Behind the Design: Ivy Landscape Design Firm BOXHILL Design
Ivy Landscape Designer Spotlight: Elizabeth Przygoda-Montgomery, owner and principal of BOXHILL Design – Tucson, AZ
Elizabeth, how did you get where you are today?
Growing up, I lived all over, and since then, have traveled extensively. Being exposed to different cultures and design aesthetics starting from a young age had a big impact on the way I look at exterior spaces and see the potential for what they could become. When I was 16, for example, my mother (who’s also a designer) got a job to design a hotel in Jamaica and we moved to the island. Living in Jamaica opened my eyes to a completely different way of working with colors and setting up spaces for indoor-outdoor living. I’ve also spent time living in Chile and traveling in South America, Central America, Europe, and elsewhere. Turkey and Morocco are two countries with a design history and culture that have also played a big role in influencing my own design language.
BOXHILL DESIGN, your landscape design firm, is based in sunny Tucson, Arizona. What’s your landscape design process like from start to finish?
Once we have been contacted by a client, we always start with a design questionnaire. This not only makes sure we’re the right fit for the client, it also prequalifies the client to make sure they’re the right fir for us. If we move forward at this point, we set up an initial consultation and site visit. From there, we have the client sign a contract and then start with the deep-dive into the design process. This includes taking an initial site survey and measurements, creating visual aids in the design conceptualization phase, coming up with a master plan (like a blue print of a home, but for a landscape), and then, finally, installation.
How do you typically work with interior designers?
We’re lucky to live in a climate that supports outdoor living year-round. There’s a huge trend of looking at outdoor spaces as extending the usable square footage of homes and creating functional living space. But for a home to feel harmonious inside and out, it takes direct and purposeful communication with the interior folks — you don’t just magically get it right! I really enjoy working hand-in-hand with interior designers and architects to create designs that feel seamless as you move from inside out to the garden. I’ll often be brought on board by interior designers if their client is looking to re-do their outdoor space as part of a home remodel.
Considering the desert climate of Tucson, what are your go-to design concepts and plant selections?
The plants in the desert are so sculptural and dramatic—this makes them really fun to work with as a designer. Just one mature agave in the right place, for example, can have a very powerful impact on a space. Less is often more. I also like grouping plants into threes such as Lady’s Slipper (Euphorbia macrocarpus), Golden Barrel Cactus (Echinocactus grusonii), and Whale’s Tongue Agave (Agave ovatifolia). Surround the trio with dark Mexican river rock and you have a desert vignette with some real style. Water is always an issue in our climate. While I don’t think you have to have a totally xeric garden, I do think that we need to be climate-conscious in the way we design our outdoor spaces.
What’s the design scene like in Tucson?
Tucson is filled with amazing talent. Many are low profile architects that are doing really interesting things with modern design and reinventing the way we design homes. (One to check out: Ha|Ru architectural design.) A few years ago, I founded Tucson Modernism Week to bring together some of our local talent with a week long program including films, lectures, and other events highlighting Tucson’s mid-Century design and architecture heritage and ideas to take forward into our contemporary designs. If you’re local or visiting in October, come join us!
Can you name some of your favorite local shops for furniture, lighting, home décor, etc.?
Well, as the founder of Shop Boxhill, I have to mention our store first, right? I founded Shop Boxhill as a retail expression of my personal style and my never-ending quest for quality products with enviable aesthetics. We currently stock a curated selection of hotel-quality outdoor furniture, fire pits, garden items, and accessories items like pillows and throws. Everything that’s in our shop is quality tested, can hold up to the intense desert climate, and something I would confidently use in a client’s home or my own.
In terms of local brick and mortar stores, I’m a big fan of the African Art Village at the Tucson Gem Show, Adobe House Antiques, Old Town Artisans, Native Seeds, Grey House Antiques, Mercado San Augustin, Colonial Frontiers, and others.
Who are your favorite local Tucson vendors and people of the trade?
Your online retail store, Shop Boxhill, offers a curated selection of modern, outdoor décor. How do you balance your landscape design business and retail shop?
My design business, BOXHILL, and online retail store, Shop Boxhill, go hand-in-hand—it’s Boxhill & Co., really. In terms of managing two businesses and working full-time as a principal designer, it’s certainly an exercise in time-management. It’s about knowing that the garden needs a little watering, but also not allowing myself to get wrapped up in pruning every leaf on each plant. It’s been a crash course in task prioritization and knowing that I can’t be everywhere at once, so I have to relinquish some of the responsibilities to others. With that said, it’s also about having a team that I can trust. The idea for the shop was a natural extension of what I currently do, but realizing that idea would not have been possible without the support of my team.
Tell us about your LIVE OUTSIDE Blog, your online resource for the outdoor lifestyle community…
The blog and social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram are a great way for us to connect with our audience and for me to answer common design questions. Some of our most popular pieces are along the lines of ‘Get the Look’ of, say, a Moroccan courtyard or mid-Century modern patio.
What’s your business mantra?
Can I pick two? First, ‘You’re only as good as your installer’. Building strong relationships with talented artisans and builders is something I’ve focused on for the last 20+ years of being in business. Second, ‘Always look forward’. Design should constantly be changing and evolving. But, I’m not one for designs that look trendy or of-the-moment. I aim to design in a way that looks timeless, something that I’ll look back on in 20 or 40 years and still be proud of.
Why did you join Ivy as a landscape designer?
I love the Ivy community and culture—it’s got a real positive vibe and everyone seems open and friendly. I had a friend who recommended I check out Ivy. While there aren’t as many landscape designers as interior designers on the platform, I think it’s a great fit for me. Landscape design is like interior design in that it’s a 360 design process. You wouldn’t just stop at the couch if you were designing a living room and we don’t just stop at the tree selection when designing a backyard. There’s so much more that goes into creating an outdoor room that feels just as inviting — or maybe more so — than a room inside your house. Ivy has already helped with our design process and decision-making in so many ways.
What have you learned from the Ivy Designer Network (the private FB Group)?
I wish the Ivy Designer Network had been around during my first few years as a designer—it would have been so helpful! There are so many pearls of wisdom from other professionals who are willing to share and collaborate. I love the Facebook Group and ‘Files’ section. We’ve actually recently made changes in our business just from learning what others are implementing and doing.
How does Ivy help streamline your day-to-day workflow as an interior designer?
As a designer and owner of two businesses, I’m always on the go and have a hundred and one things to get done on a given day. Ivy helps me organize projects in a way that no other tool has—it’s really game-changing.
What’s an Ivy feature you can’t live without?
I love the Ivy Product Clipper, it’s brilliant.
Here at Ivy, we’re more than just an interior design software. Our mission is to provide interior designers with the community, resources and tools needed to manage your business beautifully. Are you searching for a business management tool to help streamline your workflow as an interior designer?