Home Books Jon Carloftis designs downtown garden spot

Jon Carloftis designs downtown garden spot


The spirit of his new book, Jon Carloftis Fine Gardens, is perfectly summed up in the recent micro-garden Carloftis designed for friends Lissa Sims and Stephanie Poole in the ruins of a historic downtown structure they lost to fire two years ago.

The garden at Second and Upper is just the latest (and one of the smallest) projects for the designer, whose award-winning work is extensively documented in his recently published coffee-table book,  featuring photography by Abby Laub.

At a hefty 316 pages, the hardcover book features 24 private and public gardens by Carloftis, beginning with his childhood home at what is now the River House at Rockcastle River Trading Company and ending with his current home,  historic Botherum in Woodward Heights..

In between, featured gardens include those at Dudley’s restaurant; Castle & Key Distillery; the Maker’s Mark Distillery; the Apiary; and several horse farms, including Cathy and Bob Roberts’ Golden Oak Farm; and Linda and Jerry Bruckheimer’s Walnut Grove Farm.

Each project portfolio includes “before” photos followed by images of the transformed spaces, each of which Carloftis says he approached without preconceived notions or anything resembling a design signature. “Some people use the same stamp over and over again,” he says. “I come into each project knowing nothing. I look at the land, I listen to the people, find out what they want, and they all want something different. Linda [Bruckheimer], for example, wanted it to look like Kentucky. She lives in Hollywood, so she doesn’t need flower-flower-flower-flower, like it’s Beverly Hills.”

Laub, of Lexington, said the photography was completed over the course of two years of trips to the gardens with Carloftis and his dogs in tow. She was struck by his creativity — “he would find some random old antique and turn it into a container,” she says — and the sense of mystery in the gardens, almost all of which contain a path, walkway or tunnel through trees or shrubs. “It’s always intriguing,” she says. “You can get lost in there.”


Click here to read the April 2024 print issue of Ace.

This article appears on pages 9-11 of the April 2024 issue of Ace, alongside the April cover story. To subscribe to digital delivery each month, click here.