Respect For Nature Takes Many Forms

Janice Rohlf

Janice Randall Rohlf

I write this as we’re experiencing record-cold temperatures in the Northeast, including an all-time low of minus 108 degrees at the top of Mt. Washington. It is probably safe to say that most of us are not the least bit interested in stepping outdoors, let alone giving any thought to landscaping and gardening, unless, of course, your business is to do just that.

When I talk to architects about the process of building a new house, they are quick to mention the importance of siting. Both an art and a science, siting a home properly on its lot involves major considerations like septic system location, but for the purpose of this conversation, let’s think about siting in its relationship to landscape design. How does the sun move across the lot? From which direction do the prevailing winds blow? The best views? The best location for a driveway? These factors, and many others, influence the compositional layout of a house, but they are also critical in landscape design and architecture.

Landscape designers and architects are so much more than simply gardeners. Just ask George and Graham Pellettieri and Dan Bruzga, featured in this issue along with outdoor living expert Alex Stewart. Pellettieri Associats, Inc. is a well-established family business, so it resonates when George, the dad, says of our featured project in New Boston that it “has become one of the most well-loved properties that we have had the pleasure of working on over [our] 40 years.” Together with MGa Architects and the homeowners, PAI’s initiatives yielded a property that marries purpose with style.

At the steep lakeside property that landscape architect Dan Bruzga redesigned by incorporating thoughtful updates, his clients wanted an easier-to-navigate way to get from the house to the lake than the existing stairs provided. As often happens, one thing led to another and by the end of the project, in addition to creating a new curving pathway, Bruzga had changed the driveway material, redesigned the house’s front entrance, built a lakeview patio and a stone wall, and planted perennial blooms and ornamental grasses. Without razing the 1980s-era house, the clients got a whole new place to live.

The makeover, Bruzga says, was in part an opportunity for adaptive reuse. Such was one of the goals when Kaplan Thompson Architects took on what principal Jesse Thompson calls a “restrained renovation” of a farmhouse in the small town of Freedom that underwent a deep energy retrofit to improve its carbon footprint. The heritage and visual
characteristics of the original home were preserved while adding 21st-century energy-efficient elements to both it and a brand-new 1,600-square-foot addition.

For Karina and Ben Kelley, too, energy efficiency was a key factor in the decision to build a new house. Yankee Barn Homes’ use of prefabricated panels with insulation made from recycled materials appealed to the couple, who feel as strongly about protecting the environment as they do about supporting artists like Don Williams, who lives not far from them in Deerfield. Besides a hometown, the Kelleys and Williams share a deep respect for the natural world, which, says Williams, has always inspired him and fueled his creativity.

When the temperature outside recalibrates to normal for this time of year, think about your own backyard. And if you’re inspired to do any planting, consider using native plants so as not to disrupt the local ecosystem. As “Garden Rx” writer Robin Sweetser says , “The best way to support local fauna is to plant local flora.”