COURTER-HODGSON RESIDENCE

Architect: Guy Peterson OFA  I  Photography: Greg Wilson

Sarasota, FL

Located on a small island overlooking Big Pass on Sarasota Bay, the landscape architect was commissioned to create serene garden spaces that reflected the modern architecture of the home, was low maintenance, required little water and created privacy from the street with open to views of the pass for a minimal budget of $40,000. A strong collaboration with the owner and the architect resulted in a well-organized, sustainable garden that met all program requirements and was a clear extension of the established architectural vocabulary.

The challenge to create privacy and block unsightly street views was met with an entry drive and motor court design where large silver bismarkia palms cast welcome shade and shadow onto the shell-topped hardscape while diminishing undesirable views to the street beyond.  The palms are arranged in a grove of eight to articulate the architectural grid of the house and, combined with a silver buttonwood hedge, create privacy at the pedestrian and second floor levels.

Guests enter the residence through a gate leading to a walled courtyard for added privacy and a glimpse of the water beyond.  A shell-topped concrete walkway with an undulating edge of Mexican beach pebble encourages one to contemplate the tidal activities of Big Pass visible in the distance. Originally conceived as a water element, it was transformed to Mexican beach pebble as a solution to budget constraints. The walk passes the door of the residence and leads visitors over a reflecting pool via floating steps under the “belly” of the home to the pool deck where the bay water and Big Pass are in full view. In addition to the water element, this passageway features a bed of native limestone at the base of the accent walls. The aggregate complements the silver blue and orange colors of the walls while adding to serene sensation of this shaded space.

Adjacent to the entry walk within the courtyard, three curved coconut palms create visual interest by adding to the fluid movement created by the undulating edge. The large palms also cast shade and shadow on the surrounding surfaces, reducing solar gain by providing micro-climate modification for the southern exposed entry walk, foyer and eyebrow window for the office above. A linear arrangement of stepping-stones emanates from the large courtyard wall.  Inspired by a vertical slot and the square volume at the base of the wall, the stepping stones pass through a rectangular massing of succulent aptenia with three small bottle palms carefully placed for visual interest within the composition. The linear massing of foxtail fern runs along the inside of the seven foot tall privacy wall while carefully placed sabal palms step in and out of the composition on both sides of the wall.

The pool area planting is spare and minimal with a focus on simple elements and, of course, the bay view.  A thirty-foot tall, curved coconut palm projects over the pool providing contrast to the angles of the modern architecture and creates a feeling of tropical retreat.  Shadows created by the palm fronds dance on the pool waters providing visual interest on the ground level.  From the living space above, the large palm adds interest to the expansive water views beyond by day and setting a dreamy mood with low-voltage lighting at night.

The northwest border parallel to the garage is designed with the sole intention of creating privacy for the owners and buffering the adjacent property. The modern residence cantilevers over the gravel yard to within ten feet of the property line.  Several species of plants existing on property were relocated here to minimize the expense of new large plants while the royal palms, visible from the kitchen window, allow borrowed views since they are actually on the adjacent property.