Evoking a rural countryside in a Denver neighborhood.
It seemingly appears off the pages of a fairy tale book. A charming stone farmhouse sits surrounded by carpets of lush, green grass and highlighted by a meandering, cascading brook flanked by large rustic boulders and colorful wildflowers. As the sun sets, the stone of the farmhouse glows in the dusk, the windows peek in on warm amber interiors, and the quietly babbling stream reflects the pale lavender of the evening twilight.
It’s nearly impossible to believe this idyllic country setting was once a vacant, double lot. Yet this past September, at the ELEVATE conference of the National Association of Landscape Architects (NALP), this Belgian-modern farmhouse property located outside Denver earned a Gold Award in Residential Design/Build for Designs By Sundown.
The Design Goals
The client wanted the landscape to be a fitting complement to the architecture of the home, blending the interior, covered spaces and outdoor spaces into one cohesive composition. From the East coast, the client also prioritized taking elements they loved—and knew they would miss from their previous home—and add them as enhancements in their new landscape.
Lush and formal spaces to entertain friends and family should be filled with character and personality, yet without an overwhelming amount of amenities or hardscapes. The clients were drawn to the lot for its feeling of an expansive, natural country setting and wanted to retain that atmosphere. As a result, adding the sounds, sights, and tranquility of a naturalistic water feature, running the entirety of the property, was another client request.
The grading and drainage of the vacant double lot proved to be the largest challenge for Designs By Sundown. Variance approval through the city was required to join the two lots and move the retention pond to a more desirable area. Yet these major changes also provided an opportunity to improve existing conditions. The drainage was poor, and the soil needed heavy amendment. “We hauled in and amended the property with 70,000 square feet of compost,” said Project Manager Carl Montegna.
Established, existing trees were also moved for better visual interest for the client. “We had to bring in a 120″ spade to relocate fifteen mature trees,” said Montegna. Additional trees, ranging in size from 10′ to 25′ were hand-selected from a nursery and then driven one at a time from Colorado Springs to the site. The size of the larger trees became a challenge in project sequencing since the landscape construction was happening simultaneously with the home being built. As a result, the trees were installed with very careful planning throughout the construction process, rather than all at once. It also became a priority to place repurposed wood chips on the root zones of the remaining trees to minimize soil compaction during home construction. The interior motor court, with newly poured concrete, also limited machinery access so much of the property ended up planted by hand. The location of shrubs and perennials were tweaked to meet client ideals.
Another challenge was a last-minute decision to add more length to the water feature—making it over 100’ in length. The materials for the various patios, walls, covered areas, and driveway were painstakingly selected from multiple sources since they needed to compliment the materials selected by the builder and used on the house and outdoor fireplace. While the construction team took extra care in cutting and installation to ensure as little waste as possible, these materials ended up being shipped from all parts of the county to accommodate the needs of the project.
In the final outcome, a design was achieved marrying both rural and modern influences to seamlessly blend the landscape with the home’s architecture. Large, custom planters made from the same stone as the house tie everything together. Multiple patio areas provide opportunities for intimate gatherings or large entertainment areas. Engineered walls along the east side of the home offer privacy and enhance the view, while a wooden fence framing the south side of the house provides a practical dog run.
The water feature afforded the client her desire for a seemingly natural stream in her backyard, while also serving as a sound barrier to outside noise. Running between the main house and the entertainment space, the stream creates a clear distinction of spaces brought together by natural, rustic bridges crafted from large boulders. The client wanted to be able to enjoy and engage in the entire property and this streamside haven allows just that.
Hommel is the director of marketing and business development with Designs By Sundown, based in Denver, CO. For over 35 years, DBS has been creating amazing outdoor landscapes and is a leader in the Colorado landscape architecture, construction, and maintenance industry.