Article by Michelle Heslop. Photos by Jody Beck.
Nestled between the sea and a tidal creek, at less than 1500-square-feet, a modern dwelling makes a small footprint for a semi-retired couple. Gravel on one side of the lot and a pile of clay on the other, the homeowners were eager to design a sustainable landscape that would blend with the home’s natural surroundings and incorporate raw materials to complement their home. With sensitivity to the surrounding ecosystem at the fore of the design brief, the couple credit Bianca Bodley from Biophilia Collective for the complete landscape design/build.
“Our vision for the landscape included sea grasses and other plants that would not only thrive in the environment but would mimic the feel of the two shores,” says the homeowner. Minimal maintenance with no automated watering requirement (other than to establish the plants) and a separate area with containment for their two large dogs were special requests from the owners.
The couple met Bodley through a mutual friend and were familiar with the work Biophilia had done on a church conversion landscape in Fernwood. After sharing their design vision with Bodley, “we knew when we saw her initial sketches that we had the right people and basically let them carry the ball.”
With no strict budget in place, the couple was rarely on location during the entire project. “We had to just let go and trust Bodley and her team. We certainly have no regrets on the process, finished product or cost; we are very happy with the results,” states the owner.
Bodley’s intention with the design was to pay homage to the owner’s love of clean modern lines and include raw elements like metal and concrete to echo the organic feel of their home. To keep the dogs out of the garden, the couple requested that there be an area for them to run and that they use gravel on the paths for permeability.
Faced with this complex and sensitive environment, Bodley’s approach was to let the architecture and environment be the major driver in the design process. “To enhance the architecturally distinct aluminum cladding on the home’s exterior, raw steel and corrugated aluminium were my obvious choices for the metal elements in the landscape,” states Bodley.
Plants had to be thoughtfully selected in order to survive annual flooding from the estuary that runs along the entire property and releases into the ocean.
“For sustainability sake, drought tolerant native grasses, succulents, bamboo and a variety of maple fulfill the client’s request for minimal maintenance. An abundance of flowering plants invite bird and bee populations to visit from the neighbouring estuary. Discrete drip line irrigation was installed to support the initial growth of the plants until they were ready to survive on their own.”
The Japanese maple against the front of the house was a thoughtful addition to temper the cool feel of the aluminum cladding. “After being uprooted during construction, the hardy maple survived for almost two years in a pile of soil before it was relocated as a major feature in the garden,” says the owner.
The future site of an outdoor dining set or a fireplace lounge area, Bodley built a seven-inch raised raw steel platform in a geometric shape to mimic the contours of the home’s linear form.
Garnering accolades from neighbours, the fencing was built by a welder using raw steel mesh and two-inch square tubing. “Blending seamlessly with the raw elements of the garden, the effect is a transparent view of the garden and the ocean while still providing an illusory division of space,” states Bodley.
Modern in shape, the blue/grey tones of the rectangular bluestone pavers reflect the hues of the oceanside setting as well as the aluminum cladding on the home’s exterior. For the couple, the piece de resistance is the strategically placed lighting to enhance the outdoor space for use at night. Highlighting both plants and metal features in the landscape, the low-voltage lights bring the garden to life when the sun goes down.
Softening the home’s symmetry, the lush landscape will continue to moderate the home’s modernity as it matures. “The landscaping very much complements and enhances our home. From the comments of passersby, we get at least as many compliments on the landscaping as the home. It is no surprise that Biophilia’s landscape design work not only piqued the interest of our general contractor, Tidman Construction, but several neighbours as well. I think we can say the results are generally a “like.”