Taking A Test Drive


Finishing up a long project feels great.  This time, I was invited back for a Sunday afternoon reception along with every other contractor that had been involved in the design and construction of the addition, and the landscape that followed.  Lake houses tend to have lots that are deep and narrow, which places homes in close proximity to one another.  My clients had the opportunity to buy the property next door to them, and decided to add onto their house.  Driving up yesterday I was pleased the most about the driveway.  The old drive curved off to the right, to the neighboring property. In the course of the project, it was redone in such a way that the approach leads physically and visually to the front door.     

The white concrete aggregate pavement you see here on the left belonged to my client.  The asphalt drive swinging to the right-the original road.  This surface had to be redone not only for aesthetic reasons, but for circulation.  I did not want a drive that led vistors to choose the addition/side door in lieu of the proper front door. 

The stripes of brick set in the concrete aggregate run on either side of a 4′ by 8′ fountain cistern. This describes on the ground plane what is now the center section of the house. This landscape/driveway element divides the drivecourt space into three distinct areas, and additionally provides for a good amount of parking.  A large drivecourt was a necessity; the house is beyond walking distance from the main road. The driveway approach actually services three homes, so onsite parking was a must.

To the far right in this picture is a short run of decomposed granite that connects to the main drivecourt, so there can be parking and circulation in and out when they entertain. No one could tell from here that there were 12 cars parked on the drivecourt.  I like landscapes that are good looking as much as I like landscapes that work. 

On the water side, the main job of the landscape was to integrate the two properties and make them feel as though they had always been one. This requires taking a lot of the existing landscape apart, and relocating it.  A previous post I wrote on this project detailed a flat plane of grass bisected by granite X’s and boxwood dots.  This elements extends across the entire width of the property.  Both the repetition and size of this feature help to unify the two spaces.  I was so pleased-Buck had a hard time spotting what was original, and what was added.

What had been the end of the house is now a backdrop for another seating area on a level different than the original bluestone terrace. The firebowl set at seat height provides a dining table for larger gatherings.

The covered porch terrace is set at the same height as the original terrace.  The stainless steel firebowl has its own cozily enclosed space.  I am sure it will be comfortably out of the wind on a chilly fall day. The covered porch with an outdoor kitchen is immediately adjacent to a large fenced vegetable garden.  

The enormously and formidably talented Jeffrey King was there with his partner and kids in tow.  He was responsible for all of the interior design-which is fabulous by the way. Don’t ask for pictures-that story is for him to tell. He was involved in every facet of this project from start to finish-he has a gift for encouraging the best from others. The house and garden was full of people.  There were places to visit, and sit for a while, eat, converse-both inside and out. It was a delightful party; a house and garden full of people is a good thing. 

The vegetable garden is the hit of the landscape. The raised beds are filled with Steve’s soil recipe-which includes a generous percentage of worm castings. Everything she made for the reception except the chicken came out of this garden-much to everyone’s delight. The food was out out of this world. They have not only given away scads of vegetables, but they have played a version of bocce here, and held two dinner parties set at a pair of long wood tables that have been in the family a long time.  My favorite part-the wood gate is an exact replica of my client’s father’s vegetable garden gate in Italy.  Design development and installation that works its way around to what is personal, and matters to a client -this is the point at which a design relationship gets to be thick, substantive, lively-and good all around.


Little did I know that the basement has a room which houses wine making and sausage making equipment passed on to them from family.  Apparently father and son will be making wine.  All the way home, all I could think about was where to plant some grapes.

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