By Jason Jayne
A family in Caledon, Ont., recently built its dream home. There were many reasons why everyone loved this location, such as the daily sightings of deer in the adjacent farmers fields that terminated in the local foothills. However, as the dust from construction settled, they realized despite their view, they could clearly hear the echo of the major highway just over a kilometre away. This reverberated through the landscape and woke the family up during the night when the bedroom windows were kept open for fresh air.
Additionally, although the bulldozer operator accomplished positive drainage away from the structure during construction, it created a handicap for a landscape designer left with an uninteresting canvas. The clients agreed the prevailing winds not only carried the road noise to their backyard, but was also an issue for living in that space. The family also wanted numerous recreational and entertaining features to fit with the family’s active lifestyle. The design team came up with a plan addressing all of these criterion to create a private oasis designed to encourage human connections. A natural feel was a given in this rural setting.
This new home towered three stories above people when walking out of the lower ground-level exit. This is a fairly common problem with new homes as the builder and, subsequently, homeowners rarely think about how it will connect with the outdoors at this stage. Gently curving flagstone walkways were created in and around mature white pines and spruce trees that were installed with tree spades. These 4.6-m (15-ft) trees instantly brought the house down in its scale to a more human level, making it not so imposing.
Extensive modification to the existing grades further served to ‘sink’ the home into the landscape—an important technique often underused in the industry. Large berms were constructed off either corner of the rear property to start creating a cozy backyard setting that now has defined limits in connection with the sprawling property and views. Further definition was made by extending these berms in a curved fashion around to the far side of the pool, terminating at the newly installed cedar pool cabana complete with a wet bar. This accomplished the comforting feeling of enclosure the clients craved in the now ‘contained’ backyard recreation area.
Installing upward of 40 full-size evergreens on different levels of this extensive berming heightened the feeling of depth of field and created a multilevel environment. This established a notable measure of protection as the prevailing winds are now deflected above the living spaces on the leeward side of this open country area. The trees also helped to absorb the road noise and create an amphitheater effect for the water feature. Additionally, they create snow drop zones before it reaches the driveway and home and helps define the open lawns. Extensive turf need not be totally eliminated in a landscape, but must be balanced with all the other elements as there is still the desire for grass underfoot.