Sagaponack, New York
At first glance, this site seemed straightforward: a 3.2-acre parcel that was relatively flat, featuring several randomly arranged mature trees, and all enclosed by a ten-foot-tall perimeter hedge of California privet. However, the architects Barnes Coy had a vision of bringing nature right into the house they designed. They set the stage for this by wrapping the rambling single-story house in glass. The brief for LDG, then, became to create interest on a relatively nondescript property that would give every room a compelling view to complement the architecture.
The design process started with the thoughtful location of key landscape elements: a parking court, swimming pool and associated amenities, a tennis court, cutting gardens, and gathering spaces. Subtle changes in elevation defined the spaces around these elements, forming outdoor “rooms.” An outdoor seating area, for example, is distinguished and given intimacy by being sunken two feet below grade, whereas an arbor that provides a shady retreat next to the pool is emphasized by being raised an equal amount.
To reinforce this, a matrix of flowering perennials, including autumn moor grass, salvia, asters, and fountain grass, was overlaid on the landscape, not only to further define the spaces but also to soften the edges of the built structures and generally enrich the landscape with layers of color, texture, and form. The existing trees were left intact where they could be included in the new design, or moved and re-purposed when necessary. Thus, a mature weeping European beech was dug, with a root ball twenty feet in diameter, and moved from the center of the backyard to a position fifty feet to the east, where it could be integrated into the new scheme. The move also opened up a better view from the back of the house to a sculpture set into the lawn.
A notable example of the coordination of the architecture and the landscape is the view from a lofty and grand gathering room in the back of the house. This was given an equally grand prospect out across a broad panel of lawn. In contrast, the entry court at the front of the house, which is enclosed on three sides, provides a more intimate series of vistas with a planting of soft billows of ornamental grass in raised beds, backed by panels of liriope and a carefully balanced trio of crape myrtles. In this fashion, the goal of furnishing variety and interest to the eye at every window and through every season was accomplished.