Thai perfection in a Venice home


PHOTO GALLERY: Thai home in Venice

By now, Parichat Yanpreechawong and her husband, Peter Cartwright, are used to it — strangers appearing in their garden, asking questions and taking pictures; cars stopping in front of their house with occupants holding cameras out the window.

A recent charity house and garden tour brought 800 visitors to their front door over a two-day period, the front door flanked by a pair of exotic and highly decorated Burmese temple protectors called “mons” that look like mythical animals. And if the strangers are not enough, the couple is wonderfully social. They love to cook and entertain, opening three sets of French doors to the back deck and garden rooms to convert house and garden into one large and lavish party venue. They accommodate 60 for a served dinner and 100 for cocktail parties.

thai2Parichat and Peter built this beautiful garden (and are still adding to it) for their own enjoyment and to showcase art that they bring back annually from Asia, but the garden has earned them international fame. Parichat recently entered her American garden into a contest sponsored by a prestigious Thai architectural magazine. The Venice garden won first place.

When Parichat and Peter, who have been married for a decade, bought their 2,700-square-foot home in 2010, they selected it for two reasons.

“It did not have a swimming pool,” said Peter, “which was important because Parichat wanted a big empty space for a garden.

“And secondly, prior homeowners were in the kitchen and bath business, and this kitchen was a spacious dream of high-end appliances and beautiful finishes. A big functional kitchen is really important to the way we entertain. We did not have to do any remodeling, but we’ve made cosmetic changes over the past four years in terms of flooring, and, of course, the outside spaces.”

The garden, which is actually a series of themed outdoor rooms, has seven water features, tropical trees, flowering shrubs, vines and all manor of vivid flowers, most of them in containers. There is a bit of a lawn, too.

“Every garden should have some grass,” said Peter. “We chose zoysia, and the lawn is like a green ribbon that threads through the garden. It’s definitely an element of contrast that we think is important.”

thai3Parichat believes in putting flowering plants in containers (mostly hidden from sight through clever layering) so that she can move them around to create different vignettes, but also so her plants can follow the sun, shade and filtered light as required. Her garden is not static, but changes with the seasons and with her regular additions and refinements.

Asian statuary, lanterns and Asian ornamental objects inhabit every part of the garden, along with big colorful umbrellas that define spaces for al-fresco dining. The art is mostly from Burma and Thailand, but when the couple travels every summer to Parichat’s family village in Thailand, near one of the famous floating markets, they visit Cambodia and Vietnam also to acquire artifacts for Parichat’s boutique on Nokomis Avenue South, called Parichat House, where her customers, for whom she personally selects garments, have become her friends.

While in Asia, the couple buys for their home and personal garden, too.

It was Parichat’s boutique that brought the couple together. “I was jogging by her store and stopped to look at some of the Buddha images,” said Peter. “I was just beginning to study Buddhism at the time, so I went inside and talked to Parichat about some of her art. That led to a slow-developing relationship. It was four years before she let me take her on a date.

They married in 2002 in a civil ceremony in Florida and a Buddhist one in Thailand. Peter understands Thai but is not a fluent speaker. He’s a native of Nashville and moved to Venice 18 years ago. Parichat, whose nickname is Mod (Thai for “ant”), talks fast in both English and Thai, sometimes using both tongues in the same conversation. She also moved to Venice about 20 years ago and was a widow when she and Peter met.

Their ongoing garden project is shared work. Parichat designs the spaces, Peter builds any hardscape necessary to frame her vision. They both plant, fertilize, water and maintain the garden. A consultant to credit unions by career, Peter is a handy DIY builder, a skill he retains from summer jobs as a youth. They have no hired help with the extensive garden. They don’t buy from any particular nursery, but gather plants at big-box stores and local garden centers.

“We attempt to stick to Florida-friendly plants,” said Peter, “and we grow from cuttings, seeds and things that friends will ask us to try. I think one of the secrets to the garden is putting some of the plants into containers instead of into the ground. The other is that we tend to the garden all the time. It’s a passion with Parichat, who is also an excellent painter. The garden is an expression of her artistic vision and her talent.”

Their home is decorated with her post-expressionist paintings. The house is a showcase for her skills as an interior decorator. There is no clutter, and the furnishings are perfectly chosen and placed.

“When she cooks, it’s the same way,” said Peter. “Her food is like art. She pays attention to color, texture, presentation and architecture in all things. I agree that the garden is amazing, but that’s her.”


Marsha Fottler

Marsha Fottler has been a newspaper and magazine lifestyle, food and design writer since 1968 first in Boston and in Florida since 1970. She contributes to regional and national publications and she is co-publisher and editor of a monthly online magazine that celebrates the pleasures of the table called Flavors & More. (941) 371-8593.
Last modified: June 1, 2014
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