One can imagine fairytale forest-dwellers hosting garden parties at this two-acre property where brook meets bay. The cottage, designed by Katherine Hillbrand of SALA Architects, features an undulating roof and primordial-looking boulder walls that recall quirky mid-twentieth-century mushroom houses by Michigan architect Earl Young.

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The existing conditions on the property posed significant challenges. Although the parcel of land had eluded development, a prior owner had cleared large areas of native vegetation. Instead of winding through beautiful native flora, the brook passed lanky rhododendrons, bland lawns, and gravel drives. We promised to create a natural woodland, artful yet wild, that would heal the site, seamlessly blending it with its context to appear as though it had been there all along.

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Skillful insertion of the same tree species cited in an old guidebook created the framework for a plan that incorporated the history of the site, and ensured its natural appearance. Unfazed by demanding shade conditions and wet soils created by the area’s artesian wells, we timed horticultural spectacles of color to coincide with the owner’s time at the property in summer. Finally, we created sinuous walkways that hint at secret destinations like the paths on a storybook treasure map. The experience culminates when each route eventually crosses one of the four custom footbridges that were built over the brook, tirelessly crafted to complement their specific site on the property. The result is a landscape that entices wanderers to pause, listen, and enjoy this ethereal retreat.

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