A Fashion Designer Creates a Gorgeous Garden
At Highmeadows, Linda Allard designs a runway of a different stripe.
“I know you so well,” was all architect David Allard had to say to convince his sister that he should design her Litchfield County home in 1992. At the time, Linda Allard spent many weeks annually in Europe, gathering inspiration and textiles for her fashion label at Ellen Tracy. Not only was she in need of a retreat to escape from the fashion frenzy, but she also wanted a place that expressed her strong aesthetic for interior décor and her very hands-on approach to the outdoors. Both siblings knew that a Venetian villa would be the inspiration for the spacious house with a breathtaking view surveying the Litchfield hills. But the telling moment came when David asked his sister, “What do you want to see from each room?” At that juncture, the garden became integral to the program.
Linda’s response came without pause: She wanted her bedroom to overlook a garden. From there, all the pieces fell into place. Without question, classical seemed apropos. But unlike the formal gardens usually found in this country, Linda Allard’s landscape expresses her fondness for food and culinary pursuits. Although rose arbors waltz up long allées and statuary wades in clouds of catmint, her gardens are really about the tomatoes, beans, greens, and fruit they produce.
Based on experience, both Allards understood that a wall would be essential. Uplifted by the house, the garden got a medieval motif crafted by artisans from the local abbey, who were consigned to forge hinges and hardware for gates. The resulting experience feels like a hybrid between time travel and a walk in the park.
Beautiful and bountiful was always part of this narrative. Designed as a cohesive picture, the stone for the house as well as the gated storage sheds all came from Minnesota in one shipment. To balance the garden on the parking side of the villa, rose-bowered metal fencing leads to an oversized pool stretching to meet the horizon. A massive orchard below joins the spaces. At every point in the landscape, the rhythm of color, texture and flow belies the hand of a designer flowing from the voluptuous rose-bowered arbors to the deftly clipped hedgework.
This is the woman who dressed her fellow females for success at a time when they were newly moving into the corporate world. “Dressed in the right clothes,” Allard says, “they had the comfort level to succeed.” And peaceful comfort prevails in her garden. Plus there is a practical angle. Translated into the landscape, that meant clothing the walls in espaliered fruit trees and meandering vines with a marvelous statue or urn tucked into just the right juncture in the scene. This is formality with feeling, purpose and familiarity.
The landscape evolved over time: The garden has grown outward from its original footprint. From its inception, both Allards wanted access and inclusion for the property’s 30 acres. Beyond the original circuit, Linda added a studio where she paints, and pathways connect that building to the house. A woodland garden has been expanded and defined, while a pond and waterfall add to the more recent naturalistic agenda. It’s all part of the vision. Woven together, this scene is so scrumptious, it will never go out of fashion.
The print version of this article appeared with the headline: Tailor Made.