Cross River Design’s landscape design team had the opportunity to become involved with this project in the early stages of planning shortly after the property was purchased, and prior to the start of the house design. The owners had built a number of homes over the years but wanted this to be their dream home, so they asked that the house and property design be of a Tuscan style to remind them of their favorite vacation spot.
The owners spent a great deal of time locating the right property and after shopping around Somerset County for three years, found one that met their needs. The property was comprised of picturesque, rolling meadows and hay fields, bordered on two sides by a stream enveloped by masses of wild fern. At the center of the lot sits a large hill with commanding views of the upper fields and wooded sections of the property as well as of the valley beyond.
To take full advantage of these incredible views, Cross River designer’s spent a considerable amount of time working with the architect in respect to positioning the house. This included many pre-dawn/sunset visits to study the way the sun moved across the property.
The distance from the house and the road was considerable, with the most direct access between the two being an existing tractor path used by the farmer working the property at that time. The tractor path although direct, cut straight across the lot ignoring many of the aesthetic elements of the site.
We wanted the experience of traveling the driveway to be an adventure, and designed it so the user could take in different views as they travel in and out of the wood line and alongside the existing stream bed. The Cross River team felt this to be the equivalent of moving through a series of outdoor rooms – enclosing the user with shade from trees in one area, moving them through a large expanse of open meadow as they pass into the next.
The existing stream borders along two sides of the property, and cuts across an area at the lower portion of the lot not far from the driveway entrance. It’s at this point that the stream spills out into the surrounding meadow and forms a small section of wetland.
The lower section of the driveway cuts through the wetlands on the way up to the house, so a temporary bridge was constructed for delivering equipment and materials to the job site. Toward the completion of the job, we removed the temporary bridge and replaced it with a new stone bridge that spanned the stream bed and surrounding wetland area. For continuity, we matched the pier lighting, wall stone and granite pavers used on the bridge with what was used at the house.
Toward the top of the knoll, the drive transitions to an open granite courtyard bordered by low stone walls. London plane trees and crabapples are located at the perimeter of the wall, and low perennials and groundcovers take up the space below. A stone pathway brings visitors from the courtyard around to the pool and reflecting pond at the rear of the property.
The pool and the Travertine terrace surrounding the pool were designed to make the most of the field and valley views at the back of the property, and the rich patina of the Travertine turned out to be a great match for the colors used on the Tuscan style home. A rustic style cedar fence atop a low stone wall closely matches one that Cross River owner Anthony Berardo encountered while visiting an old winery in Italy. The stocky fence provides an ideal support for climbing roses, and helps to separate the swimming pool from the reflecting pool area.
The owners love to cook and appreciate the convenience of growing their own ingredients, so our landscape design team incorporated a vegetable garden just outside the kitchen. The garden provides them with fresh herbs, fruit, vegetables and cut flowers during the growing season. Espaliered apple trees are trained along guide wires attached to the stone wall of the house, and a small wooden bench inside the garden provides an ideal setting for relaxing and contemplation. Due to the heavy deer pressure on the property, our landscape design team incorporated a four foot high cedar fence (to match the pool fence), atop a two foot high stone wall along the perimeter of the garden.
The owners liked to entertain in large groups, which many times required a canopy or tenting for shade. Cross River designed the space for the reflecting pool, knowing it would be covered overhead for a number of days during the year. We located plant beds, and situated the pool to where they would work nicely in either situation. To help visually unify the reflecting pool, house and flanking plant borders, brick bands in a diagonal pattern were incorporated into the lawn surrounding the reflecting pool.