City House Squeezed Between Two Streets This home is situated inside the switchback of two streets in a hillside neighborhood first laid out by the Olmstead Brothers in Burlington’s southern hill section.
Water was infiltrating the front and getting into the lowest level of this multi-leveled home built into the hillside. The home dropped two stories from front to back, with the garage at the highest level.
By sinking the patio entry court 12”, we were able to drain rain and runoff away from the entry and into newly planted gardens with a meandering stairway.
The western yard was bisected by an extremely thick, overgrown hedge of yew and arborvitae. Removal of these allowed for a more elegant space suitable for more sure-footed stairways, more gardens, and exposed the trunk of a magnificent Shagbark hickory. Airflow in the yard returned and the red stone walls and ledges were once again exposed.
Flowering trees, shrubs and perennials edge the western lawn and provide summer screening form the lower road. Terrace walls were re-built of the native stone, presumably excavated from the site in the 1920’s.
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Hillside Challenge We first met with our clients when the foundation hole had just been excavated on a steeply sloping lot half way up the side of a cherished local mountain.
The challenge with the site was to allow for quality outdoor spaces within the steep confines of a mountain slope. We swung the drive close to the front porch in order to maximize the lawn (future vegetable garden) across the drive. A river birch screens the front porch from the drive. On the south side of the house, we nestled in a pea stone patio shaded from the western sun by native trees. This patio has a southeastern view – across meadows and layers of hills, culminating with the ridge lines of the Green Mountains. Once we designed the grades and terraces, we then dealt with the sloping hillside. A stone stairway approaches the terrace and upper gardens. From the grassy hub, a wide sloping grass path heads down to a lower field where a small orchard and grape vines are located. The lower slopes were stabilized with wildflowers.
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Hillside Front Yard Update We decided to create a small flat terrace outside the front of the house. This area, unlike any other on the property, gets some nice sun and provides a beautiful spot to enjoy the sunset. A large stone landing and curving stairway lead form the house down to a walk/terrace. Smoothly graded lawns extend this area to the top of the bank – providing a place for our clients’ two young children to hang out and play. A foundation planting of broadleaf evergreens, andromeda, small leaf rhododendron, and euonymus will eventually obscure the exposed concrete foundation.
The bank supporting this area was retained at the bottom by a new stone wall, and steepened to provide more flat space at the top. The bank was planted with a tapestry of Sargent junipers, deutzia and a dwarf red spreading weigela, with a bloodgood Japanese maple and a redbud strategically placed to screen a neighbor’s carport and punctuate the bank planting.
On the driveway side, a large and inviting curving set of stone stairs invite the visitor to the front of the house. Low voltage path lighting was installed along the stairs and path, small copper sconces light portions of the walls, and subtle floods simulating moonlight were installed over the new bluestone landing. Perennials and groundcovers border the patio, stairs and driveway below. A new shade planting was added beneath the lower stone wall, featuring groundcovers, ferns, and Solomon’s seal. A stone chosen from the site was embellished with their street number.
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Town Sanctuary In 30 years of sending out design questionnaires, this was the first one to ever have HIGH checked off under the category “Level of Maintenance.”
Our design begins with the concept of landscaping to define and celebrate rooms. We define the rooms with carpets of lawn, the walls with vibrant plantings, and the doorways with rustic cedar arbors. Along the two streets, we insert custom cedar picket fencing within the gardens to both edge the gardens as well as to invite passer-by interactions with the home owners.
Gardens are thematically styled to create whimsy and diversity. The gardens, some in full sun and some in shade, are filled with typical cottage garden perennials, annuals, and shrubs. Some of these plants include Hydrangeas, magnolias, redbud, cosmos, nasturtium, Rodgersii, Astilbe, Hosta, Dahlias, Poppies, Daylilies, and many more.
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Enhancing the Edge Upon completion of a handsome garage to complement their Bob Burly designed home in Essex, NY, our clients approached us wanting a plan to merge the garage with the house.
