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How a Designer of Outdoor Spaces Spends His Sundays


Since the onset of the pandemic, the landscape designer Todd Haiman has received “a ton” of calls from New Yorkers with terraces, yards and balconies and the means to transform them into wondrous fresh-air escapes.

“We’re trying to create an atmosphere that can be their sanctuary, whether they want to read a book out there or have cocktails,” he said. Once a project has been completed, he and his team of gardeners maintain it through the seasons and years to provide a sense of continuity and stability.

Mr. Haiman, 60, grew up in Mill Basin, Brooklyn, and lives in Lower Manhattan’s South Street Seaport area with his wife, Elyssa Rubin, a chief financial officer who is between jobs.

COFFEE, BOOK I wake up at 7, take a shower and have some muesli and fruit and a cup of black coffee. I’m quiet because my wife loves to sleep late. First thing is one of my favorite times to read, because my mind is pretty blank, pretty relaxed. Is absorptive a word? That’s how my mind is. Right now I’m reading “Caste” by Isabel Wilkerson, which, I’m really into that book. When I want something less stressful I’ll read about plant materials, more natural things.

THE CONSULT I’ll go check out a property or a design site and analyze it. Sometimes the client is there, sometimes they’re not. Basically what I’m going to do is give them an idea of how to make the most of their space. I’m getting a sense of who are going to be the users of this space, and how can I create something that works for them? One client is 30 Warren, a building in TriBeCa. They understand that the outdoors is a sanctuary, and that if you’re generous about bringing in extensions of nature, people are more relaxed. It affects them psychologically.

ImageConsulting with clients. 
Credit…Anna Watts for The New York Times

RESULTS I have one client who, as soon as his space was done, he started taking his calls and doing deals out there. He told me how happy he was to be in a place he actually wanted to spend time, and I felt so good hearing that. Several years ago I did a brownstone in Park Slope for a husband and wife who wanted their space to feel like a walk through the French countryside. Well, I know Brooklyn, and it’s not the French countryside. But I was able to bring in the colors and create water features to get them that atmosphere.

Credit…Anna Watts for The New York Times

SUBWAY DIVERSIONS When I’m not at a site visit sometimes I’m managing gardeners. I take the subway. I listen to podcasts. There’s one called “Wind of Change.” It’s where there’s a rock song that was supposedly written by the C.I.A. that may have led to bringing down the Berlin Wall and communism falling. I don’t know if it’s true, but it’s cool. I’m also looking at the family group chat. There’s about 20 people on it. We do a lot of sharing of political jokes and accomplishments throughout the day.

Credit…Anna Watts for The New York Times

DATE WITH NATURE When I get home I’ll make my wife brunch, and we might watch clips from “Saturday Night Live” from the night before together. Then we take off for nature. We might go see my daughter in Connecticut and hike some trails there. It helps me with work. If you see what’s going on in nature, the cycles, you can plan better. Right now I’m seeing maple leaves and viburnum and asters and a lot of things blooming purple.

Credit…Anna Watts for The New York Times

FORESTS IN THE CITY Sometimes I’ll run over to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden with a plant nerd friend. The New York Botanical Garden is awesome, but the BBG is like different rooms. To me it’s a completely transportive place to walk through. There are acres of original forests there. It feels primeval, like bathing in nature.

Credit…Anna Watts for The New York Times

LOVE CODA Depending on who I’m with, we might go out for dinner. Some people are OK with eating out at a restaurant with an outdoor space, but some are not. We all need to be respectful. Then my wife and I will watch something on Netflix, maybe an old black and white movie. I’m big on Orson Welles. Before bedtime, one of us will go on the Peloton bike and the other one will do yoga. Yoga’s important to me, and I always do it late because it’s a nice way to end the day. Midnight is my bedtime. I do have a ritual: Before we go to bed, we have to kiss each other good night and say, ‘I love you.’ My wife is incredibly special. Every day she makes me feel blessed.

Sunday Routine readers can follow Todd Haiman on Twitter @thgardendesign or on Instagram @toddhaimanlandscapedesign.



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