Natural Habitat

Comfortable bungalow sits amidst a park-like setting

A large flagstone patio behind the home offers plenty of space for entertaining.

Brian Schatz took on designing the landscape for Roger and Terry Sayyah’s new lakefront home, he knew he wanted to create a design that helped the home settle comfortably into the surrounding landscape. The Sayyahs had expressed that they wanted a look that was easy to maintain, would go well with the low-slung architecture of their home and would enhance the peaceful surroundings. With that in mind, Schatz chose to go with a naturalistic style that helps the home blend comfortably and enhances the natural beauty of the property while addressing some specific site challenges as well.

An arched bridge was built over the dry creek bed along the house.

Establishing a connection

The Sayyahs are longtime residents of this rural area of Northern Hillsborough County. “We had lived less than a mile from here for years and we always thought it would be nice to live on the lake,” Terry says. “We had the opportunity to buy this property but then we sat on it for 6 years before building.”

After much thought and planning, the Sayyahs built a beautiful new bungalow home with spacious grounds leading down to the lakefront. Much of the wooded area leading to the home was left intact creating a natural, park-like setting.

To approach the house, a winding driveway curves through a grove of oaks and native Florida vegetation and circles around a center island of large live oaks. Nestled into the landscape, the home’s gracious horizontal lines and large front porch welcome the arriving guests. The property follows a gentle slope down towards the lake.

Bungalows are known for their grand sloping front roofs and, often elaborate, decorative buttresses. However, these long sloping roofs can create a crushing downpour off the eaves during heavy rains. To avoid marring the look of the home with gutters, Schatz addressed the roof runoff problems as well as drainage issues caused by the slope of the land, by creating deep, dry creek beds that run below the drip line and then lead off to planted drainage areas. Moisture loving irises, purple Taro and other plantings thrive in the area, creating a small microclimate of their own. The deep angles of the roof come together in certain areas forming natural culverts. In these spots metal rain chains channel the water more gently to the drainage streambeds below. “This house is awesome when it rains,” Terry says. “The waterfall off the roof creates a stream and it sounds so beautiful—we have a babbling creek in the yard!”

“There are all sorts of different things going on around the property at different times of year,” Schatz says. Adjacent to the dry creek bed, a large butterfly garden blooms abundantly even in December. Large plantings of Scarlet Milkweed, Scarlet Sage, gold Canna Lilies, Pentas and larval or nectar foods plants abound. “This is the first time I’ve had a butterfly garden,” Terry says. “This spring there were so many butterflies that they would literally run into you! I’m the B&B for butterflies,” she laughs.

The butterfly garden flourishes with a large collection of flowers, including golden canna lilies.

Protecting nature

In keeping with the eco-friendly design of this property, the long plank walkway leading down to the lake is built of recycled materials. A small storage and garden shed tucked alongside offers attractive storage for tools and supplies.

On the other side of the home, a native Coral Bean plant waits for summer when it will burst into bloom attracting bees and hummingbirds. The large grass yard sloping down to the lake was created using a “mixed species turf” which is easy to grow, low maintenance and does not require extra watering. A center island of native long grass and scrub was left as a hiding place for the rabbits that come to nibble. “We knew we wanted a more natural garden. After living in Florida and doing your own garden for 20 years, you realize you want native. And vegetables? Besides lettuce, herbs and arugula…forget it!” Terry exclaims, delighted with the low maintenance aspect of the project.

A spacious flagstone patio with ample seating complements the home’s wide back porch. Much of the existing native trees and vegetation was left in place creating the impression of a house nestled in a lakefront meadow surrounded by mature trees. Tall cypress trees along the edges of the lake punctuate the serene view. “Creating a peaceful place has been my goal ever since we got the house,” Terry says.

Despite being a newly constructed home, this lovely bungalow, with its natural landscape and mature trees, looks like it has been comfortably settled there for years.

To see this article as it appeared in the magazine, please visit our Digital Edition, pages 48-55.

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