During the photo shoot for the story on the Danieli garden in East Hampton, which appears in the April 2010 issue of Garden Design, designer Eric Groft, principal with landscape architecture firm Oehme, van Sweden, took us inside the home for a peek out the windows. It was a whole new way to look at his design. Each window framed views of the garden like paintings. Here Eric shares some of his thoughts about seeing a landscape through the eyes of the house.
Q: You've told me that you were very conscious of the views out the windows of the Danieli house when you designed the garden. What is your process for keeping the views in mind? Is this a common practice for all your projects?
A: It’s the responsibility of each landscape architect to understand where they are on a project and know the architecture, the house in this case, in and out! As Frank Lloyd Wright taught, it must work from the inside out and the outside in! It is a given at Oehme, van Sweden that every window is a painting of the garden outside. A thorough tour of the house and even taking pictures out the windows on the first site visit are essential.
Q: Have you needed to adjust designs to accommodate and enhance window views on any projects?
A: When laying out the garden it is key to run inside and look out to compose the view and make sure you are not blocking something beyond. Then again it may be important to block a neighbor or view of the garbage as well so sitting in the room inside and looking out is also important.
Q: Do you find that most homeowners actually haven't considered the views out when thinking about creating a garden?
A: The homeowners usually never think of the views unless there is something like a water view that they will obsess about. The homeowners are usually to focused on window treatment...I despise drapes, why block the view of the garden.
Q: Do you do different things for windows in different rooms? Like bedroom windows versus living room windows. When people have asked for my general advice about having a garden, I always ask them which windows they look through most often (sometimes the one over the kitchen sink is a biggie!).
A: Size of window and where the window is also play a role. Bedroom windows facing east should be full of sunlight and there should not be any trees blocking, but a tree can give wanted shade from the beastly afternoon setting sun.
Q: What are some key factors for homeowners and designers to keep in mind to optimize window views?
A: First, ask yourself — what do you want to see? There is a big difference between framing a distant view and blocking a view of your neighbor’s generator.
Q: Do you ever find yourself also caught up in the interior design?
A: I have had my fair share of matching the garden with the wallpaper and this is a particular challenge because real colors in nature are not the same as artificial colors on paper or fabric inside, viewed in artificial light. The main thing is not to clash. Going green, with textural variation, is a safe approach.
Q: Have any homeowners redecorated so that their rooms look better with the garden?
A: Yes. I have even had clients put additions on their kitchens and master bedrooms once they have seen the views of the garden.