The Great Outdoors
March 16, 2020
Text by Paula M. Bodah
The charming pool house is the icing on the cake that is this 110-acre property in Vergennes, Vermont. “It’s a fun space,” says interior designer Cathy Chapman, who relates that it was the clients’ idea to give the tiny building the feel of a syrup-making shed. Architect Rolf Kielman devised a suitably rustic—but not too rustic—design, complete with an outdoor fireplace for warming up frosty spring and fall nights or toasting summer s’mores. Glass-paned garage doors on either side of the building open to let summer breezes flow through. Chapman outfitted the one-room (plus a bathroom) interior with comfortable but sophisticated furniture; the chairs are on casters, so they can swivel to take in a lake view or to watch TV.
Landscape architect Keith Wagner reconfigured the existing pool, giving it a modern shape, adding a spa, and surrounding it with a bluestone walkway and terrace. The homeowners move between the main house and the pool area along Wagner’s cleverly designed bluestone walk that winds between a segmented serpentine wall of local Panton stone.
Architecture: Rolf Kielman, TruexCullins Architecture + Interior Design
Interior design: Cathy Chapman, Chapman Design
Builder: John Seibert, Birdseye
Landscape design and installation: H. Keith Wagner, Wagner Hodgson Landscape Architecture
Photography: Jim Westphalen
Produced by: Karin Lidbeck Brent
Amanda and John Rich’s friends no doubt covet the couple’s invitations, especially to a summertime get-together. The Riches love food, cooking, and entertaining, and there’s nowhere they’d rather throw a party than in their Wellesley, Massachusetts, yard.
The compact corner lot presented a few challenges to landscape architect Inge Daniels. “We had very little room to fit in a lot of programmatic needs,” she says. Among those needs was privacy; the property overlooks the Charles River, and that riverfront side gets a lot of foot traffic. A roomy cooking and dining area was paramount, and so was an expanse of lawn as a play area for the couple’s two young children. Finally, plantings had to be pretty, of course, but the Riches also wanted space to grow herbs and vegetables. Daniels found an elegant solution in a WWOO outdoor system, a system of concrete posts and panels that can be configured in myriad ways. Pairing the concrete with Ipe wood, Daniels devised a series of outdoor spaces that make the narrow lot feel spacious.
The gardens are a family affair. The Riches’ four-year-old daughter grew her own “fairy garden” last year, while their two-year-old son is a prodigious digger of dirt. And naturally, everyone was happy to help pick the maiden crop of white raspberries.
Tiers of Joy
The beauty was always there in the sloping backyard of the Cape Cod home. It just took the talents of Peter White and his team at ZEN Associates to tease it out. The house—a classic rambling cape—sits on a high bluff overlooking Wellfleet Harbor. The existing pool, White explains, was a dated kidney-shaped rendition that sat some fifteen feet below the house. “You couldn’t easily get to it,” the landscape architect says. “Our task was to make it feel more connected with the house.” A new mid-level terrace, an entertaining area with an outdoor kitchen, a bar, a welcoming fire table, and plenty of seating, forges a connection between the main deck above and the pool area below.
A new pool—bigger, more contemporary, and pushed further out into the landscape—is the centerpiece of the reimagined lower level. A spa, standalone so it can be used on chilly nights long after the pool has been shut down, anchors a corner of the French limestone tile-covered terrace, sheltered by a stone wall and plantings of grasses.
Landscape design and installation: ZEN Associates
Photography: Nat Rea