Water Mill, New York
Located on Mecox Bay, this two-and-one-half-acre parcel was originally part of a potato farm. One of the first steps in working on the site was to create a natural revegetation buffer alongside the shore of the bay to mitigate the environmental degradation of years of agricultural practices. One hundred feet deep and running along the shore for approximately 150 feet, the buffer was planted with native species, beginning with an underlayer of grasses—switchgrass in the low-lying areas and little bluestem in the upland ones—mixed with sedges. An intermediate layer of shrubbery—bayberry, arrowwood viburnum, and winterberry—was then worked into the fabric. Finally, the edges were planted with small trees, such as shadblow and black cherry.
The arrangement of the vegetation in this landscape was largely governed by the soil type; close to the shore, for example, the soil became boggy, calling for plants that can tolerate wet feet. As is common with former farmland, the site is fairly flat, which necessitated a careful handling of spaces. The parking area next to the road was left to turf, but inset with 4-by-4-inch concrete pavers, creating a more sustainable, water-absorptive surface that minimizes storm runoff.
Serving as a transition between this area and the house is an entry courtyard, featuring a bronze abstract sculpture set in a black granite reflecting pool to lend it extra presence. FEMA regulations required raising the first floor of the house, setting it five feet above the level of the parking area. The entry courtyard served to mediate this: instead of climbing a tall series of steps to the front door, there is a modest climb into the courtyard and then another short flight up to the entrance. The planting of this area is formal as befits the style to harmonize with the modern rectilinear geometry of the architecture, with orthogonal walkways, a boxwood hedge, panels of liriope ground cover, and a bosque of crape myrtles silhouetted against a clipped hornbeam hedge. A Valders limestone walkway directs guests around the reflecting pool and through the garden.
The nearby tennis court is at grade, but because the adjacent driveway ramps upward to enter the garage, the retaining wall of cream-colored stucco gives it the effect of being sunken. Capitalizing on the view of the bay, behind the house is a viewing terrace and, beyond that, a pergola.