A Lanscaping Dream Team At Work
By Caroline Cunningham
A series of terraces connect the rear of the house to the hillside
A Ground Up Approach
It happens all the time, Exacting clients and enthusiastic architects lavish untold hours on every possible detail of a construction project—each tile and fixture is considered and debated at length. Then, as the house of their collective dreams rises up from the site—or, more accurately, begins to loom above its surroundings— it becomes obvious that at least some of this careful attention should have been directed to the landscaping. What was envisioned as a stately manse, in harmony with its bucolic country setting, looks as if it was dropped from the sky, like a bright red hotel on a Monopoly board.
Bob Davis, whose gorgeous new house combines classical and Mediterranean features with a contemporary flair in Boston’s western suburbs, realized that his family faced such an issue as their home neared completion. The rear elevation dropped almost 20 feet behind the house, creating both a visual and a physical separation between the house and lawn and the meadows beyond. The elegant proportions seemed badly compromised as a result. But what could have been a disaster became a wonderful opportunity when The MacDowell Company, a landscape and construction firm, came on board.
Sweeping lawns flank the stately home
As founder Roy S. MacDowell Jr. explains, “The home was so beautiful. Our job was to make the grounds reflective of that, and we worked hard to create a landscape that would anchor the house to the land.” It was hardly a straightforward task—the work commenced in winter, which presented myriad difficulties; accessing the back of the property without causing damage was also problematic. Completed in two stages over two years, the project ultimately integrates the home beautifully with its surroundings.
“The project was all their vision; my wife and I were just bit players,” says Davis. “It was astounding how Roy and his team could look forward and imagine what could be there, as opposed to what was.”
Strokes of Genius
Six tiers of walls and four individual terrace areas with Stiles and Hart brick pavers and cobblestone edging define the rear of the house; a fountain provides a grace note at the base of the monolithic granite stairs. The indoor pool and spa open onto one level of the terrace, and the entire home feels as if it flows directly down to the field dotted with wildflowers and a marsh that lies beyond a small arbor of trees. Japanese maples, lush swaths of lawn, and beds of white azaleas and bright spirea contribute color, while an elegant column of arborvitae creates a natural screen along one wing of the house, sheltering and defining the space.
The front of the house is equally enchanting. Vineyard Blend driveway pavers with cobblestone edging on the courtyard, along with New England fieldstone walls, provide sculptural accents softened by plantings. The subtle beauty of the landscape design creates the very realistic illusion that the house has stood on this property for centuries. It’s not Marvin Gardens—it’s a yard to live in, and love, for years to come. Everyone is a winner here.