2018 Honor Award

Residential Design

Hudson Valley Retreat

Ulster County, New York

Landscape Architect:

Renee Byers Landscape Architect, P.C.


Project Team:

Ruspini Consulting Engineers LLC

About the Project:

The owners of an eclectic 1930’s stone cottage, perched on a quiet, country hillside, desired a swimming pool to complete their weekend sanctuary from the city, but wanted to maintain the property’s charming character and to solve unchecked erosion of a steep slope. The landscape design responds with a cohesive approach that integrates the house with its sloping four-acre site, while preserving specimen trees and opening views to the Catskills. Grading, walls, steps and lawn terraces are designed as timeless and serene gestures that carve out functional spaces for relaxing and engaging with nature. A restrained but lush planting palette references the surrounding natural landscape, and provides the stunning sensory appeal craved by one of the clients, an avid gardener.

A contractor initially informed the owners that due to steep slopes, the only feasible pool location was a flat area of front yard, visible from the road. After realizing the lack of privacy and awkward circulation this solution would trigger, the couple approached the landscape architects for advice.

Following site analysis and grading studies, a plinth was carved for the pool, mid-way between the elevation of the first floor and the walk-out basement family room. Readily accessible from either floor, the site is high enough to capture borrowed mountain scenery, yet low enough to be completely screened from the road. A twelve foot retaining wall holds one side of the lawn terrace encircling the pool, while on the opposite side, a double set of chiseled stone steps, fit snugly into graded banks, lead to the field above. The plinth is situated to allow a striking water reflection of a magnificent old red oak preserved to frame the view. The dynamic grading, along with a drainage infrastructure consisting of French drains, rain gardens and a porous stone underlayment to the lawn, not only creates the ideal house-to-pool linkages, but resolves the flow of formerly unchecked stormwater.

The composition is accented by handsome custom details all designed by the landscape architects, from metal railings, to locust fencing, copper planters, lanterns, and an outdoor shower, while the landscape plantings structure the overall experience. The plantings are conceived as a flowing tapestry that defines outdoor rooms and passages as one moves through the landscape. Specimen trees punctuate exuberant drifts of native and ornamental grasses, perennials and shrubs, including bouteloua, pennisetum, tiarella, veronica, eutrochium and aesculus parviflora. A pair of red maples at the pool’s terminus act as natural umbrellas and bring the woods into the harmonious and functional landscape, now prized by the family.