We’re big fans of word-of-mouth marketing. Our social media efforts these days are a higher-tech attempt at the good, old-fashioned neighbor-to-neighbor approach. Nothing beats one satisfied customer leading to another!
The Slakas-Hart job was one of those fortunate word-of-mouth situations where the owners of another project didn’t even have to open their mouths: A couple saw our finished work at the Munoz home – which we wrote about last month – and loved it so much that they knew they wanted to work with us.
So we started talking with them and after a few months of winter planning, we were ready to get started on this fantastically unique project once spring 2011 began.
I know, I know. We say every project is “fantastically unique.” But check out this house. It really is something special, a wooded retreat in the middle of the Hudson River Valley. Frank Lloyd Wright meets the Seven Dwarves’ cottage.
It’s situated on a hill, as many homes in this area are – there’s almost no flat land left to build on – with one big differentiating factor: a stream running directly underneath the house! This beautiful and unique house and property gave us an amazing canvas to work with.
Our clients had a lot of strong opinions, which we actually like, especially better than the alternative. There’s nothing worse than a client who says over and over, “You know best, just do what you think” then comes back when the project is complete and tells us it’s not really what they had in mind. We appreciate the input and the client’s feedback to help us to provide them with exactly what they desire.
The best thing about working in landscape design is that few things are set in stone: When you work with living things and soil and already have to be able to pivot at a moment’s notice because of weather and unexpected circumstances, you’ve got a lot of freedom to change your designs and plans on a whim. That was definitely the case with this project…it was really an evolution.
The owners were intent on capitalizing on their home’s unique, natural look in the landscape. They didn’t want to”Westchester-ify” things with a cookie-cutter landscape. That meant doing all our work around the stream, the hill, the natural stone that was already in place. It was also extremely important for them to gain usable space from this project as well. We accomplished this by moving a small mountain!(approximately 1,500 cubic yards). The clients went from having virtually no flat play area to having nearly a Â¼ acre of lush green lawn to play Frisbee, soccer, wiffle ball and a variety of sports.
While many of our projects involve extensive (and beautiful!) stonework, this one had minimal stone. The only stone Neave installed was a fieldstone patio of bluestone, granite and native fieldstone, which gave it an informal look. Everything else was natural slabs of fieldstone used as steps and step stone paths. Each step was a unique shape and size to give the appearance the steps had been there for centuries and weathered by the elements.
Another thing you can notice from the photos is the number of windows on the house. One of our biggest challenges was making the landscape look great from every room inside the house – from every window. Each one looks out from the kitchen, from the dining room, from the family room, from the living room – to get a great view of that stream and our plantings.
Many times, as we were planning the plantings, we had to set the plants then go inside and look at it from every angle. We did a lot of moving before we actually planted anything. While this was a tedious and often frustrating process it was the only way to see things as the clients would. In the end the results were very much worth the extra effort.
Speaking of plants… In keeping with the look of the Slakas-Hart home, we used a lot of native species in our plantings – viburnum, hollies, laurels, spirea – which means many of them will be resistant to diseases and deer, but they’ll also keep a looser, more natural shape. And there a couple hundred plants scattered throughout the yard; it’s one of the more intense planting projects we have done this year.
We finished the project in the late summer, unfortunately past the flowering cycle of the majority of the plants. The clients and us are waiting with great anticipation to see the perennials explode in the spring. And in the future, as the whole yard continues to fill in, we know our client will get a great sense of satisfaction.
Interested in landscape design for your own property? Call the professionals at Neave Group Outdoor Solutions. From the Hudson Valley, call (845) 463-0592. If you’re in Westchester County, dial (914) 271-7996, and if you’re in Connecticut, call us at (203) 212-4800. You can also fill out our web form to have us get in touch with you.
And if you want more insight as you plan your landscape, download our free Landscape Planning Guide!