ISSUE 94  |  October Moon

Before and After: A Brooklyn Townhouse with a Double-Wide Garden

October 14, 2013 3:00 PM

BY Meredith Swinehart

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Behind an unassuming brownstone in Brooklyn’s Boerum Hill, a double-wide lot is home to a sprawling garden and a pair of unusually beautiful garden sheds holding garden tools, firewood, and bicycles. Plus, check out the kayak storage.

Brooklyn-based Kim Hoyt Architect (a member of our Architect/Designer Directory) is both an architect and a landscape architect, and designed the garden and the outdoor structures to be intimately entwined.

Photography by Dan Wonderly

Above: The experience begins on the street, where an ipe wood gate stands sentinel while blending into the surrounding architecture of the landmarked neighborhood.

Above: A “before” photo from the street; the transformation is dramatic. 

Above: When open, the gate defines the view of the second structure—the garden sheds—and of the garden beyond.

Past the gate lies the practical: a paved parking spot, custom wood storage racks to accommodate the family’s kayaks, and the sheds. The parking spot does double duty as an open court for a ping-pong table.

Above: Rather than create one large garden shed, the architects opted for two cedar sheds to make a tightly framed view of the garden. The sheds feature have doors and floors are made of crushed stone.

With a narrow walkway between them, the twin sheds shape the view of the main feature: the lush garden. A large wisteria-covered trellis defines a woodland dining room, and a smaller trellis hosts climbing roses and protects an outdoor swing. 

Above: A dining area is defined by a trellis, which provides shade and support for wisteria vines. The garden path is made of fieldstone, set on a permeable base planted with creeping thyme and other ground cover plants.

Above: The low seating walls are made of old used brick found on the property, set below natural cleft bluestone. The plantings were meant to evoke a tranquil, shaded woodland and a “rambunctious cottage garden.”

The garden accommodates many needs: those of the family’s two children, who wanted a rambling garden in which to explore; the family dog, who required a garden resilient enough to withstand his weight and enthusiasm, and the parents, nature- overs who wanted to maintain the garden themselves, thereby requiring that it be hardy enough to withstand some level of busy-life neglect.

The project uses FSC-certified ipe and cedar harvested using sustainable forestry practices; brick reused from the original paved landscape; and native plant species, where possible. Though really, they had us at the gate.

Above: The view from inside the garden out to the main ipe gate. Kiwi vine climbs the trellis between the two garden sheds. The shed roofs slope to drain water into the garden via rain chains.

Above: The “before” gate left much to be desired, including privacy. 

Above: The family required storage for firewood, bicycles, kayaks, and an occasional parked car. The architects created a custom wood port for the kayaks located between the sheds and the main garden gate.

Above: A smaller trellis stands directly opposite the first, supporting a garden swing and several climbing roses. Among the plants are hydrangeas, ferns, anemones that flower in both summer and fall, roses, camellias, and wisteria.  

Above: Plants were selected in consultation with horticulturist Michele Paladino of Gowanus Nursery and one of the clients, who is an avid gardener and lover of plants. Here, bright red fruits of a crab apple.

Above: The plantings include many native species, due to their shade-tolerance and beauty. Here, fall-flowering white Japanese anemones.

Above: Another “before” image shows a far more typical-looking urban garden. 

View another Kim Hoyt project—this one with wisteria in full bloom—in The Garden Designer Is In: Kim Hoyt Architecture/Landscape