SPRUCING UP: LANDSCAPE BUILT AMID THE TREES
Lifescape Associates’ $250,000 landscaping project at Polo Club home wins grand prize
Hermann Hesse, the Nobel Prizewinning author, called trees “the most penetrating of preachers.” When the owners of property in Denver’s Polo Club neighborhood scraped an existing house to build their dream home, the trees on the lot dictated the design.
Architect Don Ruggles of Ruggles Mabe Studio, in Uptown, sited the Santa Barbara-inspired house to accommodate mature trees.
And the designers at Denver-based Lifescape Associates rose to the challenge of saving spruces 50 feet tall and an even larger old elm while delivering the landscape their clients wanted. The project was completed in 2014; Lifescape recently won a 2016 National Grand Prize from the National Association of Landscape Professionals for their design.
“This is a stately old neighborhood, and part of keeping its history alive is keeping these trees alive,” said Troy Shimp, a senior designer for Lifescape. “We painstakingly took care of these big trees to help them survive.”
Mature trees support esthetical and environmental interests and also increase property value. On this site, spruces provide privacy. The elm adds a living canopy to a courtyard. And, as Shimp noted, trees offer wildlife habitat.
To save the trees, Lifescape carefully assessed and protected root systems. The firm engineered a permeable, heated-paver driveway that allows for air and water circulation for tree roots. Large dry wells were added to protect the flat lot in the event of a 100-year flood. They installed curvilinear paths and square-cut flagstones set into checkerboard walkways in the lawn. Their understated, textural gardens of boxwoods, yews, white rose bushes and hostas accent classical architecture.
As for the interior, “These clients had a sense of humor and a sense of style,” said interior designer Eric Mandil of Denver’s Mandil Inc. “They allowed us to make some eccentric statements.”
“We wanted this house to feel like a renovation rather than a new build. Our goal was to make this feel like one of the original houses in the Polo Club of the ’30s and ’40s,” Mandil said. “Everything has a patina of an older era.”
Built by Montare Builders, the residence’s style draws from Tuscany and Santa Barbara, yet also feels grounded in the Mile High City.
“Denver has its own authentic vibe, environment and history. We celebrate that. There should be a legacy,” Mandil said.
Local color comes from his- toric columns purchased from an architectural salvage shop.
“We reconstituted the capitals from a Jacques Benedict’s bank building. We used them in the design and made them into table bases on the patio and in the garden. We’re curating and for all perpetuity saving this architecture and reincorporating it,” Mandil said.
Additional architectural details prevent the new construction from cookie-cutter predictability.
“The carved stone arches with their own patterns: It’s like jewelry on the house. That detail normally gets cut due to expense,” Mandil said.
The exterior’s gold and buff limestone with a red-tile roof sets the textural and color palettes for landscaping details. The design team selected antique pots and other time-worn appointments that lend a lived-in quality to outdoor spaces.
“It’s not intimidating or pulled too tight,” Mandil said. “We balanced masculine and feminine.”
An outdoor fireplace adds the element of fire. Water is introduced from a handsome wall fountain rimmed with repurposed tiles salvaged from a 1930s Florida estate.
“The inner courtyard fountain can be seen out of every window on the side of the home,” Shimp said.
Sight lines from interior to exterior are important for the homeowners, who don’t actually spend a lot of time outdoors.
“We zippered the inside and outside together so it’s visually stimulating. It looks a little like Paris when you look out at the antique faux bois furniture,” Mandil said. “These are romantic pockets. Even if you’re not in the space, you can imagine yourself in it — like mini-stage sets.”
Lifescape Associates recently won a 2016 National Grand Prize from the National Association of Landscape Professionals for their design work at a home in Denver’s Polo Club neighborhood. “This is a stately old neighborhood, and part of keeping its history alive is keeping these trees alive,” said Troy Shimp, a senior designer for Lifescape.
The Santa Barbara-inspired home in Denver’s Polo Club neighborhood was designed to maintain existing trees.
Lifescape Associates installed curvilinear paths and square-cut flagstones set into checkerboard walkways in the lawn. Photos by Ron Ruscio, provided by Lifescape Associates Inc.
The exterior’s gold and buff limestone with a red tile roof sets the textural and color palettes for landscaping details.
Water is introduced from a handsome wall fountain rimmed with repurposed tiles salvaged from a 1930s Florida estate.