Mr. Summerour’s Sunflowers
An acclaimed Atlanta architect celebrates wildflowers at their peak with an afternoon fête.
Nearly every weekend these days, Summerour—whose present projects at Tennessee’s Blackberry Farm are simply an impressive scratch on a well-honed surface—escapes the frenetic pace of the city for his “primary home,” located 60 miles away in Gay, Georgia. The rural refuge, called Towerhouse Farm, is a bastion of Southern romance, where the distinguished architect found the freedom to build without code restrictions. The soaring structure—an extraordinary tower using stones culled from the land and inspired in part by Civil War shot towers and the architecture of San Gimignano, Italy—keeps watch over the surrounding farmland, a plot brimming with corn, millet, soybeans, seasonal produce and, most recently, a labyrinth of bobbing sunflowers.
“One of the most wonderful things about the sunflowers is the wildlife they attract,” Summerour says. “There are days when tens of thousands of blackbirds come in big, swooping waves and descend on the sunflowers and trees.”
“Though the sunflower field was at first for my edification and enjoyment,” he continues, “it turned out so beautifully that I wanted to share it with others; what a beautiful expression of a landscape that can spring from a few thousand seeds.”
Compelled to celebrate it, Summerour called upon friend and frequent collaborator Beth Webb to style a late-summer fête for a dozen or so colleagues and comrades. Calling the scene “an homage to Tuscany” (Countess Marchesa, heiress to the Fiat fortune, maintains a farm close by), Webb combed the house and guest house for accoutrements, setting a ravishing tabletop with stoneware plates, rustic pottery, pewter glasses, natural linens and freshly picked figs.
Served from the cool of the covered porch, a farm-to-fork spread of Italian nibbles—Star Provisions Bresaola with arugula and fresh mozzarella; fig crostini with caramelized onions and lonzino; chilled cucumber, mint and yogurt soup with chives; olives al forno and rosemary gelato from Honeysuckle Gelato—was enjoyed by local luminaries who filtered in throughout the afternoon, among them jewelry designer Avril Vignose, showroom proprietors Randy Grizzel and Gary Mann and kitchen designer Mary Kathryn Timoney.
Guests sipped on signature cocktails, The Early—a tomato-and-orange concoction rigged up by Webb and Ian Walker in St. Barth’s during Hurricane Earl—along with several varietals of rosé, a refreshment hand-picked by Summerour via Westside’s Perrine’s Wine Shop.
Another cause for celebration: the addition of an allée of cypress trees, which was added to the grounds by acclaimed landscape architect (and party guest) John Howard, in concert with Jeremy Smearman of Planters Garden. The new feature contributes a certain conviviality to the setting, where a farm table was positioned front and center. There is something entrancing about the environment, and “people are affected by that,” notes Summerour. “They’re much more open and really enjoy that liberation, the space that nature brings.”