2019 Merit Award

Residential Design

Village Sanctuary

Westchester County, NY

Landscape Architect:

Renee Byers Landscape Architect, P.C.


Project Team:

Hudson Engineering & Consulting, P.C.,
Ruspini Consulting Engineers LLC

About the Project:

Owners of a handsome 1930’s Tudor asked the landscape architect to create more usable outdoor space for their young family. Though an oft-repeated request, the 0.4 acre lot was comprised of mostly steep, rocky terrain—welcome relief from the flat lawns of suburbia, but without space for the desired children’s play lawn and functional entertaining areas. The new garden captures the zeitgeist of the Tudor village-in-the-woods found in this historic town, while adding several transitional motifs to contemporize the composition. Significant grading, drainage, and zoning issues are inventively handled; long-term value for the family is created by arranging requested amenities amongst lush plantings and carefully crafted stonework that flow seamlessly with the land, create privacy and celebrate nature.


The landscape architect was faced with competing challenges on a tight site:

manipulate a 42’ foot grade change, while following strict regulations for wall heights and addressing erosion and drainage issues; preserve and enhance the historic character of the house, but update the garden with transitional design elements that make it feel fresh and new; honor the wild, rocky terrain, but provide the necessities of parking, play areas, outdoor cooking and dining, an inviting entry, and a sense of privacy and retreat.

Existing conditions included a long hillside to the east that fell within feet of the dining room, stopped short by a collapsing wall. The rear yard of the house, where one traditionally finds a “back yard,” measured a narrow twenty to twenty-six feet from the rear façade. Overgrown plantings blocked the front view of the house and a steeply pitched lawn made for a circuitous arrival and inadequate parking.

After numerous grading studies, the unattended hillside was carved out for a progression of wrap-around garden rooms, utilizing walls less than 78” in height, per zoning maximums. The primary retaining wall consists of long, sweeping curves to define the precinct closest to the house on two sides. Nestled between the wall and the house, a seating area is centered on a custom firepit, opposite the newly created dining room door, suggested by the landscape architect. As the retaining wall rounds the corner to the rear, it sweeps down to terminate in an outdoor grill enclosure just off the kitchen. Furniture, fabrics, sconce lighting and planters were selected (and in some cases, designed by) the landscape architect to suit each space. Antique and contemporary garden furnishings mingle with lush, naturalistic plantings and warm stonework for a private escape in balance with the adjacent architecture and rustic woodland surroundings.