Featured Project: A Functional Tribute to the Land
We were lucky to be contacted by a client who designed their own dream home directly abutting a stunning nature preserve. When the homeowners were considering making some adjustments to their property, maintaining the connection between the home and its natural surroundings was of the utmost importance.
The couple wanted to create a space where they could drink in the beauty of the preserve. But what spurred the project was the need to make functional improvements. There was erosion on a hill sloping away from the house that needed to be addressed. Poor drainage saw rainwater was threatening the driveway and deck access on the side of the house.
As careful thinkers, they came into this project brimming with creative ideas for how to transform the space into something functional and worthy of its surroundings. They called us to help tie the project together and execute it.
Initial ideas were for a 3 or 4 season porch that would provide unmatched views of the surroundings, but with the functional aspects of the project, the dream porch was out of budget and still did not address the eroding hillside.
Not to worry the team at Lotus was able to take inspiration from the couples’ ideas, and together, we developed a stunning space truly worthy of the nature preserve around it.
In landscaping, the importance of water management cannot be overstated. Our first job in the landscape design process was to improve the drainage for the site. Improved drainage protects not just the landscaping, but the home itself. In fact, estimates indicate that water problems are responsible for 85% of home repair expenses in the US annually. To ensure the drainage problems were fixed permanently, Lotus constructed a retaining wall to protect the foundation of the house.
Once we fixed the broken drainage, we moved on to the slope at the side of the house. The hillside was badly eroding, making it another area of concern for the homeowners. Almost immediately, our team of experts saw the eroding hillside not as a problem, but as an opportunity. We fixed some grading issues and then planted the slope with native plants. These served a number of different functions:
- Native plants tied the home and its landscape to the nature preserve. The Ann Arbor area features a diverse and beautiful array of plant life and this was something the Lotus team and the homeowners were excited to celebrate.
- The plants’ root structure protects the integrity of the hillside. Plant roots act as anchors, gripping the earth and making the soil much more resistant to erosion. Native plants are especially good for this because they evolved alongside the native soil.
- Plants on the hillside provided privacy from the neighbors. Look, we love our neighbors. But sometimes, in those quiet moments life affords us all too infrequently, it is nice to have a bit of peace and quiet. While a fence could do the job just as well, a fence isn’t suited to every environment. When your backyard is a nature preserve, you want to feel as connected to the land as possible. Tall native plants add to the feeling of connectedness in a way a fence simply can’t.
The couple had a deck and a walkout patio, but these spaces felt disconnected. Many of the solutions they put forward were attempts to address this separation. Working with our designers, we created a beautiful, tiered walkway that connected the deck and the walkout using modern bluestone from Rock Bottom Stone Supply, right here in Michigan. We added lighting features that would increase the feeling of connectivity between these spaces.
We set out to create a space that would hover between the patio and the deck. This space would make our homeowners feel connected to the nature preserve around them while allowing them to feel creative and comfortable.
To start, we made benches, stairs, and a built-in table. From there we finished with a cedar pergola that would give them shade in the summer months. We ended up making the pergola curved so it would relax into the space and provide a bit of the wow factor. We connected the deck and the walkout and paid homage to the slope and the preserve by installing still more native plants.
All in all, the space completely rejuvenated the couple’s yard. It proved an elegant solution to a number of practical problems and served as a connection between the house and the stunning property onto which the house was built.
At Lotus, we have proven our ability to provide similar solutions for many properties like this, but this one stands out. If for no other reason than to remind us, again and again, that nature and natural beauty are truly worth celebrating.
Designer: Traven Pelletier
Location: Brighton, Mi
Materials: Limestone outcrop, bluestone patio, cedar pergola, all natural stone
Vendors: Rock Bottom Stone supply in Burton, Michigan, Hobart stone in New York is bluestone supplier