Unstuffy and Fresh: South Cove Residence, Shelburne, by Wagner Hodgson

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This stately home, situated on 15 acres at the southern end of Shelburne Farms (in Shelburne, VT), is a dignified part of property originally designed by Frederick Law Olmstead for the Vanderbilt / Webb family. A new landscape design, courtesy of Wagner Hodgson Landscape Architecture, brings in softer elements that “unstuff” and relax the surroundings and ambience of the classic home. Notice the quiet dignity of stone and wood in the house structure — and the delicacy of flowering bushes, a bit of “fluff” and romance that instantly lightens the overall spirit. The owners of the home enjoy splendid views of rolling hills to the south and west, culminating in a rugged lakeshore; maintaining this essence was important to the designers as well.

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With a desire for minimalism in the actual landscape, Wagner Hodgson put together a series of outdoor “rooms”: a simple bluestone terrace, bordered by perennials and a low stone wall; a velvety lawn around the pool, with handy loungers on the lawn and an umbrella-shaded table and chairs nearby. Splashes of pink, purple, and white floral color highlight all; large trees (8 to 10 inches in diameter), were brought in to give the garden an established look while keeping intimacy of scale and providing unobtrusive shade. Vast expanses of native grass have simply been allowed to form a meadow, another relaxing answer to the all-too-common sculpted formal gardens seen around older homes. It’s a nice balance: the house retains all its venerable dignity, while its surroundings invite casual, unfettered relaxation.

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