The culmination of a long and exhaustive property search resulted in the ideal location for our client to build the home of their dreams. Cross River was charged with designing and building a master plan that included placement of all elements on the property including the main home. The property was a picturesque, densely wooded parcel with steep slopes from the road down to the rear property line.
A significant amount of time was invested on-site studying existing site conditions and topography in order to find the ideal location for the house, courtyard and terrace areas. The steep slopes posed a particular challenge, and our goal was to locate the house using as few retaining walls and supporting structures as was necessary.
We removed only those trees required to build the house and terraces, leaving most of the existing trees on the ten acre lot intact. A temporary fence was erected along the preserved wood line and around selected trees to ensure their survival during the construction phase of the project.
We designed the driveway to follow the existing grades at the top of the property, disturbing only what was needed for the driveway. Approaching the house, the trees open up to a lawn terrace with a continuous hedge of european hornbeams, which form a semi circle on both sides of the driveway.
At the front of the house the driveway splits in two directions – with the primary drive leading to the courtyard, and a secondary to the garage bays at the side of the house. At the center of the front courtyard is a long elliptical island lined with flowering Yoshino cherry trees, and two large limestone planters, all situated on a dense mat of English ivy.
Moving along the side of the house to the rear yard, bluestone step stones lead to a partially hidden courtyard located in the interior portion of the house just outside the kitchen. Water spilling down a small fountain echos throughout the courtyard, and can be heard from inside the kitchen when the windows are open. Located nearby, a small coffee table surrounded by a bed of assorted hosta and shade loving annuals provide a tranquil setting during the warmer months.
To help define the transition between spaces in the rear yard (upper and lower terraces), our master plan included designs for a small, two story outbuilding and placed it on the central axis line of the rear entrance to the house. The top floor of the “conservatory” (as it came to be known), presents panoramic views of the entire backyard and surrounding wood line, and is used by the owner’s frequently for entertaining or for just taking in the views over morning coffee. A balcony at the back of the structure provides a more detailed view of the lower terrace and patio below.
Wide stone stairways bordering both sides of the conservatory connect the upper and lower terraces. At the bottom of the stairways is a raised bluestone patio containing a gas firepit. The firepit is recessed into the surrounding bluestone patio, and is enclosed by stone benches on both sides. Passing between the benches, one steps down to an adjoining patio framed with two weeping crabapples at each corner.
A bluestone walkway leads away from the patio and down a number of stairs to a tree lined, courtyard with a low fountain located near the back of the property. At the end of the courtyard (centered on the fountain), is a high, masonry garden wall covered in Boston Ivy. At the center of the ivy covered wall is a small arched doorway leading to a hidden garden and intimate sitting area inside. At the back side of this garden lay a row of tall evergreens forming a continuous hedge. With the help of the garden wall, the space is hidden from the rest of the property and is usually discovered by a curious guest wandering off the beaten path.
This garden is playfully referred to by the owner’s as the “Narnia Garden” due in part that it’s concealed from the rest of the property, but also because of a narrow, stone wall adorned by a small lion’s head which happens to resemble the character in the novel written by C.S. Lewis.