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Peaceful Place: Outdoor fountains evoke tranquility
Mexican artisans hand carved cantera stone to create "Neptune". The fountain is one of the many at Carries Iron Furnishings and Home Decor.

The sound of running water can create a feeling of serenity within a garden, outdoor patio or indoor space. Adding a fountain to the home is an ideal way to achieve that soothing atmosphere in an often hectic world.

Carrie Peterson, owner of Carries Iron Furnishings and Home Décor, knows first hand how fountains can help add ambiance.

"I couldn't imagine our store without fountains in it," she said. "It just adds a serene atmosphere to our space."

The largest and most impressive fountain is located in the center of the store, measuring 16 feet across and more than 14 feet high.

The three-tiered Tuscan-style fountain is adorned with lion heads and was hand-carved in Mexico.

"The design is up to the carver - whatever he wants to build," said Bob Peterson, Carrie's husband and co-owner of the business. "You will never see this fountain anywhere in the world except here."

Several of these Mediterranean-style, hand-carved fountains are placed throughout the store, ranging in price from $700 up to $20,000. Each one is uniquely different and made from cantera stone, a porous rock that is soft to the touch. They are carved from one large piece of stone, mined from quarries in Mexico, so the color remains similar.

"It is not going to be perfect, but there is an appreciation of someone making something by hand. They have a real personal touch to them," Carrie said.

The Petersons purchase nearly 80 percent of the items for their store in Mexico from five families. The family that creates the fountains also makes pillars, benches, fireplaces and other custom items that are transported more than 2,000 miles and sold in the home décor store.

"It's nerve wracking, bringing them back," Bob said, describing the rough and narrow roads in Mexico. Only one fountain has broken, but that was during the large storm Billings experienced in early July that flooded the store's patio and tipped a large custom statue called Neptune.

"Bob and I go to great lengths to bring back items that are unique and different," Carrie said. "I hand pick everything. Each piece has a memory attached to it, which is really cool for me."

Test Drive

The sound of a fountain is an important characteristic to "test drive" before selecting one. In fact, sound is the main reason Carrie's customers seek out fountains.

"Water is incredibly calming and can create that ambiance," she said.

Not limited to the outdoors, many people opt to place their new fountain in the entry or main room of the home.

Susan Swartz of Sylvan Nursery said, "With any fountain there is a splash factor, which is something to consider when putting indoors."

Putting the fountain on tile is ideal for ease of cleaning; however many fountains come with pump regulators, which allow the operator to adjust the flow of the water.

If placing a fountain indoors, lowering the setting will reduce the amount of splash and regulate the noise level.

Outdoors the water level can be increased to intensify the flow and muffle road sounds.

Types

Fountains created in the United States are often made of concrete, granite, resin and slate, among others.

Swartz, a purchaser of fountains for Sylvan Nursery, brings in fountains from Henri Studios and Massarelli's Lawn Ornaments, Inc.

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These fountains are created from cement and are either painted or stained in a variety of colors.

Swartz said the painted fountains tend to hold color longer, because stained concrete leaches a bit and lightens.

In addition, painted fountains will benefit from a sealer yearly, and stained fountains require a specialty protective spray.

Jeff Emineth, owner of the Pottery Shop, said, "Ideally if a person wanted their fountain to withstand our weather, use a commercial grade sealer to seal it."

Emineth carries fountains in a variety of shapes and sizes from Al's Garden Art, based in California.

Placement

When adding a fountain to existing landscape, it is essential to visually and logistically think about placement.

Research the spot the fountain will rest, and keep in mind the need for electricity and a solid, flat surface.

The focal point of a yard will be a natural resting place for a fountain, though adding it to an area where most time is spent outdoors is recommended to get the most enjoyment from the fountain, said Carrie.

"Most people buy a fountain to create a nicer, calmer and more personal space. Just place it where you are going to get the most enjoyment out of it," she said.

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