Focus on Landscape Design
March 8, 2019
Text by Paula M. Bodah
The owners of this home on the North Shore of Massachusetts thought they knew what they wanted when they got together with -Jeffrey Tucker. The back porch looked out over a steep lawn, dotted with pocket gardens, that sloped down to the water. They loved their view, and were afraid a swimming pool would take attention away from it. A lap pool to the side of the house was what they had in mind. Tucker, who is both an architect and a landscape architect, saw things differently. Designed correctly, he thought, a swimming pool could create a link to the ocean, enhancing the sense of connection. “They fell in love with the idea,” he reports. Tucker used a series of retaining walls to create flat areas for the infinity-edge pool with a built-in spa, a lounging area with a fire pit, an outdoor kitchen and dining space, and a grassy oval expanse for entertaining.
A Bold Move
Mowing a lawn was not how the owners of this stately Cambridge, Massachusetts, home wanted to spend their free time. Not that they mind hard work; the wife, after all, requested a sizable vegetable garden. But all that grass obscured their vision of ample space for entertaining, gardens both pretty and productive, and a backdrop for some favorite sculptural pieces. After tearing out the existing landscape, grass and all, designer Andrea Nilsen Morse enhanced the front façade’s grandeur by laying a broad stone walkway bordered by a custom-fabricated iron fence. Plantings are laid out in a formal arrangement befitting the house and neighborhood. In back, a variety of materials delineate the spaces. Pavers form a walking path around a circular garden, bluestone grounds the lounging areas, and gravel paths surround planting beds. A low wall of irregular granite blocks adds extra texture and a touch of informality. Raised beds yield a bounty of vegetables, many of which are preserved for winter enjoyment. And Nilsen Morse even set aside space for the owners’ oversize chess pieces, which stand on a to-scale “board” of limestone and bluestone.
Landscape design: Andrea Nilsen Morse, Nilsen Landscape Design
Landscape installation: David Guldi, Dragonfly Irrigation and Garden Services
Photography: Rosemary Fletcher
A complete renovation was in order for the yard surrounding this Brookline, Massachusetts, home. With its outdated perennial gardens and overgrown backyard, says landscape architect Michael D’Angelo, “The site was really more suited to older people.” His clients, however, were a young couple with two children. The grownups wanted a spot to relax, the kids wanted grass to play on, and everyone wanted a patio for grilling and dining. D’Angelo reworked an existing terrace off the kitchen to create a generous patio for cooking and eating alfresco. The grill counter and patio fencing (as well as fencing to disguise the air conditioning unit and the stairs to the basement) are crafted of horizontal slats of gray-stained Western red cedar, adding a contemporary counterpoint to the Federal Revival house. New and old blend nicely; an old brick wall, for example, now planted with climbing hydrangea, sets a pretty scene for a contemporary fountain made of a solid block of bluestone with a stainless steel runnel. The understated plantings include masses of shade-tolerant perennials, groundcovers, and boxwoods. A stand of birch trees was introduced behind a seating area to offer both privacy and, come evening, a dramatic backdrop for up-lighting.
Making the Complex Look Simple
Sean Papich has a deep familiarity with this Cohasset, Massachusetts, property, having worked on various parts of it for close to a decade now. For the latest phase of the landscape renovation, he turned his attention to the backyard. A sweet-looking old barn, built around 1899 and recently renovated by Tiryaki Architectural Design, stands in welcome, its double doors open to usher people through to a sitting area. A right turn leads to the swimming pool—an unpretentious rectangle that was anything but simple to execute, given the amount of ledge stone the property held. “We had to go in and dig and drill and hammer the ledge out,” Papich says. The landscape architect kept the look uncomplicated, with a bluestone surround for the pool. Cloud-like drifts of hydrangea and ornamental grasses that sway in the breeze look so pretty it goes unnoticed that they’re hard at work screening the pool from the driveway. Nearby, a quartet of Adirondack chairs surrounds a wood-burning fire pit constructed of antique granite slabs in an echo to the old wheel runs that still show the way to the barn.
Landscape design: Sean Papich, Sean Papich Landscape Architecture
Landscape contractor: Paragon Landscape Construction
Barn architect: Tiryaki Architectural Design
Photography: Sabrina Cole Quinn Photography
Meeting of the Minds
All the pretty plants in the world won’t yield a successful landscape if the surroundings and the house aren’t on the same page. “We don’t separate house and landscape,” says George Pellettieri. In the case of this New Hampshire house with stunning views of lake and mountains, Pellettieri worked with architect Marcus Gleysteen to site the structure to make the most of the vistas and the arc of sunlight through the day and the seasons. The outdoor kitchen and dining area tucks under a cantilevered second story, keeping it out of the path of prevailing winds but offering views from three sides. A sitting area’s cut granite base is laid out with an irregular edge, creating horizontal lines that echo the contemporary style of the house and draw the eye out into the landscape and the views. On the side of the house, tiered terraces and steps soften the dramatic grade and, once again, pull the eye toward the lakefront. Pellettieri protected many existing trees—including a white birch near the front door—supplementing them with ferns, grasses, and blooming shrubbery.
Little Big Lawn
There’s so much fun to be had in this backyard, it feels much more expansive than it really is. “It was a bit of a jigsaw puzzle,” says landscape designer Robin Kramer, who was charged with fitting a swimming pool, several sitting areas, a fire pit, space for cooking and dining, and a swath of lawn for the children to play on, all on the smallish lot that surrounds a Greenwich, Connecticut, home. Her tricks of the eye include layering the spaces by delineating them with hedges of different heights and using a variety of materials and textures. To soften the stone in the cooking, dining, and lounging areas, Kramer installed ipe wood for the pool decking. To make the swimming pool seem larger, she anchored one end with a tall wall. “It’s kind of a trick of perspective and space,” she says. “We were super bold with our proportions, in contrast to what you might expect.” A limited palette of perennials supplements the hedges, and a collection of streamlined contemporary furniture keeps things feeling uncluttered and serene