ISSUE 26  |  Block Party

Landscape Architect Visit: A Very American Garden on Cape Cod

June 30, 2014 1:30 PM

BY Lindsey Taylor

At one time, building a house right on the Cape Cod shoreline seemed like a good idea. No more. And after it was determined that the house and terrace on this two-acre property in Osterville (near Hyannis Port on the south shore) infringed on the sensitive coastal ecosystem, an architect and a landscape architect were called in to remedy the situation. The solution: building a new house, guesthouse, and garage, all set back farther from the shore, and installing a permeable landscape that would protect and enhance the banks.

The Cape Cod landscape architecture firm Stephen Stimson Associates considered both the setting and the client’s needs–including a request for lots of lawn for outdoor games–in the design. Boston’s Catalano Architects designed the new house and outbuildings, and the Stimson firm worked closely with them to create outdoor spaces that balanced the formal and informal. A main objective was to replace any impervious surfaces with driveways, paths, and patios that conserved water, required little maintenance, and allowed for the activities of a busy household.

Photography courtesy of Stephen Stimson Associates.

Above: A view from the parking area toward the guesthouse and driveway gate. The new hardscaping is both simple and elegant. This water-permeable paved area employs brick on edge, dry-laid with granite edging.

Above: The granite path from the guesthouse to the swimming pool bisects the driveway, a visual cue to emphasize that pedestrians have the right-of-way here.

Above: Joe Wahler, a Stimson senior associate and the project’s key designer, first studied the soil to ensure that it was sufficiently porous, meaning that it has the air space to allow water to drain well. After the soil was amended, suitable hardscaping materials were chosen to create a water-conscious landscapeThe grass median shown here improves the drainage of this granite path leading to the water-sports shed. 

Above: A permeable crushed granite path, edged in granite, ends at a gate. Wherever possible, drought-tolerant native plants were used to establish diversity for wildlife and to help stabilize the banks.

Above: The south side of the house is bordered by a crushed granite path and a hydrangea hedge. The sparkling waters of West Bay lie at the end of the path. 

Above: Long granite steps lead down to the swimming pool; beside the steps is a bed of shrubs and summer perennials.

Above: The lawn on the terraced front garden, used for play and entertaining, is planted with drought-tolerant, low-maintenance fescue grass. Linear granite steps serve to connect the house to the bay, and a wooden bench facing the water offers a contemplative view.

For more, see Required Reading: 10 Landscapes by Stephen Stimson on Remodelista. And for another of our favorite seaside gardens, see A Kitchen Garden on Cape Cod.