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Sewickley Herald

June 9, 2011

Sewickley designer creates ‘green’ room in Phipps flower show

It looks as if any minute Alice will be chasing the rabbit up and over one of the huge yellow petals and  disappear through the looking glass.

But this scene wasn’t created by Lewis Carroll.

Mary Olliffe of Sewickley, one of eight interior designers chosen by Phipps Conservatory to put their special touches on the rooms at the summer flower show, “Living Harmoniously with Nature,” crafted the scene.

Although the room has nothing to do with Alice, it does feature remnants of rubber flooring, linoleum, wall coverings and even forks, spoons and knives that have been recreated into a “wonderland” of “Renewable Flowers,” the new exhibit in the East Room.Olliffe, an interior designer for corporate and residential customers at Devlin Architecture in Pittsburgh, said she wanted to work on the design just for the joy of “doing something completely different.” It also, however, gives her the opportunity to get her work seen by the public.

“A lot of what I do is for private people. We don’t get a lot of government or university work. We have a lot of high-end residential jobs, and unless you know the person and visit their home, you never see the work. And no one knows that I designed the interior of Orr’s Jewelry in Sewickley,” she said.

But those who walk through Phipps can see the room she designed through Oct. 2.

Olliffe, who grew up tending to her family’s garden in Somerset and also gardens at her current home, said the flowers and plants in each room will grow more lush as time goes by.

Conceived by Becky Jarold of B. Jarold and Co. LLC, the show posed a challenge to Pittsburgh-based interior designers to propose a design that will cross boundaries and display sustainable material in a new way.

Jordyn Melino, program coordinator for horticulture and education at Phipps and show coordinator, said 17 local interior designers submitted concepts for the show. A select committee, including Jarod and Phipps staff, chose eight to participate.

“The materials she used were really interesting. Some I didn’t even know about, and some were even created from plant material. That’s the whole point to have people learn about sustainable materials they can use at home,” Melino said.

Olliffe, who chose to design the room that features a waterfall, picked Xorel as one of her materials. The wall covering is designed to easily be turned into something else.

She used it to make several hanging balls that look like the puffy round heads of flowers. She also used architectural resins for large white petals, made from 4-foot-by-8-foot sheets by Devlin architect Steve Ponter.

At one point, Ponter, who made many of the pieces in the show, filled his entire garage with materials and also enlisted his son’s help to cut out the big, yellow daisy petals from rubberflooring.

To make large, yellow and orange chrysanthemums, linoleum was used, Olliffe said, because it is pressed from renewable materials such as pine rosin, linseed oil and wood and cork dust.

It turns to its true color when exposed to light — a process called “blooming.”

Olliffe also used large pinecones she picked up from her travels out west.

April Meredith, former owner of the No Good Riding Hood shop in Sewickley, made the 5-foot octagonal mirror, which is surrounded by silverware she purchased from a yard sale, for the display.

Olliffe said she had seen a smaller version of the mirror at a nearby antique shop. However, when she learned it was $500 because it was made with sterling silver, she decided to talk with Meredith, who volunteered to make a larger version without using sterling silver.

Meredith also let Olliffe use a large lounge chair featuring dragons for arms and scales running down the sides, which she painted red, making it look like a chair Alice might sit on.

The winning designers worked with Phipps’ horticulture, education and facilities staff and landscape architect Scott Scarfone of Oasis Design to bring the concepts to life. Every room incorporates summer flowers such as dahlias, hibiscus, impatiens, zinnia and lantana into the designs.

“Mary hit the nail right on the head with her concepts,” Melino said. “Her materials literally came to life with blooms.”

To find out more about the exhibit, visit

Pittsburgh Tribune Review coverage of Phipps Summer Show

May 16, 2011

New summer flower show blooms at Phipps

By Kate Guerriero, PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW, Sunday, May 15, 2011

“Four of these mannequins have already been claimed!” laughed Jon Withrowof the faux fashionistas donning formalwear made of dried plant material, a dinner party scene he and Bill Kolano co-designed with fellow collaborators for Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens new summer flower show,“Living Harmoniously with Nature.”

“Each took 10 to 12 hours to complete using hot glue and liquid silicone. There were lots of burned fingers!” he explained.

Interior designers hailing from our Three Rivers collaborated with the landscape architects and horticulturists at Phipps to create whimsical installations based on an idea conceived by Becky Jarold that challenged designers to present sustainable materials in a new way.

“Sustainable materials don’t have to be boring … they can be exciting and fun,” explained Vicci Franz.

Guests enjoyed one jaw-dropping scene after another during the patron preview party on Thursday with the likes of Executive Director Richard Piacentini and board Chair Chuck Brodbeck.

