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On the Porch with Frank Mariani

Produced by Clara Haneberg

On a warm summer day, you can find me: Riding my motorcycle to one of our nurseries and walking the fields.

Ever been stung by a bee? A million times! It usually has something to do with exploring or being in my garden and fighting them off of very ripe fruit!

Sweet tea or lemonade? Lemonade. Fresh squeezed lemons, no sugar, tons of ice, and maybe enhanced with a little vodka.

As a kid, I loved playing __________ outdoors.  16-inch softball. A Chicago tradition.

In my garden I grow: Herbs, veggies, cut flowers, fruit, berries… you name it, I grow it! I start my Sundays looking for perfectly ripe fruit & vegetables from the garden, then I go to the local grocers, fishmongers, and butchers to select the perfect pairing—I love it!

For me, outdoor design is: Much more than a pretty view, it’s an extension of your interior rooms. If you, your family, guests, and friends aren’t drawn outside, then we failed.

My biggest outdoor fiasco involved: When I was younger and still building the business, not emphasizing the fact that we were there to be the creative expert. Sometimes you have to be strong enough to say it’s not the right project and move on!

My favorite memory of being outdoors is: A few years ago we had a party in December. The weather was unusually warm and around 11 p.m. we migrated outside. I started an outdoor fire in our fireplace which everyone gathered around; we drank red wine well into the night. It was the perfect way to begin the holiday season!

Sunglasses, floppy hot, SPF—or all three? Sunglasses are a must! Lots of olive oil running through my Italian veins, but I still need the hat!

You won a free ticket to any outdoor destination, you pick: Dumbarton Oaks Georgetown, best views in the world.

The ideal weather forecast is:  4” of snow on Christmas eve.

Every outdoor space should have: A destination.

My favorite outdoor activity is: Primping our garden—staking, dividing, weeding, cultivating, and, best of all, harvesting.

What I love most about entertaining outdoors is: Harvesting fresh fruits and veggies from the garden, cooking a meal for my family, and enjoying our dinner outdoors on a late August evening.

Who would you invite to your dream alfresco dinner party? My hero and father, Vito Mariani Sr, who passed away 45 years ago. Also, the giants of our industry like Franz Lipp and Dan Kiley who I had the honor to meet and know, and others who influenced many of us like Beatrix Farrand and Rusell Page. And to top it all off filmmaker Quentin Tarantino, chef Tony Mantuano, singer/songwriter Elvis Costello, and his fantastic wife and fellow singer, Diana Krall. Now that would be a night to remember!

Every good outdoor gathering has: Friends, family, great food, wine, and a reason to share good will.

Everything is __________ outdoors.  Alive and fluid. 


Photography: Andre Lacour