A Clean Getaway
Two Design Pros Find The Common Ground Between Architecture And A Pastoral Landscape.
Encompassing 110 acres in Petersburg, N.Y., this property contains a house, barn, pool, pool house, orchard, and pond: common features of a gentleman’s farm. What might not be immediately obvious, however, is the way the architecture and the agrarian landscape are set up to invigorate each other, like guests at a dinner party. With their cedar roofs and shingles and local Goshen fieldstone, the buildings, though formal, seem comfortable amid panoramic views of the Taconic Mountains. And their arrangement invites visitors to stop, linger, and contemplate the relationships between near and far views, and between the natural and man-made.
It wasn’t always so ideal. The original driveway’s approach was too steep, and the 1980s clapboard Colonial house lacked a sense of place. The master plan grew out of a close collaboration between LDa Architecture & Interiors, Cambridge, Mass.; Stephen Stimson Associates Landscape Architects, based in Falmouth, Mass.; and the client, a banker who travels internationally and cherishes the slower pace of life here. “He had this idea of a retreat—a place to hike in the woods, raise fish in the pond, and entertain,” says LDa principal Treff LaFleche.
LaFleche and Stephen Stimson Associates principal Edward Marshall developed a driveway scheme that brings visitors gradually along the hill’s fall line and enters the property facing the Taconic Pass. The drive slips through a puncture in the entry barn and into a gravel courtyard dominated by a massive split oak tree. Along with the barn and house, the manicured courtyard creates a formal edge to the apple orchard and pond. “You’ve got this dialogue among home and protection and arrival, and the reward of the view and landscape beyond,” LaFleche says.
The design of the pool pavilion evolved while the owner was working in Japan. Positioned on the far side of the main house, it has a more restrained vocabulary of sliding glass walls, a standing seam copper roof, and a freestanding oval pod housing the bath. In place of downspouts, rain water tumbles down chains.
Much of this property’s charm comes from the pieces that stitch it together. “The overarching idea was how we do keep things minimal, purposeful, and not overly done? Everything you need and nothing you don’t,” Marshall says. Fieldstone is used prominently: on the base of buildings, on retaining walls, on an upper terrace between the barn and house, and on a lower dining terrace between the house and pool. But they decided on wood for sweeping decks off the pool and the house’s rear. “We wanted this component of the landscape to feel a little lighter because the grade starts to drop away and views open up,” Marshall says.
Small gestures, too, suggest subtle distinctions between the formal and informal. Dark blue painted trim on the house—now sporting a cedar roof and siding—distinguishes it from the other buildings. And the fencing—prosaic wood posts strung with stainless steel cables—finds a midpoint between modern and rustic.
“Finding a balance between the competing forces of architecture and the landscape—the ambiguous middle ground—is a guiding principle for me,” LaFleche says. “When things are not so clear, it forces people to try to understand the subtleties of the space.” ¦