Ecology + Design

Defining Outdoor Spaces through Circulation, Custom Masonry & Native Gardens | Cold Spring, NY

On larger properties with multiple dwellings, circulation paths are critical to the experience of the landscape and help define each space. This cabin-style new build in Cold Spring, New York called for a custom masonry design that incorporated the front entrance, garage entrance, guest house entrance, boat house access, lakefront access and a lakefront patio.

Landscape Plan for new natural stone masonry walkways, stairs and foundation plantings.

The existing hardscape consisted of decaying railroad ties.  The landscape and front entrance lacked the grandeur that the beautiful home’s architecture deserved. Given its setting, nestled in a hardwood forest in Cold Spring, with enviable lakeside views, we knew the hardscape had to have a similar rustic, natural feel that accentuated the natural environment.

Bold yet natural front entrance integrates the home with the forest environment.

We designed three custom masonry pathways to the front door: one directly from the driveway, one from the garage, and a stone staircase leading to the lower lawn. Since the property sits on a slope, the staircase enables easy access to the house from the play and entertaining areas below.

Process shot of custom masonry construction, grading the slope and incorporating the boulders.
Finishing touches: dark chocolate mulch and gravel apron at the end of the fieldstone walkway

Custom Masonry: How its Made

To construct the stone staircase, we used large fieldstone steppers (from Prospero Nursery). We graded the slope around the staircase using artfully placed boulders  and engineered soil (from Lawton Adams). Playing with the grade allowed us to expand the front entrance planting bed beyond the basic foundation into a garden that can be travelled through and appreciated daily.

Winding natural stone staircase connects front door to the lower lawn, by way of the native garden.

All of the masonry was constructed as natural stonework and dry-laid. We opt for this installation method because it avoids the use of cement, which has numerous health and environmental implications.

Decorative gravel and river rock border for the shadiest section of the walkway.

The pathway from the garage is shaded on both sides by the home, so we opted for decorative river rock and gravel (from Bedford Gravel) to line the fieldstone walkway.

The garage area included a berm native shrub planting and steppers to connect to the driveway’s height.

When designing the plant palette, we knew we would be drawing from plant communities that naturally exist in our native forests. The gardens needed to be site-appropriate, mostly-native and very low-maintenance – this is a second home for our clients, so minimal maintenance and maximum outdoor enjoyment was paramount. As Jay says, the landscape should transport you to a tranquil solace of quietude which regenerates and restores the body, heart and mind.

This is garden was designed with an emphasis on texture, low-maintenance and ecological benefit.

The resulting plant palette consists of native flowering & fruiting shrubs, low & spreading evergreen shrubs, and our favorite ground cover plants and native ferns.  Climate, weather and seasonal hardiness was factored into the plant selection, as was succession of fruit and flower production, bloom length, pollinator attraction, deer/animal resistance, height, texture and growth pattern, as well as any necessary maintenance protocols. The new gardens ground the home in the landscape and provide essential food and habitat for the local birds, pollinators and woodland wildlife.

Watch a video edit of the front entrance install — masonry, boulder placement, grading, and planting — all in sixty seconds!

Lakeside Patio, Walkways & Staircase

For the lake area, the existing masonry of cement pavers and railroad ties had both seen better days. We removed the old pavers from the patio above the boathouse and replaced them with irregular flagstone to match the front entrance.  A stone staircase winds down to seamlessly connect the second-floor patio to the lower dock. The new masonry melds perfectly with the stone veneer of the boathouse and provides new gathering spaces to enjoy the lake from.

New steps and patio to connect the boathouse to the dock; looks much better with the stone veneer siding!
Just completed fieldstone steps lead from the boathouse toward the lake.
The steps in fall.
Detail shot of the boathouse patio and walkway.
Atop the boathouse, we replaced and refinished the patio with natural fieldstone to match the rest of the property.

Phase Three of this project, to be completed in the spring, will encompass hardscape and gardens around the guest house, connecting this dwelling with the main house. Excited to finish out this project and see the gardens bloom in a few short months! 

Follow along for more updates!

Contact us to schedule your own Ecological Landscape Design consultation. 

Green Jay Landscape Design

Where Design Meets Ecology

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