Our design begins with a bluestone walk connecting the porch of the residence to the garage. We graded this walk to offer a compelling view of stone stairs from the porch and added a landing to soften the climb. At the top of the stairs is a small stone cocktail patio overlooking the eastern pastoral views backed by Lake Champlain and Camel’s Hump. This walk creates a strong axis and an edge used to define where woodland ends, the house begins, and the meadow follows. The eastern border of the walk and patio are meadow-themed gardens of ornamental grasses and summer blooming perennials.
The front garden mimics woodlands by extending the edge of the forest to the house, incorporating the house into the existing woodland setting.
Adding a curve and shifting the driveway west away from the house towards the woodland focused attention to the landscape and views and created more space for the woodland-themed plantings adjacent to the house.
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Small Space, Bold Terrace Each unit of this 5 unit condominium has deeded rights to landscape their own small space. Our clients turned to us for help maximizing and upgrading their allotted outdoor turf.
Our design eliminates an awkwardly elevated deck and small sunken patio, replaced with a simple patio. The raised level and curved front create a strong overlook of the dock and Lake Champlain. The robust dimensions of the capstone create a strong edge between the architectural patio and the natural plantings and distant views. Stone stairs lead into the house as well as toward the dock and perimeter landscaping. Shade tolerant perennials and groundcovers adorn the beds created by the sloping landscape. View More Images
Dining in Nature In this project, our clients purchased an existing restaurant fraught with storm water management issues on the property. Runoff from an adjacent state highway and parking lot regularly flooded the kitchen. Additionally, a man-made pond on the property had become a problematic breeding ground for mosquitos that virtually prohibited outdoor dining during the summer. Both challenges restricted the restaurant from operating at its fullest potential.
Our design/build team’s goals were to address the water runoff and mosquito issues using environmentally and financially sustainable practices. Lowering the grades around the building and parking, we were able to direct the runoff into a dry stream bed enriched with water-worn cobbles and river stones and planted banks. We addressed the mosquito problem by increasing the pond’s depth, adding an aeration system, and planting the banks with wildflowers. By raising the outdoor dining, guests now overlook the pond and pleasing landscape. Natural breezes at this higher level help alleviate mosquitos. View More Images
A Modernist Oasis Our clients desired a landscape that complimented their contemporary, energy-efficient dream house. Reflecting the existing landscape, we added a large grove of vertical birches, underplanted with groundcovers, adjacent to the house and garage. A paving pattern using 48” square bluestone tiles move you from the front of the house through the breezeway, and onto the patio in the back where it is occasionally interrupted by trees, boulders, and groundcovers.
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Gardens by the Bay Squeezed onto a small lot bordering Shelburne Bay, our clients turned to us for help and inspiration. We designed a granite parking court to serve as the entry courtyard and walk as well as a parking court. Flattening the topography of the courtyard allowed a steeper stone cobble drive and surrounding banks of landscaping. Lawn paths, bordered with naturalistic plantings, lead around three sides of the house to the lakefront. The lakefront features a central lawn area surrounded by meadow-like plantings. Stone steps and walks connect the lawn paths around the house with the central lawn, dock house, and stone terrace off the first floor. View More Images
Whalen's Bay Hillside After securing their waterfront bank from further erosion, our clients turned to us to lessen the danger of a steep lawn mowing chore and to landscape their cross-the road lakefront into useable refuge. We transformed a long and narrow stone roadway into a long landscaped terrace. Glacial boulders create the edge for a dining patio, fire pit, plantings and a grass walkway. The steep bank is retained by a stone wall and mass planted with meadow-like perennials and grasses. A new stone walkway, quietly lit, connects the waterfront path with the upper lawn area. Stone tile patios, bordered by plantings of groundcovers and birches, overlook Lake Champlain and the Green Mountains of Vermont. View More Images
Small City Garden Our clients were in the middle of renovations to their garage, when they came to use to find a solution for their small, sunken backyard. By raising the grade within a stone planter, creating brick patios, and a circular terrace, we created a beautiful garden terrace within a small space. We updated the front entry with a large bluestone landing and bluestone slab sidewalk.
