Garden Variety

Nature inspires, in everything from jewelry to decor.

As humans, we have always had a strong connection with the great outdoors, but that connection deepened around the turn of the last century, when Americans started to have more leisure time. Our appreciation for outdoor pursuits pervaded the culture and touched every aspect of design from home gardens to jewelry, even to the types of vacations and activities we indulged in. We visited Belle Haven, a garden by James Doyle Design, and juxtaposed it with an historic collection of nature-inspired jewelry by Van Cleef & Arpels, and classic designs by Sutherland.

By Van Cleef & Arpels, The emerald and diamond necklace and bracelet set—commissioned by Prince Karim Aga Khan IV for his wife in 1971—boasts yellow gold, diamonds, and 477.58 carats of stunning Colombian emeralds.
The Spin Bench, designed by Christophe Delcourt for Sutherland, features curvature informed by Japanese gardens

Belle Haven by James Doyle Design Associates. We first renovated this property back in 2000 and were delighted to be called upon once again to re-envision the landscape for a new architectural program. What we’d learned from our previous interactions with these clients was that they possessed a deep nostalgia and appreciation for their property. Because selling the place was the last thing they wanted, we were determined to collaborate with the architect and interior designer to come up with a plan that would fulfill the evolving needs of this growing family.

Bringing a fresh vision to an old plan comes with its own set of challenges. But with each challenge comes a unique solution. And as compelling as the original landscape and architecture were, the property needed an update that would better serve the clients’ contemporary lifestyle.

For our part, most of the design planning was focused on the rear exterior of the house, where the family does most of their entertaining. Quality materials were key from the start, and we drew inspiration from the architect’s allegiance to indoor/outdoor living. However, the small narrow space in question presented a design challenge, due much in part to the site’s grade changes. Instead of leveling the entire area, we chose instead to embrace the site’s uneven grade, building long terrace beds that helped maximize usable space and add visual interest. Choice materials and accents added flair: a blazing Japanese maple and a mass of sedum, planted in the upper and lower levels of a custom zinc planter, offer vibrant seasonal color.

The family likes to hang out in the living room and dining room, which look out to the patio and views of the landscape. Floor-to-ceiling windows let in light and the garden becomes an extension of the indoor spaces. To help coalesce the internal and external spaces, we conceptualized designs for two distinctive water features. The first, a low minimalist structure with a granite plinth and fountain bubblers, was installed outside the dining room window. When the fountain is on, the homeowners can enjoy the calming sound and sight of water flowing over the slab and beyond the infinity edge. For the other feature, we repurposed an existing stone wall to create a waterfall for the terrace’s terminus. We did this by cutting three niches into the stone and outfitting the central niche with a scupper that feeds the flow into the rill and down into a basin. The waterfall looks serene surrounded by cubed linden trees and warm-toned grasses whilst the sheared boxwood hedges help anchor the scheme. A custom firepit and additional seating create still another intimate space at the far end of the terrace. The owners have told us that these informal areas are their favorite places to come and relax, and we are thrilled.

On the same main terrace level, furnishings serve to define additional entertaining areas and colorful flowers add pizzazz to the neutral palette of the fabrics, giving this patio a fresh and relaxed vibe. Cubed linden trees, underplanted with low boxwood hedges and herbaceous perennials, offer shade from the hot sun and allow the family to enjoy this fragrant refuge even in high summer.

Broad lawn steps lead from the terrace down to an open lawn area that’s ideal for outdoor games and recreation. Through collaboration and innovative design thinking, we seized an opportunity to create a totally integrated landscape haven that relates to the other existing spaces on the property, one that the family will enjoy for years to come.