NEW YORK – Your garden is a place to nourish both body and soul and create a sanctuary space away from the busy cares of the world. As such, it deserves an entrance that makes a powerful opening impression and what better way to do that than with an impressive garden gate.
Antique garden gates, usually made of wrought iron, cast iron or steel, vary in styles from straight bars to the highly ornate. Gates with panels featuring curlicues, quatrefoil designs or fancy scrollwork are highly desirable to collectors who use them both outdoors in their gardens as well as in indoor projects. Old and heavy gates often have hand-hammered decorative elements – be they foliate, floral or geometric. Art Nouveau, Art Deco and Rococo styles are popular.
“Available in a range of styles – from ornamental to streamlined – wrought iron conveys curb appeal,” according to Michelle Slatalla in a blog on Gardenista. Statuesque and dramatic or elegant and delicate, garden gates can keep people (and critters) out while making a statement.
Many garden gates measure 4 by 4 feet so they can be used singly or double gates can be used and left to swing open. Gates often have decorative finials on top such as arrows or twisted spikes.
Gates are designed to convey a transition of spaces and using an antique gate does that while exuding romance, history and character. Boasting a weathered patina, gates can be salvaged for use today in a multitude of ways.
People can get a small rounded cast gate and do plantings on either side and even mount a wooden arch to allow climbing flowers to grow up and over. “This combination will provide your garden with a beautiful vintage garden gate, and you will feel like you’re in a fairytale every time you walk into the garden,” wrote Bonnie Enos on her blog site here.
John Proach, owner of Greens And Things Nursery & Landscaping in North Canton, Ohio, likes to go antiquing and salvage architectural items such as gates for his business. “I have a fondness for them so if I see them, I usually buy them,” he said, noting early wrought iron gates are popular with buyers. Wrought iron was the material of choice for most garden gates until around the 1940-60s when a twisted wire look developed. “The older the gate, the prettier it is,” he said, noting people look for early gates with ornate and well-executed designs. “Those are the ones that people gravitate to, but sometimes the price scares them away.”
“We take a lot of garden gates and hang them from old barn stone,” Proach said, saying people often like to use barn stone posts of different heights or only having barn stone on one side of a gate. Gates also can be used in the garden as a trellis.
Indoors, people will take a gate and hang things from it, such as in a kitchen, or use a double gate as a bed headboard. They also make great fire screens or room dividers.
French garden gates are particularly sought after. Kamelot Auctions in Philadelphia holds specialty garden antiques auctions and highlights of its May 2020 sale included a pair of French Art Deco iron gates having a geometric design with gilt accents in the manner of Gilbert Poillerat, circa 1945, and a pair of French wrought iron garden gates with stanchions, circa 1920, each bringing $1,700.
The best iron gates with elaborate floral and scrollwork designs usually featured ironwork done by artists who were sculptors. Many pieces were specifically commissioned for a particular homeowner or estate property.
Ironwork is often thought of as black but in the 18th century, it was often tinted with bronze dust. Green and blue painted iron gates have also historically been popular, including the wrought iron gate leading to the Rose Garden at Sissinghurst Castle Garden. It is a lovely Prussian blue. The Queen’s Gate, which is one entryway to London’s Kensington Gardens, is a vivid shade of red.
Whatever color or style you choose, from streamlined to ornate, an antique iron gate will add charm to your garden or inside your home. One can leave the gate as is, its rusted surface adding character, or one can sandblast and clean it to look like new. They perfectly combine form with function, serving as entry points or garden art.