July 31st, 2013 / posted by paularath

A serene oasis just off School Street! Photos by Jerry Mayfield

Mary Philpotts McGrath is indefatigable. Best known as a multi-award winning interior designer, she is also a fine artist, intrepid world traveler, talented merchandiser, gifted green thumb and simply all-around extraordinary woman.

So I’m seldom surprised when Mary comes up with an entirely new concept, but I’m nevertheless impressed with her energy and enthusiasm for all things that enrich and beautify our lives.

Enter: PLACE. Le Jardin Galerie (translation: The Garden Gallery)

Out of what was a graffiti-covered slum-like dwelling, Mary has created a serene oasis for the person who loves plants, lanais, and being surrounded by beauty inside and outside their home.

Pots of all shapes, sizes and colors, along with unusual plants, are for sale.


“It’s a great people space,” Mary said as she took us on a tour. Lyon Arboretum recently held a successful fundraiser in the space. It even has a full kitchen and they catered it themselves, cooking up a whole turkey in the oven. The plan is to hold special events, workshops and demos in the new space. I loved some of the workshops Mary held at PLACE. with the Garden Club, but they were quite crowded. This will give them the space they need to expand all those educational opportunities.

These are the “living walls” and, in the center, the option for those with “brown thumbs.” The wood rounds hold very real looking artificial plants.

One of my favorite items is the living wall, which is surprisingly easy to install. There’s a simple metal strip that you can hang the sections of plants off of. You buy the sections separately and add as many as you want. I think the ones in the photo above are four or five sections hung on a single rail. You can do just one strip and see how it goes or cover an entire wall with beautiful greenery. The watering is easy; you pour water in the top and let gravity do the rest.

The stairs lead up to a charming apartment.

This lovely new space reminds me of the beautiful courtyards that used to exist in Chinatown, with greenery galore. While the emphasis is clearly on the garden, there are also some lovely ideas and items for indoor spaces. It’s decorated like an apartment, but with a few more pillows and pots. And all the furnishings and accents are for sale.

As a fine artist herself, Mary understands how costly it can be to mat and frame paintings. So she devised a gallery set-up that enables visiting artists to hang their work unframed, and even unmatted, if they so choose.

The art is hung on the outside of the sliding doors; the doors open to reveal a collection of unusual lamps that are for sale.


Everywhere you look there are little vignettes that make you want to just sit down and enjoy!

Find PLACE. Le Jardin Galerie at 54 South School Street, just Diamond Head of PLACE. Park at PLACE and walk a few steps to the new space. It’s not officially open yet, so ring the doorbell for entry….and step into Mary’s world.

– Paula Rath

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