The Beauty of Movement and Sound

Back by popular demand is a blog I wrote several summers ago about how to make your summer cool, comfortable, sensual and nurturing for you, your family, friends and the birds that grace your backyard. Happy summer, and I hope you enjoy the sounds, smells and splashing!

Sound is… the rubbing of notes between two drops of water.

– Helene Cixous

I am a big believer in making living spaces appeal to all our senses. But no matter how carefully I help people select finishes, fixtures, furnishings and fabrics to create beauty in their indoor and outdoor rooms, something is inevitably missing. Although the combination of these elements evokes harmony, they are static and don’t fill the space with movement or sound.

That’s why I like to suggest the addition of one or more fountains in a living space whenever possible. There is something about the sight, sound, smell, and feeling of moving water that attracts us, engages our senses, pleases, comforts and soothes in a way nothing else can. Fountains truly give the beauty of movement and sound, and provide a place to gather on warm summer days and nights.

Santa Fe Casita

I have a small casita in Santa Fe where I work year-round on client projects. I am often there in the summer, which can be very hot. But the moment I turn on the wall fountains hung adjacent to the tiny upstairs deck and patio below, the casita fills with the sound of water and I immediately relax. When I step outside, the circular fountain in the garden makes the hot desert air feel cooler and smell fresher. Suddenly I think to myself, life is good, as I sit by the fountain and watch hummingbirds sip the cool water with their pointed beaks.

Fountains come in all shapes, sizes and price ranges and can fit just about anywhere. There is an endless variety of styles, sounds and patterns of movement to choose from. In practical terms, you will need two things: water and power. Then choose a location for your fountain that reflects and complements its surroundings. Here are a few examples.

City Dweller Fountain 

City Fountain
City Space Saver

The first fountain is perfect for a city dweller. It sits on the tiny deck of an edgy San Francisco loft with a fantastic skyline view. This artful composition is made from a small red stone planter and an old rusty pitcher. It takes up little space but adds a soft, soothing sound to the urban hum of this high-energy city. In summer, when the French doors are open, the sound of water can be heard throughout the loft contrasting with and covering up the harsh sounds of the city below. The fountain’s unexpected combination of its smooth, elegant bowl and funky old pitcher reflect the edgy appeal of the artful loft.

Wine Country Magic 

Sonoma Valley Fountain
Vineyard Magic

An idyllic hillside in Sonoma’s Valley of the Moon is the setting for this large yet inexpensive concrete fountain. Framed by grapevines and Mexican sage, it greets guests when they arrive at this unpretentious wine country estate with the sound of splashing water. The eight-foot diameter vessel sits on a concrete base for stability, with a simple metal tube in the center providing a spray of water. It is hard wired and switched from inside the home. My clients love it!

Splashing Mediterranean By the Bay

Mediterranean Fountain
Sparkling Mediterranean

I found this reasonably priced, free-standing fountain online. When it arrived, it looked nothing like it did on my computer screen. So I faux painted it to give the terra cotta the look and feel of stone. Then I found the perfect spot for it, on a wall facing the outdoor dining area. Here, it provides the beauty of movement and sound as my clients enjoy dinner with a view of the Bay from their home on Corinthian Island. The French doors to the right of the fountain enable the sound of the gentle stream of water to drift inside the luxurious Mediterranean home like the tinkling of keys from a nearby piano.

Desert Garden Treasure

Sante Fe Fountain
Mexican Treasure

I bought this inexpensive Mexican stone fountain at one of my favorite stores in Santa Fe called Jackalope. I placed it next to the patio, where its vibrant splashing water draws visitors outdoors to the casita’s colorful garden. It also beckons birds of all kinds who stop for a drink in the morning as I read the newspaper and sip my coffee. I hear the fountain’s music throughout the day and into the evening while I start a fire in the outdoor kiva to warm the cool desert air. After gathering for dinner at a table next to the fountain, my friends and I move to the fireplace for coffee and ghost stories. Fire and water are the essential elements human beings have gathered around for centuries.

Fountains need not cost a lot of money or take much space. They create wonderful focal points and mask unwanted sounds. Fountains can make a large space feel more intimate, and a small space more inviting. They attract wildlife with their source of life-giving water.

I hope you have a beautiful fountain to hang out by this summer. But if you don’t, find one and spend some time there. Better yet, plan to install a fountain on your property so next year your home will be filled with the magical beauty of sound and movement.  Happy splashing!

Linda Applewhite's signature
Showing 4 comments
  • Barbara Borowy

    We need more photos of Toby!

  • kirby

    How like Linda to include the senses of sound and movement in her designs! She is truly a “wholistic designer!”

  • Jody Serritella

    It’s so true the you need movement in the garden! Whether it be from the sway and dance of the wind rustling through plantings or a wind chime dangling in the wind, water fountains are magical and soothing.

    When you open our wrought iron gate a whimsical angel fountain splashes as you enter our courtyard. We have a welcoming bench on the other side of our small courtyard. Behind the bench is a miniature yellow rose bush that is taking over the trellis I painted black. On each side of the bench is a pair of ivy topiaries that have just taken off and need to be trained to go up their own coned trellis. Gardenias in terra cotta pots and a variety of flowering succulents and topiaries all live in harmony with one another. The trickling sound of the fountain is the piece de resistance’ that steals the show however, to the soothing sound and beauty of water cascading down.

  • Jenny Duffy

    When I think of water, I always think of this beautiful quote:
    “Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world’s great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs. I am haunted by waters.”
    — Norman Maclean
    I so enjoy your posts, Linda.

Leave a Comment