Not A Care...
A Private “Country Club” encourages guests to relax and reflect
We all want our home to be a sanctuary, a place where the world falls away and we can recharge, an environment of peace and solitude. We also want to entertain; to be a center of our personal culture, a place where the notables in our life gather and thrive. However, melding these two functions harmoniously can be difficult. One homeowner in Hunting Valley has hit just the right note, creating a retreat that embraces rest and relaxation, as well as an active lifestyle with friends and family.
From the very first, there is a sense of retreat as you pull up the drive that runs diagonally from the main street. Hunting Valley, indeed the world, simply falls away in a profusion of greenery and flowers. Stepping back from the guest parking and looking down the hill, you could just as easily have traveled through a nature preserve as a busy neighborhood to reach this location nestled in the woods. Spanning nearly 7 acres, the estate boasts the perfect places for quiet contemplation, social gatherings and outdoor recreation. Most impressively, this project has been nearly 30 years in the making, mostly as a collaborative effort with the homeowner and a single landscape contractor.
It all started with the sound of water. About 30 years ago, this Hunting Valley homeowner hired Steve Pattie of The Pattie Group to create a water feature outside her kitchen. This was the beginning of a relationship that has blossomed from the formation of that single place of tranquility and relaxation, to the designing of a complete retreat – actually a resort! Today the estate boasts a lake with sand beach, tennis court, pool, pool house, fire pit, the aforementioned water feature and several cozy nooks for reading a good book or chatting with several friends. There is a reason the grandkids call it “The Country Club.” The inspiration was – simply put – family. “ I wanted to create a place where my children and grandchildren would want to come and bring their friends,” explained the homeowner. Add to that, “I love the look of nature.” Working from these twin desires, landscape designer Pattie has taken her suggestions for improvements and offered his own ideas, always making sure “it is what I love and looks natural.” Year to year the landscaping projects have simply been drawn from the needs of her ever-evolving family life and activities. Although no formal master plan has ever been drawn up, Pattie has ensured each project has tied into the last by utilizing a curvilinear theme throughout the property’s design. Each feature, large or small, is embraced by a curve of luxuriant green and flowering bedding or stone that shelters the area, but never severs it from the whole. There are so many places to absorb guests, and each has a view of the next making it seem very secluded, yet open. Groups from two to fifty feel equally at ease.
A proponent of green design, Pattie has recommended elements to reduce and conserve not just resources, but money and time for the homeowner. “We’ve designed the grounds to be as beautiful year-round as possible, while also keeping down the maintenance. By using a lot of ground-cover, for example, we can reduce the amount of mulching that’s needed,” explained Pattie.
The most impressive technological improvement is the estate’s computerized sprinkler system. Lines and sprinklers are laid in zones with water sensors. The moisture level is analyzed automatically and sprinklers are turned on and off as needed. This eliminates wasteful watering that can occur with timer systems (e.g, during rainstorms). The system is also self-monitoring, able to send reports directly to The Pattie Group’s computer if a sprinkler fails to come on or if zone is too wet due to a leak.
Another green element is the stamped concrete walkway that gently winds from the guest parking and can be found throughout the property. The homeowner had tired of the weeds that constantly worked their way up in between the cracks of the actual stepping-stones originally in place. Pattie recommended replacing it with a stone pattern stamped into slate-tinted concrete that would accent the natural tones of the décor, while eliminating the maintenance.
It is this path that guides visitors through a wooden gate, along the tennis courts, and directly to the pool house on the left. The pool house, designed by local architect Charles Fazio, was added on to the home several years ago to house two separate areas – the changing rooms and a lounge. Here in the changing area, visitors can stow their bags and change outfits for an afternoon of fun and sun. The brightly lit foyer features a curved ceiling lined with a basket weave wallpaper, an organic note repeated in the room’s décor. With spa-like appeal, there are His and Hers bathrooms/changing rooms with built-in storage benches and enough hooks for a crowd of swimmers. Between them, a private shower room opens off the foyer, inviting guests to freshen up after a tough game of tennis before lunch.
