American Society of Landscape Architects ASLA 2007 Professional Awards
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Conceived as an austere entry to the house, the illuminated slab steps rhythmically cascade away from the granite slab stoop down the front lawn. (Photo: Jeff McNamara)

The spare architectural style of the residence is reflected in the landscape - a row of clipped hollies, reclaimed granite step treads and climbing hydrangea vines to either side of the garden gate comfortably sit below the canopy of a mature maple. (Photo: Jeff McNamara)

The gentle sound of the weeping water wall and fountain soothingly permeates the entire garden. The same granite coping of the fountain surround is also used as treads for the cantilevered stair and the wall cap above. (Photo: Jeff McNamara)

Rough sawn planks of whole eastern red cedar trees with the bark still attached to the edges were spaced to meet local pool enclosure codes for the gate and fence. Climbing Hydrangeas have become intertwined in the slats and now frame the gate. (Photo: Jeff McNamara)

The koi/reflecting pond acts as both the entry "foyer" to the garden and a linkage between the house and garage. The pond compliments and reflects the simple, spare architecture. (Photo: Jeff McNamara)

A winter view of the detached garage reveals the delicate silhouette and shadow of the Japanese maples juxtaposed with the strong patterns cast by the recessed doors and light fixtures. (Photo: Bruce Eckerson)

The swimming pool is located at the highest level of the garden and is a simple rectangle framed by a "fence" of espaliered apple trees to the left and the stainless steel railing to the right. Its shallow end defines one side of the outdoor living room. The topiary garden and outdoor shower are conveniently located to the left of the terrace. (Photo: Jeff McNamara)

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Connecticut Country House, Westport, Connecticut
Wesley Stout Associates, New Canaan, Connecticut

"What a harmonious and inviting place to live. The design details and craftsmanship of the execution are extraordinary. Even the pattern of the stonework is engaging."

— 2007 Professional Awards Jury Comments

Project Statement

Simple, subtle, sublime, and silent were the guiding principles identified by the clients to shape the design process. Conceived as a blend between traditional and modern design aesthetics this “Shaker Modern” home and garden is deeply rooted in the Connecticut venacular with a nod toward contemporary spareness and simplicity. A restrained palette of building materials and plants are used in a consistent manner throughout the garden rooms to create a seamless composition of exterior spaces.

Project Narrative

Upon our first meeting the well-worn 1920’s colonial on an exposed site revealed nothing particularly unique, but the opportunities and challenges of the owner’s program were apparent:

  • Create a unique setting for the house of two highly successful designers with two active, growing boys and their friends
  • A significant increase in the house footprint plus the addition of a new three-bay detached garage
  • An aggressive site improvement program ranging from active living and play spaces to quiet contemplative rooms, all on a difficult, ascending one-acre property
  • Develop and incorporate a restrained materials palette
  • Create privacy from the road and adjacent properties

Immediately intrigued by the owner’s significant collection of mid-century modern furniture to be displayed within the colonial vernacular house, we seized the exciting possibility of creating a landscape with a contemporary “skin” over traditional “bones.” The Shaker aesthetic emerged as the appropriate thematic approach to the program as it embodies a pared down design vocabulary to bridge the classic garden structure of Russell Page with the geometry and contemporary spatial qualities of Dan Kiley – both of whom the clients admired. The design solution was to create a traditional New England public face as a counterpoint to a series of modern private spaces that unfold into each other and interlock with the interior rooms of the first and second floors of the house.

Entering through the garden gate, the outdoor “foyer” contains a long, narrow Koi pond that silently reflects the pure geometry of the house and garage. This room unfolds onto the Dining Court, which is the central outdoor space with a dining table under the canopy of four linden trees and flanked by a 20 foot long weeping water wall. The cantilevered granite stair anchors the corner of the court and ascends the nine-foot grade change up to the pool, play lawn, and outdoor living room. The outdoor living room is nestled in the corner of the house framed by the master bedroom suite and the exercise room. With direct access out from both rooms, the outdoor living room is an extension of these interior spaces. A large outdoor fireplace anchors the space and provides a focal point for intimate gatherings on cool evenings.

