A Greenwich Garden with Livable and Intimate Spaces
Restructured terraces and unique water features redefine this home's exterior.
“If the past few months have taught us anything, it’s that we needed to pause and spend more time relaxing with one’s family,” notes interior designer Victoria Hagan. “And there’s nothing better for that than garden magic.” Hagan was part of a team that recently brought new life to a Greenwich house and “this old soul” of a garden.
Joeb Moore & Partners Architects redesigned the Tudor-style home. Windows were enlarged, and a terrace was added in the back. Greenwich–based James Doyle Design Associates (JDDA) directed the landscaping, with studio director Justin Quinn taking the lead. Hagan designed the interiors and collaborated with JDDA on furnishing the new garden terraces. “Now every room is about how you experience the garden,” notes Hagan.
When James Doyle created the original garden plan, there were children living at home. Twenty years on, the owner opted for a change. Doyle was asked to create more intimate, livable spaces along a narrow flat plane at the back of the house, where the ground gives way to a sharp sloping lawn. At the bottom of the lawn, toward the back of the property, there is a swimming pool that can be seen from the terraces.
At the entrance to the house, large gumdrops of taxus flank the door. A scheme of clipped-box beds and structural plantings establishes the northern European sensibility that is JDDA’s trademark. “The house now feels more like a villa in a garden,” says Hagan. “From the first glimpse of the plantings, you know you’ve arrived somewhere special.”
The flat area at the back of the house is terraced with bluestone in a running-bond pattern that mimics the brick walls of the house and “feels like Holland,” explains Doyle. Near the house, two custom zinc boxes by Planterworx contain a low carpet of gray sedum and a Japanese maple.
“These planters were deceptively tricky to design,” says Quinn. “The terrace sits directly over a lower-level laundry room; water from the boxes drains invisibly through a pipe down to a lower terrace.”
While the final effect appears simple, the space was challenging from an engineering standpoint. Notes Doyle, “We redesigned the garden in 2013, and for three-and-a-half years it was under construction. In a project like this, we’re the first in and the last out.”
“Early on, our focal points were going to be art pieces,” says Quinn. “But our client opted for water features.” One of these—a dramatic long, low black fountain—acts as a liquid mirror to the full-length dining room window. “It’s very subtle, but this feature transforms the evening, when surface ripples reflect the lights inside. And when you open the windows, you also hear the quiet, bubbling sound of the water.”
A completely different sound emanates from a fountain at the far end of the terrace. From the center panel of three niches, water cascades off a rock ledge to splash into a narrow channel canal that ends in a still, central rectangular pool. Like the rest of the hardscape, the pool is bordered with bluestone, gravel and planting beds filled with structured and colorful plantings.
The clean lines and blue-gray of the stone and gravel are echoed in comfortable modular Henry Hall sofas. In the center of one seating area, a monolithic bluestone block, 18 inches high by 12 inches wide, and four-feet long, serves as a table. The block incorporates a custom-designed gas-fueled fire feature hidden much of the time beneath a removable metal plate.
Three flights of steps navigate the slope and terraces, each differently lit and constructed, and a railing was replaced by tempered glass panels. While the front of the house is traditional, the rear, notes Doyle, is “totally different. The intervention to the house opened things up, and we created a real contemporary landscape.”
The print version of this article appeared with the headline: Uncommon Grounds.