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A Lakefront Masterpiece

A Lakefront Masterpiece

From a distance, the home on Lake Michigan’s shore seems as if it could have been transported, stone by stone, from the shores of Normandy. Built in 1929, the grand home has been recently remodeled, inside and out. The previous landscape was overgrown and outdated, and the homeowners enlisted Mariani, led by landscape architects Sara Furlan and Dennis Murphy, to complete the project initiated by another firm. Mariani focused on the backyard—which faces the lake and includes a private beach—and managed installation, which required a great deal of collaboration with interior designers, architects and contractors.

“When working with a distinct architectural period, it is critical the landscape remain consistent,” says Sara Furlan. “In this project we were very strict near the house. As you progress farther away, the details ease into a looser design.” Boxwood, sphere-shaped hedges and terraced stone surfaces about the home’s stone walls, serving as transitional elements between architecture and outdoors. Beyond the terrace is a lawn paneled with stone rows, followed by dense, thicket-like plantings, perennials and trees. Descending in formality, the three levels tame the landscape in a gradual way and bridge the classic home with its surroundings.

The Mariani team created three unique sitting spaces in the rear yard, each with views of the lake. Whereas the original terraces were mere intermediary spaces leading to the yard, three new terraces offer outdoor space for entertaining. The rear terrace, considered by the Mariani team to be the heart of the property, is ideal for large-scale entertaining and outdoor dining. The kitchen terrace features square hedge work, flowers and a café table with chairs for informal breakfasts or quiet reading. A terrace adjacent to the “Moroccan” room extends the exotic flair outdoors for formal gatherings. Selected in coordination with the interior designer, lavish urns and sculptures, including a circa 1900 lion statue, embellish the terraces.

“For most classically-styled structures, and certainly in this circumstance, it’s better to simplify the palette and repeat plants rather than trying to do too much at once,” says Furlan. Mariani kept the significant trees, including blue spruce, linden, oak and juniper, and added screening plants for privacy. Plantings are in keeping with traditional estate choices: viburnum, roses and geraniums.

Mariani exhibited thorough attention to detail to ensure the new hardscape elements matched existing ones. After nearly 80 years of weathering, the home’s stone and mortar ranged among four colors. Dennis Murphy tested 20 different combinations of stone for the terrace, selecting varieties to simulate a patina. “It took a lot of time, but our masons chiseled edges and buffed corners to reduce shine and lend a weathered feel,” says Murphy. “The result is a rich, aged appearance that no one would think is new.”

Upon completion of the project, the homeowners were thrilled with its beauty, functionality and aptness for the home’s style. The end product was a collaborative effort, each team member exhibiting the utmost creativity, readiness to meet challenges and painstaking attention to detail-qualities which are apparent in every Mariani project.

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