Saturday, November 19, 2011

Garden State Home Renovation

The dreaded ivy vine is toast!  Home Renovation starts

It's not all together unreasonable that as a garden designer I should think about the garden renovation first.

Our Garden State country house is presently undergoing a home renovation.
And while this is not the "Garden Glamour" look you may be accustomed to here--not so pretty, I am going to share the process -- uglies and all.

As everyone who's lived through the experience of a home renovation knows, it's a roller coaster of a ride.

I'll refrain from too much commentary and focus on images, plans for the home design, and garden design, including my plans for a green, "designed" driveway.

I'll share the shopping frustrations, selection of kitchen and dining and bathroom fixtures and design.
The selection of marble for the kitchen counter and island is a comedy of errors unto itself.

Fingers crossed. Hope and dreams are still floating...

Before/Old entrance. Conifer was moved to garden client
The 1960's entrance worked for the former owners -- and us (for a time)  I think it was the Nor'Easter of 2011 that ripped the screen door off!

The problem here is obvious looks-wise.
The other problems included having guests walk up the driveway to the twisty-turney steps.
Decorative pots and plants were baked in the southwest exposure.
Too much paving in the driveway.

Good news: the front lawn is accessorized with a spectacular Kwanzan cherry tree.  Sakura blossoms abound in the spring!  pink snow!

I will preserve that magnificent work of art.
We will thin out in the spring in deference to our neighbors -- and the tree.

The arbor I designed with a tunnel of coral bark maple, Acer palmatum 'Sango Kaku,' sided by the cultivar Lady in Red Hydrangeas, hydrangea macrophylla and Knock Out Rose, and fronted with deciduous red twigged dogwoods, cornus alba 'Elegantissima.'  The coral bark leaves are bright light green in spring, golden in fall which blends so elegantly with the deep purple foliage of the hydragea leaves.
All the red bark looks brilliant contrasting with the white snow-- like rubies glistening against ermine.

and with red cardinals accessorizing the borrowed landscape, it's a "Look Book" moment, in a season that most don't look at enough...

wheel barrow now fronts the arbor...
I designed the arbor as a romantic way to get to the back yard.
I don't think most homeowners think of an easy, dedicated, designed way to access the yard.

"Design" is usually the contractor's foundation plants and lawn...

I wanted a transition. A sense of moving from one place -- the street -- into another world.
view of marina below us and NYC skyline beyond
Plus, the drama of the heart-stopping view is enhanced by the framing of the view and stepping out onto center stage: a viewing platform for what my husband calls "24 hours of baywatch!"

Gotham's skyline twinkles at night like a tennis bracelet

And here are a few images of the start of construction:
Coral Bark, rose, hydrangea arbor in anticipation, with screen safeguarding plants. For the first phase!

before front, Kwanzan keeping watch over masons installing new porch


Front walk will be slate and brick. Access from driveway will be lower, closer to front/street area with 2-3 step elevation. Walkway will divide in front of Kwanzan with one side leading over to a new herb garden fronting the new dining room.

Driveway will be straightened. Front garden bed removed.
The shower mirror looking back on it's former home
outdoor shower not so spa-like anymore

Garden ornaments in temporary digs patiently survey the chaos
added covered porch off dining room, facing view. This is where the Japanese soaking tub and massage and yoga will be (besides just sitting). Miles of Sunbrella fabric will sumptiously drape the garden room
relocated conifers from front garden beds seem to have survived their move
The roses too, seem happy enough bedding down for the winter in the farm

Flirting with their new neighbors the rose, the pepper plants are still pushing out little gems
And I had the outdoor "comfort facility placed in a garden-like setting :)

First framing of conservatory dining room

The old roof shingles were removed yesterday, with more than a few floating down in the wind like papery birds of prey.  

Stay tuned!


  1. I smiled when you spoke of removing the ivy. We had this big shady patch on the side of the house with ivy, ivy, ivy. We finally attempted to remove it, stuck with it and now it's one of our favorite spots in the garden, filled with unusual ferns and hostas, hydrangea and ginger. Happiness!

  2. we laugh in our family -- my father and I I do like ivy, my husband and mother--not so much! I think ivy that is maintained is great, and has a perfect place in good garden design. We inherited this ivy and it was more than a bit aggressive: sneaking through windows and in and among the siding and under the roof. It took a lot of pruning to show it who was boss! On the plus side, it kept that part of the house cool and was home to some lovely bird's nests :) (At the botanic garden where I worked, we'd caution homeowners to keep ivy pruned so rodents/critters wouldn't settle in.)
    At our home, when I saw that menacing tangle of evil ivy, I had to snap a shot as a death certificate proof to make my husband smile :) If I understand you left the ivy in the patch and filled it with the hostas, hydrangea and ginger? Is that right? It does indeed sound blissful. Send a happy inspirational picture? Thanks Annie!

  3. You have a nice ocean view at your house.

  4. The renovations look like they are going really well you are so brave, but i guess when you have your vision to work towards you must follow your dream.

    I have just been doing my garden and installing a fountain feature and it feels like that is a big project.

  5. thank you for your comment, Indoor Water Feature. I sooo agree with what you say about being brave. I must write more about the courage it takes to survive an enterprise project like this! :) I appreciate your input and do agree with you. When you have a vision, you can follow your dream. We always knew we wanted to make the house as open and seemingly transparent between garden rooms and indoor rooms. It's been a dream to have a dining room in what is essentially a garden room. We are in week 3 months of phase one. Lot's of changes... Tell us about your fountain feature? I see your web site here:

  6. And thank you Home Builder Wellesley. I welcome your expertise. I looked you up and appreciate your attention to detail and budget and managing. Any tips you want to offer? I have so many to share now that we are in the last third of home renovation. Relatively unscaved but I agree with Indoor Water Feature - it does take bravery worthy of Braveheart!
    we do indeed have a great view. Thank youo for noticing. It is what drives the garden and home design. amazing views of NYC skyline and Sandy Hook bay. We are so lucky to live in such a beautiful part of the world. God Bless Mother Nature. Love your web site --