Garden Chic: Rain barrels that capture water—and the imagination

story by Shaun Brady | photos by Sam OberterMario Gentile describes his basic philosophy as a question: “How can the everyday homeowner buy local and afford something that looks really well-designed made out of relatively expensive materials?” His answer: Shift_Design.

Gentile started Shift_Design in 2010, after being laid off from his architecture job. With support from a Temple University business plan competition and GoodCompany Ventures, a nonprofit that helps entrepreneurs launch businesses, Gentile put his idea into action.

The company designs and manufactures sustainable home and garden exterior products that won’t break the average consumer’s bank. Their wares include living walls, planters, solar shades and a combination fire pit/ice chest. Although more of a budgetary stretch, a 58-gallon rain tank offers a clean-lined stainless steel alternative to replace what Gentile refers to as the “ugly, hideous” standard blue barrel model. The young company has already caught the eye of clients like Urban Outfitters, which commissioned a green roof, living wall and stormwater planters for their corporate headquarters, and the Philadelphia Water Department, which has contracted them to design downspout planters.

All products are created in-house by Gentile and his three-person crew. Everything is manufactured locally from recycled material, and is 100 percent recyclable following a long lifespan. Pieces are designed using the “IKEA model” for flat pack shipping, and ease of construction and installation. This spring, Gentile is introducing new colors and finishes as “more playful” alternatives, and has plans to develop products that utilize interactive technologies.

Shift_Design products can be found at City Planter (814 N. 4th St.,, Horne (211 South St.,, Millesime (1001 N. 2nd St.,, Plants Etc. (2313 Fairmount Ave.) and Greenable (2200 Walnut St.,