A Gathering Place

Showcase of Vermont Landscape Design

A Gathering Place

We were first introduced to this client in the fall of 2017 when they invited us to visit their unique home with amazing views of Lake Champlain from the Vermont side. They had been living there a number of years with their three boys and large extended family living close by.  They had attempted to address the landscape with a “do-it-yourself” approach but were not satisfied.  So they decided to bring in a professional.  

We started the conversation by asking questions to better understand their style, goals, and constraints.  The overall style they were hoping to achieve was “rustic elegance.”  Entertaining outside was top of their list of goals especially centered around fire features.  Another priority was directing traffic to the “front door.”  When guests arrived at the house, they often ended up on the deck rather than at the main entry.  Other challenges presented included windy conditions on the lakefront side of the home, making bonfires unpleasant and sometimes dangerous.  When discussing the budget, they were willing to make a substantial investment in this home.  With family living next door they planned on enjoying this place for many years to come.

We analyzed the layout of the property and divided our efforts into two areas: the main entrance and the lakefront patio.

Hardscaping by di Stefano Landscaping

The Main Entrance

To direct guests to this entrance, we designed a 10’ wide welcome landing at the driveway narrowing it down to a 5’ wide walkway to the door.  We selected inviting plant material to surround the entrance to the walkway to draw guests’ attention.  We suggested moving the existing shed to a new location to help make the “backyard” feel more like the front.  We used the grade change that sloped toward the house as an opportunity to introduce a seat wall for a fire pit feature.  Using simple clean lines, we positioned the fire pit to be easily accessible without encumbering the path to the main entrance of the house.  The location of the fire pit was also strategically placed to allow protection from the wind but still maintain a view.  To achieve a “rustic elegance” we used natural stone for the seat wall and pit.  Natural stone wasn’t used for other elements due to budget limitations but we selected colors in warm tones to compliment. 

LakeFront Patio

Although this space was easy to access from the lower level of the house it was a challenge to reach from the driveway or deck.  We integrated a series of stone steps and landings into the existing grade and boulder retaining wall. Rise and run were key in getting these steps to work with existing conditions.   The unique shape of the deck and corresponding support posts provided another design obstacle.  In a desire to relate to these shapes the lower patio followed the angles of the deck and included seat walls along those lines to accommodate large family gatherings.  Curved lines between the house and the patio provided movement through this space and added rustic flair with decorative gravel, boulders, and mixed groundcover.  With the expansive size of this lower patio, we were up against budget constraints so we decided to use prefabricated concrete block units for the walls, columns, and fire pit rather than natural stone.  The design also allowed for a raised landing off the slider for future bar space.

The plantings were selected to provide a variety of foliage colors and textures.  The client loved ornamental grasses for a “beachy” feel. Overall, mostly native shrubs and perennials were used with the addition of items like daylilies, astilbe, and hydrangea for bolder statements.  The client’s favorite contribution was the Snow-in-Summer (Cerastium tomentosum) that softened the lines of the patio and the weight of the stone steps.  The pictures show how the landscape has filled in after three seasons.  The final touch was the landscape lighting that provides a welcoming ambiance in both areas of this Vermont home.

Next Project: Lake Front Paradise