This small contemporary garden healed-back a site that had simple program requirements of privacy and use ability. This contemporary home is situated in an established and dense 1920’s neighborhood. This garden is “wedged” between two multi-story traditional homes and required seclusion for the residents to use the interior and exterior spaces without compromising views from above or the side. To address the scope of this private garden, the design uses a grove of 20’ tall bamboo which acts as a beautiful, evergreen privacy screen by blocking the field of vision from the adjacent second story windows of neighboring houses.
The bamboo is planted behind a cast in place concrete wall. This wall defines the terrace and provides a strong foreground, highlighting the vertical culms of the bamboo beyond. This concrete wall contains a “floating” bench constructed of ipe wood and steel cantilevered from the concrete wall. The wall and bench extend out as a main design element tying side terrace to the formal lawn beyond. The lawn steps down through a series of steel retained terraces, creating additional useable space for entertaining or active play. This sculptural use of materials enlarges the functionality of the small space. The eye travels through the space hitting areas of bamboo at different heights and then comes to rest on the long element of the wall and bench. The meticulous jointing of the wall and bench relate directly back to the architectural grid of the house. This attention to detail is elegantly formal with no visible fasteners and aligned joints between contrasting materials.
This contemporary house and garden relate to one another gently through the careful manipulation of architectural elements that are then intentionally “eroded-away” by the introduction of lush plant material. The entry procession is a 4”x8” Hackett cobblestone path, architecturally aligned to the entry tower. The path is invaded by dichondra planted within the joints. This continual patination of the path ties architecture to garden and hardscape to softscape with a soft, ethereal connection. Crushed aggregates provide additional permeable paving, and in the back of the house, grass pavers provide garage access for cars with a velvety texture of grass rather than a concrete drive. Elsewhere, materials such as steel fabricated screens allow for the sense of transparency, while the vertical growth of vines provide the sense of privacy and security.
Much of the garden design originated from studying the views from inside the house with selective use of plant material for screening. The reforestation of the site came through the careful siting of new native overstory and understory trees, and architectural bands of woodland plantings that subtly connect house to street. A clear overstory and understory help “ground” the house and provide a sense of privacy. A long ribbon window creates a slice from which the interior experiences a developing woodland garden beyond, thus eliminating the need for traditional privacy shades indoors. A continually evolving view into nature is created in place of a previously visually static front lawn.
Larchmont | University Park, Texas | Hocker Design Group
Design Firm | Hocker Design Group
Consultants | Buchanan Architecture, Bonick Landscaping, Bob Sullivan
Image Credits | Adolfo Cantu-Villareal