An intrinsic connection and respect for nature defines the East Lake Residence. The property was sited to fully capture and embrace the calming lakeside views, summer sunsets and cool breezes, while respecting and celebrating the tricky hillside drainage patterns present. The goal of this project was to link two adjoining lots on a hillside overlooking a lake. The clients had built two structures, a primary residence on one lot and a guest house on the other. LaGuardia Design Group’s brief was to join the two into a unified whole, while enhancing the environmental integrity of the landscape. The clients enjoy outdoor activities, including swimming in the lake adjoining their landscape, and they were committed to doing their part toward protecting its water quality.

The main obstacle to realizing these goals was a depression running down the border between the two lots that not only visually separated them, but also collected storm runoff. Rather than attempting to eliminate this, the design team decided to make use of and enhance this natural feature. Honoring the hillside drainage requirements, a dry stream bed dotted with grasses, sedges, and iris meanders down the middle of the property, creating a functional solution to runoff, while filtering and slowing contaminants well before entering the lake. One of the developing threats to the quality of the water in the lake is a high level of nitrates, and the clients chose to minimize the use of turf in their landscape to reduce nitrogen runoff from lawn fertilizer. Indeed, the only substantial expanse of turf is immediately around the swimming pool, which was thoughtfully sited and detailed to visually link the sloping site with the lake. This constructed streambed now functions as designed, collecting water during storms, filtering it through vegetation, and eventually releasing it into a band of preserved wetland vegetation bordering the lake.

A local stone slab was reclaimed and placed as a bridge over the stream bed to functionally link the main house and pool area together. The bridge al-lows the family and visitors to engage the stream bed, while also creating separation between the swimming pool and main house.

A native plant palette knits the two conjoined lots together into a lush family compound, containing a main house and guest house with attached garage. Native Shadblow trees planted in a natural grove provide dappled shade overhead, while allowing brief glimpses of the lakeside vista beyond. These trees visually link the properties together, while softening views between the structures. Native shrubs, such as Northern Bayberry, Inkberry, Arrowwood Viburnum and large drifts of Switchgrass, Pennsylvania Sedge and Hay-scented Fern, were utilized to expand the surrounding native ecology onto the site. Furthermore, the native plant pallet requires minimal maintenance and human intervention.

A palate of natural materials was chosen to compliment the landscape and reinforce the sense of place. Wide, rough-sawn cedar planks were chosen for the exterior cladding and were carried out into the landscape on both the perimeter fencing and garden gates. These were purposefully left untreated to let the sun bleach them out to the desirable silvery hue of driftwood. Solid bronze hardware was selected throughout to stand up to the harsh marine environment and to become more beautiful with passing time and use.

An intrinsic connection and respect for nature defines this property. With its native planting list providing shades of green throughout the year, and use of raw natural materials, it truly makes for a serene, low maintenance landscape. By extending this tapestry over the two lots, the planting assisted in unifying the two areas into a single, environmentally healthy, whole.

Architecture offices involved in the design: Robert Young Architecture & Interiors

Project location: Montauk, New York

Design year: 2017

Year Built: 2019



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