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Most of the property is landscaped naturalistically. Trees dot the lawn leading down to Lake Michigan.
On a large property, the grand views take center stage—especially if those views are of Lake Michigan. A side garden that can’t be seen from inside the house is rarely a top priority. Easily overlooked, such spaces can become little more than passageways to the main event.
But a garden apart can also be a secret oasis, a space with its own distinct style and spirit. That was the hope of one North Shore homeowner who decided to transform a previously neglected portion of her property into a place that would feel special no matter what the season.
“She loves French gardens,” says Douglas Hoerr of Hoerr Schaudt Landscape Architects, who designed the space. “She wanted it to have a magical feeling when she walked in, that dreamy quality you see in a Monet landscape.”
Architectural details such as curved steel arbors and an antique fountain enhance the
garden’s classical look.
Potential challenges included the garden’s irregular shape and its less-than-prime location between the house and the property next door. Visible from the front driveway as well as the backyard pool area, it had to be visually appealing from both ends and provide a smooth transition between those two spaces.
The garden’s separateness turned out to be a plus. “It was designed to be experienced in person,” Hoerr says. “It didn’t have to relate to the rest of the house and the grounds, which gave us the liberty to do something more theatrical.” While most of the broad-lawned property was landscaped naturalistically, the side garden could be more formal, with crisp architectural lines and the feel of a self-contained room.
Running alongside the house, the garden acts as a transition between the backyard pool
area and the front drive.
“We decided early on to make it interesting within that space, almost like a city garden,” Hoerr says. While the client’s wish to use the space for summer entertaining determined the overall layout, the garden’s elegant structure holds up year-round.
To establish a strong identity for the area, Hoerr laid out a central axis, delineated by curved lines of boxwoods. For summer dinner parties, tables are set in circular spaces where the hedges widen; illumination comes from lights in the steel arbors.