Read more: New summer flower show blooms at Phipps – Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Phipps show promotes use of sustainable materials
By Kellie B. Gormly, PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW, Friday, May 13, 2011
Living Harmoniously with Nature’

What: Phipps Summer Flower Show

When: Saturday-Sept. 27. Hours are 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily and until 10 p.m. Fridays.

Admission: $12; $11 for age 62 and older, and students with ID; $9 for ages 2-18

Where: Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, Oakland

Details: 412-622-6914 orwebsite
About the writer
Kellie B. Gormly is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review staff writer and can be reached at 412-320-7824 or via e-mail.

When people hear the word “sustainable,” they might think of drab, shabby buildings and products — an image that officials at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens hope to dispel with the Summer Flower Show opening Saturday.

This year’s annual show, titled “Living Harmoniously with Nature,” features a palette of colorful summer flowers — like dahlias, hibiscus, impatiens, zinnias and lantana — mixed with funky art pieces made out of sustainable materials in several rooms throughout the Oakland conservatory. The first thing visitors will see is Crafton artist Noelle Weaver’s giant sculpture in Phipps’ Welcome Center. The structure represents a Native American healing wheel that touches on four elements of nature: water, sun, wind and earth. Guests can write their promises to the planet on recycled tags and attach them to the sculpture.

Weaver, 34, wants people to “think about what we can do to heal the Earth,” she says.

For this show, Phipps officials challenged Pittsburgh-area interior designers to partner with Phipps horticulturists and landscape architects to create beautiful gardens with sustainable materials, says spokeswoman Liz Fetchin. The results stand throughout the conservatory, with items like two chairs made out of old stop signs in the Palm Court. Giant, colorful flowers made out of bamboo hang over the Sunken Garden, while a topiary panda bear nibbles on bamboo stalks below the flowers.

“I think that the Sunken Garden room is really fun for kids,” Fetchin says. “It’s very colorful … and otherwordly.”

Other notable features include the East Room, where visitors walk into a cartoonish scene reminiscent of “Alice in Wonderland,” with giant, bright blooms made out of materials like linoleum and resin. The Victoria Room features an aquatic version of a Victorian-era sitting room with glass mosaic pillows. The South Conservatory, with a farm-to-feast theme, features a formal vegetable garden with lettuce, kale and more (sorry; no nibbling allowed). On the central platform in this room stand green mannequins dressed in leaves and other plant materials, Adam and Eve style. A decorated kitchen table stands in the middle of the display, which includes topiaries such as a tabletop cat and frolicking dogs.

Fetchin says she hopes the show’s artwork will inspire people, as it is made out of materials they otherwise would discard.

“Sustainable doesn’t have to be boring,” she says. “We wanted to bring light to the fact that sustainable can be beautiful … and colorful.

“We want to inspire people to go green in their daily habits,” Fetchin says.

Read more: Phipps show promotes use of sustainable materials – Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Pop City Media Coverage of Phipps Summer Show

May 16, 2011

For Good

Green design with actual green stuff — it’s the stuff of Phipps’ Summer Flower Show



A vegetable garden planted right next to a dining-room table. Mannequins dressed in plant material made to look like formal wear.

That’s the green stuff in just one room of the annual Phipps Summer Flower Show, slated for May 14 through Sept. 27. This year’s theme: Living Harmoniously with Nature.

Patrons, besides being dazzled by the art of these gardens, “will be inspired to look at the things they normally like to do and see if there are more sustainable ways they can do it,” says Phipps Executive Director Richard Piacentini.

“Green can be beautiful” he says. “So often, I’ve heard that people think that trying to live a more sustainable lifestyle means that they have to give something up, or [that] it will be ugly. That doesn’t have to be the case.”

This year’s theme, a collaboration between Phipps and local interior design firm B. Jarold and Company, was conceived as a way “for interior designers to address sustainable design by showcasing new and sustainable materials in a unique way,” says Jordyn Melino, the Oakland institution’s interpretive specialist.

The result, from eight designers, includes displays made from flowers as well as discarded street signs, bottles and cans, barn wood and other repurposed materials.

Concludes Phipps spokesperson Liz Fetchin: “We hope that people will feel that they’ve had an experience unlike anything they’ve seen before, and that they’ll be inspired to make simple, eco-friendly changes in their own lives.”

Do Good:

• See how Phipps is going green in an even bigger way, with their Center for Sustainable Landscapes.

Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Liz Fetchin, Phipps Conservatory
Image courtesy of Phipps Conservatory


Noelle’s Progress Pictures

April 12, 2011

Healing Wheel progress shot

Healing Wheel Progress shot

Healing Wheel progress shot

Almost complete healing wheel

Noelle's design team