Water Mill, New York
To integrate their new residence with its rural setting in a former potato field, the owners built their new house as a modern interpretation of a vernacular barn, and they allowed the surrounding two acres of grounds to lie fallow for several years. During this period, nature reasserted itself, beginning the natural process of secession that would re-clothe the site with vegetation and ultimately return it to upland forest if allowed to proceed undisturbed. In considering options for the property, LDG recommended that instead of starting fresh, the natural processes be reinforced and directed along an attractive and rewarding path. The clients enthusiastically supported this concept.
The first step was to edit the resurgent vegetation. Invasive plants such as multiflora rose were grubbed up and hauled away, and then the remaining growth was thinned and groomed. Next the design team carved out spaces for desired amenities such as a swimming pool. The effect of this process was to create a hierarchy of spaces moving from the architectural and constructed elements such as the house, the pool, and the associated arbor, to the green but visibly domesticated landscape treatment of turf, then to the informal meadow, and finally to the wilder vegetation that had grown up on the site. The borders of each of these zones were crisply demarcated, either by mowing or, in the case of the turf, by clipped hedges.
These lines created a subtle tension between the natural and man-made and also helped to settle the architectural elements—the house, pool, arbor, terraces, and steps—into their context.
Every effort was made to collaborate with nature in this project. Trees that were displaced by the installation of the pool were moved to reinforce the surrounding vegetation. The meadow was seeded with indigenous and naturalized grass species, such as fescues, little bluestem, and switchgrass. The inclusion of both cool season grasses (the fescues), which make peak growth during the spring and fall, and warm season grasses (the little bluestem and switchgrass), ensured that the meadow would remain vigorous and attractive throughout the growing season.
Architectural elements were treated sculpturally. The rim-flow pool is parallel to the axis of the house, and its edge is elevated to emphasize the mirror-like quality of the water. The flanking pool arbor was styled to match that running along the back of the house. The hard, rectilinear edges of these features contrast strongly with the flow of the surrounding meadow with its punctuating clumps of self-sown trees and shrubs. Nature, if left to its own process of succession, is never static. As a result, the wilder areas of this landscape will continue to evolve, subtly changing the experience of it over time.