Monday, July 2, 2007

1930's Landscape Redesigned for the 21st Century

Heather had already designed the [client's] front garden, taking into account the scale and style of their 1950s house to forge a seamless indoor-outdoor transition. While the front yard was spacious and flat, the back presented unique challenges. The space near the house was cramped and uninviting, with an untamed hillside beyond it.

The site itself offered another inspiration: the property was previously the location of the 1900 Myron Hunt-Elmer Grey mansion. When a new house was built in its place, the existing landscape had never been integrated with the new back porch, “and this was the core of the problem,” says Lenkin.

“I have belonged to the National Trust for Historic Preservation for a long time, and this project allowed me to integrate a historic landscape with mid-century architecture while meeting my clients’ needs,” she says. “It looked as if the house had been dropped onto the site with no thought about the original walkways and lookouts that had been designed with such exquisite care by Paul Thiene.”

She replaced the narrow porch with an 80-foot-wide set of stairs leading to the new, lower-level terrace. Its large concrete pavers set in an irregular, geometric pattern complement the modern house. Softly textured Herniaria glabra grows between the pavers, a perfect ground cover for high traffic areas. Around the patio’s edge grow Phormium cookianum, Echeveria ‘Mauna Loa’ and several agaves—shapely, colorful succulents to balance the smooth, gray concrete floor.

“When I design a Garden,” I think of myself as sculpting and painting with plants. I’m always thinking about composition and the scale of plant relative to the scale of the garden and architectural elements.” The walls of the terrace and deck are the result of hours of experimentation. Lenkin worked with plaster experts to replicate the color and the texture of the existing 100-year-old steps, easing the transition between the old parts of the hardscape and the new.

Photography by Steve Gunther and Heather Lenkin. As featured in the February/March 2004 issue of Garden Design Magazine. Story by Sarah Kinbar.

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