The Year-round Garden, With Fireplace

Charlotte Moss in her garden with metal pergola and limestone built-in benches. The fireplace is gas and can be turned on in any season. “Putting in the pergola was an attempt to create privacy and shade,” says Moss. “The placement of the fireplace lines up perfectly with the entrance-hall gallery in the house, so when you come in, the fire is going; it just pulls you out there.” Photo: Mark Heithoff

Of course there are a lot of things I really work a trip on myself about, no question,” says Charlotte Moss, tucked into an armchair in the library of her four-story townhouse on the Upper East Side. “But entertaining is not one of ’em. I love entertaining.”

Moss is, in general, a hundred-mile-an-hour person: She’s a home doyenne with six decorating books to her name; the newest, A Flair for Living, is just out from Assouline. She has a decorating business with a roster of high-profile, wealthy clients and a five-floor retail store on East 63rd Street; is hands-on involved with dozens of charities including Kips Bay Boys & Girls Club, unicef, and Operation Smile; and is about to launch her second fragrance. And this is, by the way, her second career—she used to work on Wall Street. So making a place to relax and gather was important, particularly since Moss is noticing more and more that, while people spend a lot of money on their homes, many don’t really live in them.

“And it is not about having a lot! It’s never about that,” the Richmond, Virginia, native says emphatically, quick to point out that even though she and her husband, investment banker Barry Friedberg, own three houses, she and her four siblings were raised in one.

The one thing Moss felt her New York house lacked was an outdoor area as easy to access as the backyard of her childhood home. “I needed an outdoor room,” she says. “I have one picture that keeps circulating in my clippings. It’s this incredible pool house, all stone, open, with a fireplace. To me that was nirvana.” She decided to make it happen in the empty garden lot in back of her townhouse. “I said to my husband—after I’d already gone over budget with the house—‘I’m going to put a fireplace back there. Trust me, you are going to love it.’ ”

Which he does; the couple eats dinner out there as many nights as weather will allow, and it’s almost always involved in any entertaining she does. In fact, the space gets used throughout the year. “Sometimes when it’s snowing, we turn the fireplace on to have the contrast of light and heat, warmth and cold. It’s very moody,” she says. The pergola gives privacy and shade, and the green cushions stay out year-round. The orange-and-hot-pink tablecloth came from Roberta Freymann.

The garden is now Moss’s favorite part of the house, in sync with her very practical desire to get people to “engage in their environment.” She’ll create a book of photographs for clients using their silver, china, and crystal arranged in different table settings, so they’re not afraid of their own belongings. Too many people fear entertaining, she says, “because they’re not ready. I do this for clients all the time. I love it. It’s the detail part.”

The Backyard: Left, a view from the pergola back toward Moss’s townhouse with summer dining table. Right, the dining table with flowers by Zezé and fans from Pearl River.Photo: Mark Heithoff
The Year-round Garden, With Fireplace