Rock Solid in Rockport

July 5, 2022

Half an acre on Cape Ann works hard to feel like it naturally belongs.

Text by Tovah Martin     Photography by Ngoc X. Doan

When a landscape merges seamlessly into the genius loci, the team at STIMSON believes they’ve succeeded. “It’s ironic,” admits landscape architect Greg Tuzzolo, project manager for a Rockport, Massachusetts, property that STIMSON designed, “we do all sorts of gymnastics and sweat the details to make our work feel transparent. If a fence railing is so congruous that it almost disappears, that’s the name of the game for us.” Tuzzolo was speaking of the cable mesh that caps a stone wall framing the property’s view of Cape Ann and the ocean. That mesh is just one in a series of design solutions that makes this project remarkably unremarkable.

The property was the second collaboration between this client and STIMSON. On the strength of a successful Brookline, Massachusetts, installation with principal Stephen Stimson, the client hired the team, along with Epstein Joslin Architects, at the inception of their coastal project. The plan was always to honor the setting. “We love the rocky shores, the beautiful coves, and the artistic community,” says the homeowner.

The street side of the long, sleek contemporary home features local granite, while unencumbered glass maximizes ocean views in the back. Although the footprint is straightforward, the playlist for the property was extensive: an entryway garden running the length of the street frontage; a volleyball lawn along one side; a privacy hedge screening a public footpath along the other side; a wraparound porch, discreet spa, outdoor shower, and firepit for the ocean outlook; and a path leading to the adjacent guesthouse. Most importantly, extensive plantings needed to connect all spaces and frame the house.

The plant list was landscape architect Michael Lindquist’s domain. Along the oceanfront, he solved the coastal-challenge trifecta of salt spray/ice/wind with drifts of ornamental grasses, yarrows, asters, and lowbush blueberries. For the not-as-harsh street frontage, Lindquist harnessed a flowering-meadow-like mixture that includes nepetas, salvias, sanguisorbas, tiarellas, alliums, gaura, martagon lilies, and boltonias. To make a dramatic statement, he installed dozens of each variety. In no time, the scene felt mature.

When weather permits, every aspect of the landscape is meant to lure the homeowners outdoors. When that is not possible, the windows frame textural plantings that have motion, color, and depth. Most importantly, every detail has such a strong sense of belonging that it all seems perfectly natural.

Project Team
Landscape design: Stephen Stimson, Greg Tuzzolo, Michael Lindquist, STIMSON
Landscape contractor: R.P. Marzilli
Architecture: Epstein Joslin Architects
Builder: Thoughtforms