To visually reinforce the interconnection of outdoor spaces, granite was specified to be the paving and wall material throughout the property. A reclaimed granite wall steps back as it retains the slope complimenting the stepped massing of the house. From the garden gate to the water wall, it is the spine that unifies the spaces as both a backdrop and a focal point. Newly quarried and fabricated granite was used for paving, wall and pool copings, lawn steps, and stairs. The contrast between the granites creates a subtle yet dynamic relationship between similar materials consistent with the overall design theme.

In a similar fashion, the wooden fence and gate located between the house and garage was designed with crisp, clean, sawn top and bottom edges to contrast against the sides that were left natural with the curvature and bark of the tree intact. Each board had to be selected and arranged so that the fence and gate were compliant with swimming pool codes.

A stainless steel handrail/guardrail was designed to minimize the visual impact of this 70-foot long safety barrier located between the pool and dining court below. As a counterpoint to this highly refined steel structure a “fence” of horizontally trained espaliered orchard trees was planted on the opposite side of the swimming pool and parallel to the steel railing. From certain vantage points the two “railings” overlap to create a sublime relationship between the natural and man-made.

Privacy on the exposed property was achieved with a combination of Norway spruce, fastigiate white pine, hemlock, and holly. Boxwood in various forms was used to reinforce the structure of the spaces and provide a contrasting clipped edge to the soft beds of hydrangeas and ferns. Flowering plants were kept to a minimum. Colorful perennial borders and cutting gardens were considered inappropriate and at odds with the concept of silence. As such the palette of flowering plants was limited to blue and white including hydrangeas and the “Diana” variety of the Rose of Sharon.

Plantings, details, materials, and spaces were continuously conceptualized, assessed, discussed, and refined against the overall design aesthetic of “Shaker Modern.” The close collaboration with the client throughout the project led to a harmonious and highly personalized place. Like a beautiful piece of Shaker furniture, the outdoor spaces are joined and finished in a simple, functional way that reveals an elegant unified vision.

Project Resources

Project Team:
Lead Designer and Project Manager:
Bruce G. Eckerson, ASLA
Principal: Wesley Stout, ASLA

Beinfield Architecture, P.C., South Norwalk, CT, Jonathon Wagner AIA, Weston, CT

Stone supplier:
O & G Industries, Bridgeport, CT
Getty Granite, Salem, CT

Landscape Contractor:
Young’s Nurseries, Wilton, CT


Fencing contractor:
Westchester Fences and Iron Works, Port Chester, NY

General Contractor:
Schmeideck Construction, Weston, CT

Landscape Maintenance:
Kuzco Tree & Lawn Care, LLC



The cantilevered stair anchors one corner of the dining court. The ten-foot slabs of solid granite cantilever out five feet from the supporting retaining wall. The stainless steel and teak handrail ascends the stair as a virtually transparent barrier for the pool and terraces. (Photo: Jeff McNamara)

The outdoor living room is an intimate, family space adjacent to the pool and directly accessible from the master bedroom suite and the exercise studio "ell". The focus of the space is the large outdoor fireplace with a surround of reclaimed granite curbing. The neutral colored and comfortable furniture can be arranged to enjoy the fire on a fall evening or oriented to the pool to enjoy the sun. (Photo: Jeff McNamara)

The topiary garden was designed as a transitional space from the pool area to the outdoor shower. The various boxwood topiaries are interspersed between randomly spaced granite pavers to create a whimsical tapestry of shapes and spaces. (Photo: Jeff McNamara)

Nestled in the corner of the topiary garden the outdoor shower is anchored to a piece of reclaimed granite curbstone set vertically at the junction of two retaining walls. The floor is comprised of a single slab of stone, which has been notched on the diagonal to direct water to the central drain. Polished Amethysts surround the floor stone to complement the shower's calming effect. (Photo: Jeff McNamara)

Inspired by the outdoor cafes of Europe, the dining court is the central space in the composition of outdoor rooms. Four lindens frame the terrace and provide a continuous canopy overhead. (Photo: Jeff McNamara)

Custom designed and fabricated out of stainless steel and teak, the handrail/guardrail is a highly elegant yet transparent safety barrier that acts as a sleek ribbon that merges the upper and lower levels of the garden. (Photo: Jeff McNamara)

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