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Ledge House During house construction, the sensitive ledges and woodlands that first attracted our clients to this property were terrorized by dynamite and earthmoving equipment. Distinctive Landscaping used on site rock to create a ledge clothed in native plantings. The drive now sweeps by our re-created rock outcropping, a much more appealing approach to the house. Uncovering the pool area required removing 50 tandem truckloads of blasted rock to expose beautiful natural ledges that first lured our clients to this property. Lighting, steps, paths, natural boulders, stone terraces, plantings and an artful pool house complete this spot of recreation and retreat. View More Images
An Artful Retreat Our clients came into our office in search of an artistic approach to a landscape makeover. Their wish list included spaces for art and eclectic artifacts, meditative spaces, spirals, shade trees and a structure to house outdoor tools, equipment and supplies. Discovering that creating rooms for art, garden, storage and playing in such a small yard would be forced and cramped, we changed gears and created a site plan as if the entire backyard itself were a piece of art.
The un-used pool was removed, the back yard re-graded and a colorful artful structure with two enclosed ends for storage and central covered pavilion was built and attached to the house by a pergola centered on the view from inside which beckons people to visit every time you walk through the house. A bluestone spiral was used as an organizing element. Patios, walks and gardens all focus off the spiral.
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Fairytale Cottage By relocating their neighborhood road, our clients were able to gain much needed space for gardening, outdoor recreation and private family gatherings. A relocated antique cedar rail fence fronted by daylilies and backed with flowering shrubs give the new road an old and pleasant feel. We expanded and relocated large beds of tough native perennials that had adapted to their site. A winding brick path and generous lawn paths from the cottage to the meadow gave the small garden landscape a spacious and flowing feel. The new streambed, created with truckloads of native stream boulders solves a seasonal drainage problem aesthetically as well as ecologically. The new vegetable garden and orchard are a great source of pleasure. View More Images
Shelburne Point Our first project on this lakeside residence was to create a small stone overlook patio capturing the wonderful long southern view down Lake Champlain. Along with this, we replaced railroad tie lake shore access with natural stone step slabs laid in a comfortable and meandering arrangement. Our clients, who are active outdoors people, loved the results and asked us back when the opportunity arose to relocate the neighborhood road. With new space to work with and more privacy afforded by the road moving, we created a front entry path, associated naturalistic plantings, landscape lighting, and wonderful shrub borders. View More Images
Wing's Point Cottage The challenge was to transform two parcels into one, serving as a vacation camp for our clients & extended family. The site features trees, native boulders, ledges, towering cedars, and the constant draw of a wild Lake Champlain beach shoreline. We designed a new road which loops the perimeter, passing through woodlands and meadows, revealing and disguising views. It grazes by the house, newly constructed guesthouse and future studio, as if the loop itself is the destination. Working with native local materials, beach stone became paths, driftwood became bridges and railings, and a waterlogged stump became the patio table. Fallen cedars were cut into a woodpile privacy fence. Native plant associations inspired our plant selections. View More Images
Alluring Cottage Our clients came to us looking for an entire backyard makeover. They had been searching for a new property and concluded that their own home had so many good attributes that a remodeling was their best option. Adjacent to a large parcel of preserved land, the design of the backyard includes stone and lawn paths that all point visually towards a large preserved wetland and natural area. Generous mass planting schemes evoke the natural area’s vegetation. Shrubs buffer the neighbors while meadow perennials soften fencing designed to be transparent. The pool placement to the east side of the property highlights the one open sweep of lawn to the west. Given the freedom to design every detail of the backyard, we finessed grading, created boundary fences, shaped the contours of the pool, and added night lighting. Our installation of the hardscape and landscape transformed the backyard into the calm oasis that our clients now rave about. View More Images
