Elevated Sanctuary

The challenging terrain and desire to preserve historically significant features of the property generated a unique arrangement of outdoor living and recreation spaces. The home’s original landscape dating back almost a hundred years is believed to have been designed and constructed by the renowned Morton Arboretum.

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After peeling back tons of thick underbrush and fill, the remnants of a terraced landscape were revealed. A series of quaint rubble walls and rustic stone steps were found to be in good condition. This discovery altered the design approach and guided methodical site operations sensitive to the aging structures and ancestral trees.

Situated on a corner lot, the home’s side yard comprised the largest area. With a steep slope dropping 28’ from the front of the house to the rear of the property, improved circulation and creation of functional spaces for outdoor activities were primary. To access the outdoor living area, an opening was cut through the sunroom leading out to a graceful new staircase that connects to the main dining patio. From there, a set of stone steps leads down to the mezzanine level lounging space flanked by two towering spruce trees – the last remaining from the original garden design. To increase usability, the bottom of the hillside was excavated to form a large level surface for the construction of a petanque court, an outdoor game similar to bocce which the homeowners enjoyed during their trips to France.

The landscape lighting approach creates dramatic vistas of the hillside after dark while providing ease of movement up and down stairs and across varying surfaces. With multiple viewing directions – inside-to-out, up and down, controlling aim and brightness was paramount to avoid glare spots.

Acknowledging the naturalistic character of the landscape, a subtle moon-lighting technique was used to emphasize the lofty scale of the trees and reveal how spaces are organized within the larger context of the landscape. Focal points such as the brawny trunks of the horsechestnut and spruce are accented with uplights. Branch and leaf patterns projected as dappled shadows on ground plane evoke a sense of romance and mystery.