A New House

I have a client with a new house under construction.  Now that the structure is out of the ground, I wanted to see the property.  We have had what is starting to feel like endless rain-the construction site of course was mud and more mud.  But that doesn’t faze me much-I am too busy looking at the spaces the house creates, and envisioning what could be there.  On the left of this picture, a three car garage.  On the right the large open space will be the front door.  I am unwilling to design a landscape from a drawing of a house-I need to see the mass of it.  I admire how an architect can visualize something which does not yet exist.  But since the landscape has to come last anyway, I would just as soon look at the house before I design.  The house is the major feature of a landscape;  seeing a building sitting on a pile of dirt makes that very clear.   

I will have to come back, once the soil from the excavated basement is hauled away. Right now I do not have the best sense of the lay of the land.  The back of the house faces a lake; preserving the views to the water will be an important aspect of the rear yard landscape.   

The lot had been empty for many years; this is the first house to be built on it.  This meant that there was very little in the way of existing plant material.  Luckily some mature and good looking plant material exists on one of the three lot lines.  A mulberry tree I will most likely take down.  I would guess it grew from a seed dropped by a bird.  I am fairly easy going about trees that drop twigs seeds and fruit, but the fruit of a mulberry is intolerably messy.  This picture was taken from a third story tower; the neighboring landscape is mature, and well looked after.  Unlike many lake communities that prohibit plant material over a certain height that might obstruct the view of the water, the landscapes in this community have been planted with privacy in mind.

The view straight out from the tower is spectacular.  There will be a good reason to walk up here and see what the weather over the lake looks like every day.  A natural feature as spectacular as this is well worth building around.

The neighbor on the opposite side has one of the most beautiful stands of mature carpinus I have ever seen.  I would never have thought they would tolerate living in a windy exposed spot, much less thrive.  My client will have a borrowed view in this direction that is quite beautiful.

It seems as though the rear yard slopes quite a bit before reaching the water. There is also quite a drop to the water from the seawall.  Dealing with the changes of grade – the sculpture of the ground- will be necessary ahead of any planting.  My instinct tells me how the ground plane is handled will be a very important factor in the landscape.    

Did I have a good sense of what the property would feel like before I saw it-no.  The experience of nature bears little resemblance to the experience of a technical drawing.  The things that make each property unique cannot so easily be represented in a drawing. I do make design suggestions for properties I have not seen, but I am uneasy doing that.  I have to see what the land feels like.


  1. ooo..looking forward to seeing the progress. what a beautiful property!

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