Backyard Oasis Project Located in a quiet spot above the La Platte river sits an unpretentious home and landscape for a young family of five. The design challenges involved an existing layout with little but asphalt as a front entry. The property slopes dramatically to the east. Our client was inspired by cottage style gardens, which now wrap the house and hillside. Perennial and annual wildflowers were seeded into an existing meadow to enhance summer and fall cuttings. Shrub and perennial borders define the outer edges of the backyard and border woodland trails that lead to the river. The pool area was updated with stone paving, stone walls, landscape lighting, metal fencing, and a bountiful summer flowering garden. View More Images
Hillside Home Our clients had just begun building a hillside home in Richmond overlooking the Green Mountains when they called us in to design their landscape. The challenge was to integrate the new home into its hillside environment while creating beautiful perennial gardens and natural meadows and enhancing spectacular views. Many plantings repopulated the meadows including existing ferns and groundcovers as well as new native annual and perennial plantings. As in many hillside settings, cuts into the steep slope had created drastic water drainage issues. We built meandering drainage swales with varying sizes of boulders and stones and planted them with water-loving native meadow plants. These plantings spread across the hillside, eventually morphing into native wildflower seeded meadows. Within this setting, narrow lawn paths sweep around the house and lead to hikes in the woods. A natural stone terrace provides a spot for morning coffee and evening dining. Natural stone steps surrounded by mass plantings of groundcovers and perennials provide access to the front door. Boulders from the site accent plantings and pathways and retain slope along the steeper front entry. View More Images
The Preserve The design challenges at the Preserve involved framing those views while containing an inner yard. To address the crowded front entry area, Distinctive Landscaping installed a granite courtyard planted in a simple plant palette of groundcovers, perennials and birches The hill behind the guest parking area was pushed back and heavily mass planted with native shrubs typical of the Preserve. A wall of fieldstone defines the front lawn and contains a deep perennial border garden. Openings offer views of nearby meadows and the distant Adirondack Mountains. The garden design reflects the sunny meadow plants of surrounding fields and landscape View More Images
Schoolhouse Garden In the side yard of a historic 1835 house in Essex, NY sits an octagon shaped school house, originally built in the 1850’s to educate the children of the household. For years the schoolhouse had fallen into disrepair. Our clients restored their house, their barn, and then the structure of the schoolhouse.
Our charge was to provide a setting for the schoolhouse that would be comfortable for a gathering of people, provide a feeling of separation from the main road while not hiding the structure, take advantage of the spectacular view of Lake Champlain, and do so in an environmental and artful way. View More Images
Converse Bay Residence Distinctive Landscaping began design work on the Converse Bay Residence in 1987 and has been working on the property for over 20 years.
Recently, we sited and designed a swimming pool, stone terrace and plantings. Using an aerial photo and photoshop, we illustrated a conceptual plan of the pool siting. The pool placement gives our clients a new perspective of their property, overlooking the horse pasture and offering distant views across Lake Champlain. A natural ledge feature was accentuated with Panton stone boulders. Naturalistic massing of grasses, native perennials and a birch grove complete the northern backdrop of the pool and patio. Large stones were chosen for the pool terrace and coping. View More Images
Seasonal Garden Home The landscape design of this vacation home highlights existing natural features and updates the landscape to fit the owner's needs and desires. A goal of this project was to retain the character of the mixed woods of cedar, maple, and hickory which dominated the foreground and enhance the focus and draw to Lake Champlain to the north. Distinctive Landscaping re-aligned the drive to accent views of trees, ledges, and Lake Champlain while approaching the house. Stone entry walls, a bluestone entry walk, and courtyard plantings created the new entrance. Mass plantings accentuate groves of trees and sweeping grass paths. The dog fence enclosure was designed to blend seamlessly within the naturalistic landscape. View More Images
Camp on Corlear Bay Distinctive Landscaping implemented this project on Corlear Bay designed by Oehme van Sweden and Associates of Washington DC. Eric Groft and Bob Hruby of Oehme van Sweden provided the design and planting layout. The excellent photography was provided by our enthusiastic client. View More Images