Stunning Summer Views 1: Getting Started
This prominent house is well-sited on the largest property in its seaside village. It enjoys breathtaking water views, but the quirks of the setting are that surrounding properties enjoy breathtaking views of this one. The challenge, then, was how to create gracious privacy from all of the neighbors while also capitalizing on the vistas.
- The large shingled house is perched high above the waterfront directly across the road at the foreground.
- The house's foundation is handsome natural stone, which "meatball"-pruned old shrubbery only obscured.
- With the overgrown foundation shrubbery gone, the house's exuberant foundation is revealed. The deep front porch faces directly to the water, but the renovation expanded the kitchen at the back of the house, creating the stepped access you can see at the side. It leads to the most-used outdoor space, a ground-level terrace. Although the terrace offers striking exposure to the water views, inadvertent views to the neighbors are even more startling, no matter that they are actually some distance away.
- The view directly to the water from the front porch is iconic New England. Remarkably, the previous generation of owners had been able to purchase the little waterfront marina, too, ensuring the picture-postcard views.
- Still looking out from the front porch, but now to the right of the little marina to the islands in more open water. The house's vantage high above the water is exceptional.
- Looking at the side of the house opposite the new steps down from the kitchen. The double windows are into the formal dining room. The steepness of the site isn't apparent in this shot, but from the road behind me, let alone the house across the street, direct views into the house's second-story windows are unavoidable. The clump birches are part of many screening solutions; the house is in use only in the summer, when the birches are in leaf.
- Looking out from the side of the front porch, with the little marina out of sight at the left. Directly ahead, a remarkable adjacent house, which is only partially screened in season by the big maple in the far center.
- Looking up at the house from that adjacent property's driveway. The view to the water behind me is clear—but so is the full view from this neighboring property to the picture-window of the new kitchen, and the flanking doors down to the new outdoor space.
- A closer view of the new terrace off of the expanded kitchen. The best views to the water out into the distance are at your left as you descend the steps. If you looked straight ahead, you'd see the large neighboring house. The need was both to screen the house directly in front of you as well as to redirect your view left & outward. Further, notice the right-angled line of—what?—around the near corner. Why were those trees needed?
- Looking across the new terrace at the base of the steps down from the kitchen. The water views are exhilarating.
- Looking directly out from the new terrace to the neighboring property. On the terrace, you are so high above that house that it's like being high on stage, awaiting the applause or boos of the audience in the distance. And yet, the house and whatever's between it and the terrace ARE the head-on view, so while they must be screened, the effect must be, not of hiding anything, but of a display that is thrillingly focal, and not concerned at all with any task so prosaic as providing privacy.
- At the steps down from the new terrace to the wider property. The enormous cultivated area at the bottom of the slope—fifty feet deep to the retaining wall at the back—became the thrilling-but-also-screening focal bed.
- Again on the new terrace, now looking away from the water. All the neighboring properties in view gaze down onto the terrace, whether intentionally or not. The slender verticals are a hedge of young metasequoias, which bring feathery privacy summer into fall, when the property is occupied. They are pruned just once a year.
- Looking directly uphill, across the new terrace. At the left, the steps down to the lawn—and the thrilling focal bed. At the back-center, a huge boxwood fronting yet another high retaining wall. Fortunately, that upper property, which looms over this one, is also the client's.
- Looking directly at the upper-property retaining wall from the uphill side of the client's house: The wall is six feet high at a minimum, and needed a barrier at the top to prevent visitors from falling.
- Looking from atop the retaining wall of the rear parcel, directly into the house's second-floor windows. The old evergreens were multi-trunked, and at huge risk of being toppled onto the house by a hurricane. They were cut down in favor of the comparatively lower, storm-proof birches.
- Looking out from the dining room windows to the near neighbors. The high privet hedge along the road does nothing to screen the across-the-road houses. Instead, the clump birches are full and leafy even in their first year. In a couple of years, they will provide dense screening.