This home, a Mediterranean-inspired villa built in 1923, stood close to a major road on a scant acre. Most of the backyard had been given over to play-hardy turf and a smattering of mature trees, symmetrical clipped evergreens, and rectangular dahlia beds.
Though it housed a lovely garden, the property was quite traditional, and everything assumed a basic square shape. Termed boring by the clients, they communicated to Hoerr Schaudt that they didn’t want a single straight line or any kind of tiresome formality. Our team obliged.
Though we may have banished the T-square from the drawing board, we did not forsake geometric order. The entire scheme centers on a circular lawn, a focal point akin to a Jens Jensen council ring in a forest clearing. The landscape was to come right up to the house, and in that spirit, concave stairs were designed to radiate off the lawn and rise, amphitheater style, toward a south-facing, glassed-in loggia where the owners enjoy sitting year-round, looking out.
Plants growing through the steps’ gravel treads bring the garden even closer and merge with gravel walkways that offer a choice of hidden destinations. Even in winter, conifers work to mask outer walls and fences, visually stretching boundaries to borrow glimpses of neighbors’ treetops. An implicit logic governs everything underfoot. Flagstones pave areas that, unlike the gravel surfaces here, are shoveled clear of snow. Gravel’s civilized tone seems out of place in the woods, where bark feels more at home, so rather than have different materials run together messily, native stepping-stones mark a neat divide. The wife, an artist who sculpts and paints in her backyard studio, often accompanied Hoerr on trips to Wisconsin quarries to select each weathered rock. Some now provide rustic pedestals for her bronzes, such as the pond-side frog, Ballet Dreamer.