MAKING A CHALLENGING PROPERTY FAMILY FRIENDLY
This enchanting site with a lesser landscape was brought to life when a young family bought a spec home pre-completion. That’s when Bob Hursthouse, president of Hursthouse Landscape Architects and Contractors in Bolingbrook, Illinois, was brought onboard to identify and address the main issues, such as safety, which was a top priority.
“It’s a lovely house up on a hill, but the front yard was graded very steeply on a fairly busy street. They were very concerned about the drivers and the kids with their balls rolling into the street,” says Hursthouse whose projects always revolve around his clients. “We want to look at the house architecture, but the first thing we look at is the family. It’s about people first and foremost.”
Their goal was to make the quarter-acre lot more livable and more likable starting with the front yard and its steep slope from the home positioned high atop a hill. “They wanted to make the front yard more usable and the architecture to be better sited,” says Hursthouse. The separation from the busy street was created by raising the elevation of the front lawn and retaining the grade with a Pennsylvania fieldstone wall topped with masses of perennials, roses, and ornamental grasses.
A series of stone steps leading from the house also help to create a more level front yard where a ball is less likely to roll into the street. “We changed the perspective with the plantings and a nice foreground,” says Hursthouse. “Instead of having the house looming over the street, there’s a retaining wall and stairs and soft perennials.”
Another key feature of the transformation was a delightful playhouse that the homeowners had custom-built complete with hardwood floors. The playhouse was then sited by Hursthouse who enhanced the exterior by adding plantings to scale for an adorable landscape. “It was so intriguing with a little sidewalk made from sample bricks. It gets a lot of response,” he says.
Written by: Jeanine Matlow
Pictures by: Marian Kraus
Another striking spot on the property involved a garage wall facing the backyard that went from a blank canvas to a major focal point. “We grabbed some detail off the house architecture and added a wall trellis with copper accents that tied together with the white of the house. Clematis and hydrangea surround a small fountain that’s a nice architectural detail with the soft sound of water running,” says Hursthouse.
The landscape architect says he can always count on the home’s architecture to provide endless inspiration, and he stays inspired with visual interest year-round. “You want to capture the views so that they can look out twelve months a year and the landscape will change in season,” he says. “We try to blur the line between inside and out.”
The front landscape features perennial plants with a soft, free-flowing mass that goes right through the winter with a different look, but it still has a nice feel with the craggy stone wall. “It’s very dominant in the wintertime with a lot of strength and texture to hold together for the four seasons,” he says. Evergreens offer privacy while providing additional visual interest year-round.
Hursthouse feels grateful for having the opportunity to work on this multifaceted project and to do so alongside such enthusiastic clients. “We had a great experience together addressing the wants and needs of the family,” he says. “We wanted to give them a fabulous extension of who they are and we did not just settle for the simplest way to solve everything.”
Though Hursthouse admits it’s easier to be matchy-matchy than to completely change the landscape as they did, the results were well worth the effort. Now he says there is a naturalistic style to the plantings that were inspired by the client’s love for England and free-flowing plants and craggy stone that are juxtaposed from the formality of the house, which softens the surroundings.
The homeowners selected a mix of outdoor furniture in metal and wood for the two back patios, which are ideal for entertaining. One patio is intended for dining, while the other is meant for lounging. The seal on the bluestone was meant to hold up to kids and popsicles, says Hursthouse.
“They loved to host other families,” he says about his clients, who have since relocated to another home. “There were kids playing on the swing set, chalk on the sidewalk, and bikes on the drive. It was always a hub of activity.” For him, this was the best part of the process. “Coming back after to see what happens when kids are playing in the playhouse and how people are using the house during a party . . . it’s great seeing how the family enjoys the space,” says Hursthouse. “We build these spaces for people.”