The backyard is Robbie Fitzgerald's bread and butter (maybe hamburger and bun?). Her upscale Garden Architects shop—on Annapolis's West Street—is an indoor showroom for the outdoors. The pieces are the best of the best—topiary chairs and ottomans by Richard Schultz, gourmet cooking stations from Kalamazoo, and Shadescape umbrellas. Fitzgerald is relatively new to the backyard beautification racket. Her former life included working for America Online as its director of design—she led the group that created the iconic running man. But in 2000, she moved to Austin, Texas, with her family and met a neighbor who was a master gardener.
She was hooked. Fitzgerald earned master gardener and master naturalist certifications from the state and a landscape design certificate from Texas A&M. When her family headed back to the East Coast, Fitzgerald continued her education at the University of Maryland's School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation and spent time at Monticello and Annapolis's Paca Gardens.
When Garden Architects first opened in 2003, it was Fitzgerald's way of combining her passion for preserving landscapes with high-end design. (It was also time to make money, she jokes). Initially, the shop also sold outdoor decorative pieces before streamlining into just space design. Fitzgerald works with mostly designers—but some homeowners, too—on ensuring that every outdoor space can be socialized. Today, the shop specializes in contemporary pieces in four major categories: seating, kitchen, large plant containers, and shelter. She says the somewhat lofty price tags are justified. "These are lifetime purchases," she says.
Fitzgerald, along with partner Susan Larson, encourages people to be well educated before making a purchase.
"What do you want to do outside?" The great outdoors is gaining some respect as a gathering space. "More people are starting to realize that and use their properties that way," she says. "It's a valuable space."
Garden Architects, 115 West St., Ste. 100, Annapolis, 410-267-1046, gardenarchitects.com.