Having suited up, visitors round the corner of the pool house, and get their first expansive view of the tiered backyard. Under their feet, the slate walkway transitions to a sand-colored concrete, stamped in a tile pattern edged by more slate stamped “stone.” To the right, past a lush green bed, lies the entryway to the tennis courts. They have arrived at “The Country Club”, where friends and family are regularly entertained. An avid tennis player, the owner hosts regular tournaments during the summer months. This side of the pool house’s white exterior is an upscale twist on the sunroom, framed by columns crowned with a transom-filled arch. The glass doors slide all the way across to literally open the space up to the pool outside. The full-sized catering kitchen is complete with granite countertops, fridge, stove, oven, dishwasher and cabinets stocked with… tennis balls. A glass-topped dining table is the perfect spot to serve lunch and discuss the latest tennis match. The lounge’s seating area is light and airy thanks to the high barrel ceiling, twin to that in the changing rooms, papered in an organic terra cotta basketweave. In working with the interior decorator, the owner strived “to keep it simple… to bring in imagery of being at the water.” The overall effect is clean and elegant. The walls and furniture are all done in earth tones, kept bright by the high gloss white trim and streams of natural light from the floor-length windows. In keeping with her love of nature, all the accessories are organic from the palm leaf fan to the seashells to the water-themed prints.
A statue of a bulldog with a water dish sits guard outside the sliding doors. The homeowner has always had a soft spot for dogs and she placed the figure there in tribute to a beloved pet that has passed on. “Now, I enjoy the ‘grand-dogs’ who come and visit [with the grandchildren]. They go everywhere – in the pool and the pond,” she laughed.
The elegantly arched pool is original to the house, but could grace any exclusive resort. An oval bed of stone and annuals adds a Zen garden note to the curve of water. There is an outdoor dining table and grill poolside. Lounge chairs sit amongst containers filled with bright summer color, while behind them the patio falls away to large boulders, accent shrubs and ground cover, visually separating the space from the lake that glistens just below. Faux stone stairs lead to a circular landing that echoes the larger patio below centered on a large stone fire pit. Pattie built the fire pit with stone quarried in Ohio to mirror the curvilinear design throughout the property. The gas logs with push button starter make creating a warm inviting atmosphere, and maybe a few s’mores, a snap. The space, framed by ornamental grasses and punctuated with a couple of wood-stained Adirondack chairs, is obviously an inviting retreat in the evening.
From there it is only a small step down to more wooden chairs planted in a white sand beach. A low stone retaining wall keeps the sand from mixing with the verdant woods that ring the water. “I expected the children to be at the pool. But it is the lake they are down by and in all the time,” said this involved grandmother. “I wanted them to have a place to be comfortable.” She commissioned Pattie to create these spaces to replace a playground area, which was not utilized once the grandkids grew.
The estate is sure to be a wonderfully romantic place after dusk. The woods around the lake are accented with backlighting, creating the illusion that they go on forever with an otherworldly glow. Then, throughout the estate, the beds all have soft accent lights placed for safety along walkways. Pattie is proud of the lighting effect. “We go up in the trees around the patios about 35 to 40 feet and point the lights through the branches, creating a moonlight effect.” This gives each space its own perfect atmospheric lighting without being too harsh. “The idea is to never see where the light is coming from,” he said.
Nestled between large beds of hostas and accent trees, there is a private walkway from the pool area reminiscent of a private cabin entrance at a beach resort. It leads to the private nook with a café table and cushioned chairs that sit just off the master bedroom. The homeowner requested a secluded spot to relax, “but still wanted to be able to see the kids play in the pool,” explained Pattie. Heading around the house, another entertaining area has grown its own separate personality over the years. The two-tiered waterfall, the first project installed by The Pattie Group nearly three decades ago, is the central element of the design outside the kitchen and dining room. In fact, the home was renovated just to add additional windows to bring more views of the waterfall and surrounding woods inside. “I love the sound of the water. Even late at night, I keep the door open. I don’t have to see it, just hear it,” the homeowner said contentedly.
This two-tiered waterfall is made from Ohio-sourced stone and is generously highlighted with pond plants. It gurgles invitingly, encouraging visitors to sit in quiet contemplation. “In fact, it is my favorite feature of the property,” explained Pattie, who finds he stops to enjoy it when he comes to work. The gravel path winds around the left of the stone feature on an informal nature walk down to the dock on the lake. A boat floats, patiently waiting to take adventurers on a trip around the calm expanse.
The scenery around this Hunting Valley home just begs to be captured in paint. Certainly the story of the estate’s development epitomizes the saying – landscaping is fine art on an ever-evolving canvas. The homeowner agrees, “It’s never finished; there’s always something new to be done.” So what’s next for this unfinished masterpiece? Anything new in this family estate will be calm and peaceful, or perhaps fun and invigorating for the visitor. Either way, the cares of the world are sure to disappear in this lush sanctuary of Mother Nature.
Click here to view article in magazine >
Back to the top >