Story of a Landscape: Historic Look Solves Contemporary Problems

Imagine a Tudor revival home in a historic district. Now imagine it has an asphalt driveway that needs to be updated, straightened and structurally improved.

There are only a couple of challenges to address. One is that the driveway is shared with the next-door neighbor. The second is that existing walls, shrubs and trees can’t be moved.

Yes, it could be a challenge, but it’s one that Nature’s Perspective Landscaping of Evanston, Illinois, solved so ably that it recently won a 2016 Hardscape North America Project Award in the Clay Brick Residential category.

Tim Benz, designer for the project, says Nature’s Perspective has had the property as a maintenance client through several different owners, and the company’s owner provided the design for a much-admired set of lily pad steps and a walkway in the informal backyard years ago.

Located directly on Lake Michigan, these properties were lacking adequate safe beach access. In 2012 the neighbors joined together to fund the construction of a new sand beach along the lake. Dozens of large semi-trucks delivered tons of boulders and sand to engineer the new beach. Unfortunately during the construction, the driveway around the main house and leading to one built in 2005 toward the rear of the property was substantially damaged.

Additionally, the two driveway owners wanted to see it widened to improve traffic flow while improving the lighting and drainage.

Benz says perhaps the biggest challenge of the job was simply working with the property lines between the two homes.

“The property line isn’t even in the middle of the driveway,” he says. “The property line has the driveway running across it. We reviewed it in detail, but because we were going to be taking out the driveway and cutting off access to the back house, both owners opted to leave town for the project.”

He says when subsequent issues arose, getting in touch with them in Russia and Montana became much harder.

“Coordinating changes and communication was by far the hardest part,” Benz adds.

The project itself was fairly straightforward. The clients asked for the new driveway to be made of clay pavers with decorative accents to complement the look of the Tudor revival. Benz decided to use Northshore Blend from Whitacre Greer Company as the paver of choice.

It was selected for its fade-proof color and vehicular strength. Benz says he’s particularly proud of the medallions built into the drive to provide visual interest.

“We had at least one tricky spot where it was a challenge to come up with a shape so we wouldn’t have pure red pavers,” he says. “However, that turned out beautifully. The driveway came together very easily.”

As part of the makeover, the grade on the driveway was changed to improve its function, and to prevent cars from scraping the surface as they pulled into a lower-level garage. A custom stainless steel plate was fabricated and welded to the existing channel drain to accommodate the change in grade and still function properly at the base of the driveway.

Additionally, downspouts that were dumping rainwater onto the driveway were redirected to an underground drain tile system, which eliminated drainage issues on the driveway.

To improve and upgrade the area, LED low-voltage landscape lighting was installed on both properties and in ground paver lights were installed along the perimeter of the driveway. The system is completely automated, thus lowering maintenance and customized to maximize its effectiveness while cutting electrical costs.

Identification of the properties was a key factor in the design of the entrance to the driveways. Two pairs of 5-foot mortared brick columns topped with tall lanterns at both the entrance and exit points on the property were installed to establish a cohesive appearance.

Over 8,500 square feet of pavers were installed to accomplish the driveway project.

“In order to accomplish the deadline set forth by our clients we needed all the manpower we could get. We sent four trucks with full crews and they had a really good system, especially on such a busy road,” says Benz. “They knocked that part of the job out rather quickly.”

“We are very proud to win such a prestigious award for this project,” says Benz. Since the completion of the driveway, Nature’s Perspective has continued to work on other areas of the property this season. Recently a 19-foot diameter formal limestone fountain laser-cut by Valders Stone and Marble Inc. was installed in front of the Tudor revival. Many more projects are in the planning phase for next year.

“It’s a beautiful property,” Benz concludes. “I’m really honored to be working on it. It’s made a huge impact with the landscape and the look of the neighborhood.”