At this home in Winnetka, landscape plays the role of art to a photographer and her family who have lived nearly three decades on the site.

Before

After

The house commissioned from architect Larry Booth is itself an exercise in modernist chiaroscuro. Dark zinc trim offsets pale stucco, accentuating the rectangular windows that architect Booth Hansen and Hoerr Schaudt conceived as all-season viewfinders. Whatever tones may wax and wane in nature, these apertures frame poetic contrasts between rational geometry and romantic terrain.

But the property, unusually long and narrow, sits low on the ground, and at the beginning of the design process, the local construction code required excavation for optimal stormwater storage. Hoerr Schaudt churned design gesture from necessity, and a serpentine sunken lawn rimmed by stone walls now meanders through the lot’s deep frontage.

Clustered shrubbery and trees advance and recede among drifts of naturalized bulbs and perennials, animating vistas, screening neighbors, and concealing much of the house from passersby.

The irregular pattern of adjacent public roads enabled Hoerr Schaudt to install two driveways. From spring through fall, the long front drive—an unobtrusive ribbon of gravel and grass—threads its way amid luxuriant plantings. But in winter, to avoid snowplow damage, access switches to the short rear drive. Both routes lead to a U-shaped entry courtyard centered on a two-story glass wall whose gridded panes reveal a helical staircase that parallels the curves outdoors. On the opposite side of the court, the oblique horizontal thrust of roughcut megaliths interrupts precise ashlar pavers, asymmetrically balancing the picture while leaving it open to momentary shifts in hue and texture.