outdoor furniture.
“The Arizona sun is so intense, I can honestly tell you if a product can or can’t work outside because the sun here will eat it up within a year,” says the Tucson-based owner of Boxhill Design. Whenever she shops for products for clients – whether it’s a homeowner or a hotel like the Ritz-Carlton – she focuses on quality, beauty, and functionality.
Now you don’t have to be a paying client of Przygoda-Montgomery’s to benefit from the knowledge she’s culled over the years. That’s because in April she launched Shopboxhill.com, an online shop featuring a carefully curated selection of products created solely for use outside, from furniture and fire pits to gardening tools and table linens.
Przygoda-Montgomery calls the style of the items featured on the site “barefoot luxury” – “it’s chill, but quality,” she says. The products are selected and vetted by Przygoda-Montgomery and a team of professional landscape designers/curators with an eye toward quality, sustainability, and high design. “I think you can have all three,” she explains.
In addition to featuring high-end furnishings made to withstand the elements, the shop also showcases many handcrafted and upcycled products, such as dishes made from reclaimed steel. Products are divided into six categories: splash, grow, wear, art, glow, and lounge. Each product for sale on the site includes a photo, detailed description, and bio of the designer.
Shopboxhill.com is the perfect complement to another online venture Przygoda-Montgomery started a few years ago: Liveoutsideblog.com.
The concept for the blog came about when Przygoda-Montgomery temporarily relocated to Puerto Rico for her husband’s job. “The need for landscape design is totally different in Puerto Rico. I started the blog because I needed a creative outlet,” she says.
Spread the word. After 20 years in the Southwest, Przygoda-Montgomery was already skilled at finding materials to stand up to the sun. In Puerto Rico, she learned how sand and salt take their toll on outdoor furnishings. “If you can find a product that withstands sun, sand, and salt, you’re in good shape,” Przygoda-Montgomery explains. “I started learning and blogging about the products I found, products I love, products I know well. It was an outlet for me to educate myself and share with my readers and peers.”
In addition to discussing products on the blog, Przygoda-Montgomery says she seeks to inspire readers by offering ideas on how to coordinate different styles, such as coastal, boho, retro revival, and midcentury modern. (Many people also glean ideas from Live Outside Blog on Pinterest at pinterest.com/liveoutsideblog.)
After blogging for a while, Przygoda-Montgomery attended the Design Bloggers Conference, where interior designer, blogger, and mother Tobi Fairley told a story about how she knew she needed to change her business one Christmas, when she was at a client’s house changing curtains instead of being with her family.
“What she said resonated with me and made me think, I need to change too, I need to grow my business in a way that is global and current,” Przygoda-Montgomery says. “I had a 3-month-old baby and had shopped online for almost all of my Christmas presents. I thought, people are doing this and I know this. I know landscape design. I know product. I know what’s good.”
And so the concept for Shopboxhill.com was born.
“I don’t want to be the Lowe’s or Home Depot of outdoor furniture,” Przygoda-Montgomery says. “I’m not looking to be the fastest and cheapest. It’s quality versus quantity.”
Her motto for outdoor furniture is “buy once, cry once.” As she explains: “I want to buy it one time and buy something quality, sustainable, and timeless. I know products that are built well and can hold up to the sun. I know what the average residential client doesn’t know because it’s what I do.”
Yet not every purchase on Shopboxhill.com is of the “buy once, cry once” variety. Przygoda-Montgomery also raves about the $40 rugs on the site. “They’re made for outside, you can spray them off. I love them. They’re cute. Are they going to last forever? No. There are some things on there that are kind of fun items.”
Searching across the country. To find products, Przygoda-Montgomery and her team attend high-end design shows and conferences as well as local fairs where they come across people who craft bird feeders, bee houses, planters from antique spoons, or other eclectic items.
“With each product, we try to bring in what’s unique,” she says. One example: artist Ross Barrable’s sound sculptures, which are giant steel and aluminum harps that play when the wind blows.
Of course, one of the biggest selling points of the site – its emphasis on striking products made by talented designers – also presents some challenges. Many items are handmade when they are ordered, so they aren’t going to arrive on customers’ doorsteps overnight. “They’re beautiful pieces of art you’re not going to find anywhere else. They’re going to be handmade for you, and that takes time,” Przygoda-Montgomery says, citing the example of the handcrafted fire pits sold on the site, which take about six weeks to construct.
Another challenge: Creating contracts that suit each artist. Przygoda-Montgomery says right now she has 20 different artists, each with his or her own customized contract. In addition, obtaining quality photos, price lists, and details from artists to post on the site can be a rather time-consuming process.
“It’s an evolving system and it’s still not where I want. I have big goals and plans,” Przygoda-Montgomery says.
Although Shopboxhill.com is geared toward consumers, the company is selling to contractors and is working on a trade agreement for the site so professionals can access trade prices.
“We’re already working with some designers one-on-one, but I haven’t worked up all the details yet,” Przygoda-Montgomery says. “I want contractors to rely on me and know that I’m doing whatever I can to get the best price and get them products they feel good about putting their name on.”
Landscape designer Elizabeth Przygoda-Montgomery spends a lot of time on the lookout for the latest and greatest trends in outdoor products. Here are three trends she says are hot right now:
1. Midcentury-retro furniture revival. From people redoing old chairs you’d see on your great-grandfather’s porch to bringing midcentury-modern touches into a new home, Przygoda-Montgomery says, “Old is the new new.”
2. Vintage-look fabrics. “A lot of big-name outdoor fabric lines are starting to carry almost vintage patterns again,” she says. “It’s fun.”
3. Alternative materials. Przygoda-Montgomery is particularly excited about a new clear light-transmitting concrete called that looks like glass. And she says people are doing really cool projects with rammed earth and concrete too.