By literally and figuratively pushing the boundaries, a breathtaking property evolves over time.
When Beth Stevens looks out over her spectacular property in New Boston, she sees the culmination of several major renovations she has taken on with her husband, Brian, over the course of three decades.
“The finished property still takes our breath away,” says Beth. “Whether it’s the beautiful gardens, unique relics dispensed throughout and cleverly built into structures, or the amazing 360-degree view around the home, it all brings complete satisfaction and appreciation for the effort put into this project.
“It has just worked together to become the masterpiece that it is, in our opinion,” she says. “Everything exceeded our expectations, since the final orchestrated piece was the ultimate visual prize.”
The most recent addition to that masterpiece—the “last piece of the puzzle,” says Beth—required a coordinated effort by the Stevens and the talented folks at the design-build firm Pellettieri Associates Inc. of Warner, N.H., and MGa Architects of Boston, Mass. After purchasing several adjoining parcels, the Stevens set out to capitalize on the prospects that the larger lot provided. The project started in earnest when the Stevens brought in landscape architects Pellettieri Associates (PAI) to create a master plan.
“I was actively involved in the early stages of the project, opening up many ideas and possibilities (such as) selective tree cutting behind the house to open views,” says George Pellettieri, who founded PAI almost 40 years ago. “They liked the results so much they purchased two properties behind to expand opportunities, including a possible driveway extension to the back of the house where the kitchen and main living areas are located.”
The Stevens had an antique shop in the property’s barn—Tea Stains—with the access driveway set on a steep hill from the main route below. Pellettieri suggested relocating the driveway to reduce the sharp incline and clearing more trees to open views from the house and allow an exit for the new driveway.
“Once clearing got started, they loved the results so much they again purchased adjoining properties on the side road,” says Pellettieri. “That provided an opportunity for us to recommend a whole new entrance—safer, great views, more rural feeling—to their house and shop.” Tea Stains is currently closed pending the Stevens’s decision to reopen or not.
George Pellettieri’s son, Graham, currently president of the firm, agrees, saying the additional parcels, combined with the planned renovation of the Stevens’s farmhouse, “really opened up a world of possibilities” that included expansive views and the driveway relocation.
“It also improved the overall sense of privacy for the property,” says Graham. “Collaborating with the clients and Marcus (Gleysteen of MGa Architects) allowed everyone to share creative ideas, inspire each other to push the boundaries of what was possible, and ultimately deliver a property that marries purpose with style.”
The main Colonial-style home, says Beth, was built in 1991. “Since then, we have completed multiple additions and projects including deconstruction of a very large, old barn from Wilmot, and reconstruction of the original, old post-and-beam structure on our property, which was home for my antique business,” she says.
Roughly 15 years ago, the couple put a large addition on the east side of the main house, which included a new farmhouse-style kitchen. That kitchen location ended up being a major factor in fueling the property’s redesign.
“The new kitchen location now required that we be able to approach and park in the vicinity of it, for practicality, unloading groceries, et cetera,” says Beth. “This need, combined with the idea that I wanted some really special garden features speckled throughout the circumferential area around the house and barn, got us to where we are with the final design.”
An avid gardener, Beth Stevens combined her love of antiques and gardening by peppering statues, sculptures, arbors, fountains and other accent pieces throughout the property, says Graham Pellettieri. “These elements add a great deal of character and depth to the landscape.”
The design team tied together the property’s buildings “in the tradition of New England’s connected farmsteads,” says Robyn B. Gentile of MGa Architects, featuring a dramatic new porte-cochere, a stunning stone garage on the east side of the home.
“Our scope includes the porte-cochère with its adjacent components, a portico over the front door, and a screen porch with a roof deck,” says Robyn. “Each new building component offers a thoughtful transition from the interior of the home to the environment outside. Together, the architectural and landscape work instills the visual harmony and spatial hierarchy needed to feel comfortable in an expansive rural setting.”
Highlights of the finished project, including linear stone walls, the use of reclaimed granite pavers, and the connecting cobblestone “summer drive” leading to the porte-cochère, all help to “ground the house in its property,” says Robyn. “The team also considered views of the mountain to the west and hayfields to the east, from both inside and outside the house.”
In addition, the design team had to deal with “the challenge of having a property that functions as both a home and a small business that customers could come to visit,” says Graham Pellettieri. “This type of blended use requires extra considerations for parking, access, privacy, safety and security. The driveway redesigns, and creation of parking areas for customers to use by the barn, were big components of this.”
Contractors employed different paving materials—asphalt as opposed to gravel—on the main driveway and secondary driveway, respectively, helped to “visually distinguish the areas that were intended for customer use and those areas intended for private use.”
“We are always thinking about access and flow when it comes to landscape design, so we wanted to ensure first-time visitors would know where to park, and which path they would take to get to the entrance of the antiques shop,” says Graham.
The new main entrance of the house “transforms the arrival experience,” says Graham Pellettieri. “The sense of invitation and welcome are clear with blocky granite retaining walls framing a wide terraced walkway with granite steps and Chester stone landings that lead to the improved, formal front entry at the front door.”
“With the strong variety of colorful plantings, including perennials, shrubs, ornamental trees and groundcovers, the arrival experience is a vibrant and rich medley for the senses,” he says.
PAI also preserved many of the mature trees on the property, incorporating them into the overall designs. Meanwhile, smaller plantings—shrubs and perennials—were mostly added new, over time, to fill in the plant beds and bring a natural diversity of species, sizes, colors, textures and smells into the landscape, says Graham.
“Transplanting or replacing a large tree is both challenging and expensive, so whenever there’s an opportunity to utilize and preserve the existing vegetation, we try to work that into the plan,” he says. “When you factor in even just the labor time it takes to dig up, move and replant a shrub, it isn’t always cost-effective. Oftentimes it’s more affordable to acquire new plant material from a nursery and install it fresh.”
Acknowledging Beth Stevens’ love of gardening, designers incorporated a greenhouse with large glass windows as an additional room off of the porte-cochère, says Graham. However, it was placed in a location that was out of sight from the front shop area that customers would use, preserving a sense of privacy.
Another highlight is the Chester stone patio added to the side yard to increase the home’s outdoor living space, with an intriguing granite fire table “that acts as a focal point for gathering,” says Graham. When being used, the gas-powered fire table, designed by PAI’s Dennis Ames, has exposed flames rising through the center channel. When not in use, however, that channel can be covered, transforming the piece into a simple stone coffee table.
The finished product, says Beth Stevens, works so well, inside and out, because “it really is the sum of all the parts.” That was the result of “regular, open, trusted communications be-tween the design team” of PAI and MGa Architects and the Stevens, says George Pellettieri.
“This project has become one of the most well-loved properties that we have had the pleasure of working on over (our) 40 years,” adds Graham Pellettieri. “Our employees loved working at the property during the original design and construction phase, and we still continue the client relationship today by revisiting to do fine gardening services and address ongoing maintenance. Additionally, new clients often remark about how much they enjoyed seeing the photos of it while browsing our portfolio on our website. But we can’t take all the credit for this magical property.
“The impressive design and construction of the porte-cochère, along with the other building renovations and additions, really brings a ‘Wow!’ factor to this property, and Marcus really deserves credit for these fantastic architectural designs,” he says. “In addition, the clients deserve a great deal of credit, because they so deeply care for the details of the property.”
Pellettieri Associates, Inc.