2019 Honor Award

Residential Design

Hillside Haven

Westchester County, NY

Landscape Architect:

Renée Byers Landscape Architect, P.C.


Project Team:

Brett Auerhahn, P.E.

About the Project:

For the new owners of an 1895 house by William Bates in lower Westchester County, NY, it was
love at first sight. The young family quickly realized however, that outside, a nearly 60’ drop
across their rocky half-acre, posed many issues: from safety, to erosion, to no usable space. After
reviewing their landscape architect’s master plan for creating a garden far beyond what they’d
imagined possible, they postponed the house renovation and dove into building the remarkable
garden designed for them. A multi-level sanctuary nestled among bedrock outcrops and mature
trees now encircle the home. A stunning stone fireplace warms the main terrace off the kitchen.
Elegant garden rooms are seamlessly joined with sculptural plant masses wrapping winding

To create multiple destinations along an extremely-pitched hillside, the landscape architect not
only analyzed the slopes, but their relationship to the house as well. Concept diagrams led to
multiple grading studies and cross sections, balancing cut and fill, and squeezing everything into
zoning setbacks and height restrictions. Locations were identified where walls could be erected,
with steps to pierce them, leading to terraces and lawn panels.
The goal in planting design was to enhance the existing naturalistic neighborhood environment
with a landscaped edge of fastigiate white pines, red maples, dogwoods and fern-leaf beech,
and at the same time, to ensure privacy and hold slopes. To address shallow soils, walls and
boulders were utilized to create pockets for large root balls. The landscape architect worked
closely with the contractors on staging—long wooden ramps were constructed to lower large
trees down 20’ drops since crane placement was impossible. Trees had to go in before certain
walls, otherwise access would be cut off. Every wheelbarrow full of soil and stone was carted in
by hand.

To extend the indoor living space outdoors, a generous main terrace, with dining and seating
areas adjacent to a rustic outdoor fireplace, was created. It forms a sweeping overlook to
borrowed scenery, and to the gardens below. Most of the walls serve dual purposes—the
fireplace wall separates the terrace from the driveway court on its opposite side. The walls
supporting the main terrace are open to below, creating a covered play space. The entire
composition is knitted together by stone staircases. The landscape architect was present daily
to mark out the shape and location of each wall and hand-chiseled stair slab, and to determine
how each field-selected boulder would be used to mimic outcrops. Despite the massive
construction effort, the final result appears unforced, and predestined.