Plucked from the Past
Homeowner takes a look back as she plans for the future
Thick stone walls, a massive fireplace and a rafter beam ceiling open to the sky define the space of this “Farmhouse ruin” situated on one corner of this restful lakefront property. The Ruin, as it’s called, was artfully designed to look like the remains of an ancient, tumbled-down stone farmhouse. It is actually a modern creation fully engineered, elegantly designed and perfectly set up for relaxing while enveloped in a sense of history.
Brian Schatz, of Schatz Landscape Design, worked with the homeowner to create a complete property design for her new home. In addition to handling practical issues such as site design, low maintenance plantings, dealing with invasive species and the like, she had a very specific request. “She showed me a picture she had pulled out of a magazine and asked me if I could do something like it,” Schatz says.
A design for the times
The Ruin features blue-stone flagstone floors and quartzite stone walls on two sides with a large stone fireplace as the focal point. Stone columns, slightly irregular so as to appear tumbled with age, help define the open walls. Instead of a roof, thick cedar rafters open to the sky delineating the space. Eventually, lush wisteria vines will scramble over the top adding a sense of permanence to the site.
Unique furnishings and accessories, mostly chosen by the homeowner, show exquisite attention to detail including a stone sink with copper piping and an old style faucet highlighting one corner. Antique Spanish doors painted a faded blue that the owner had found while traveling create a beautiful entry point with a whiff of the exotic. An antique, hand carved, wooden window lattice further adds a sense of history.
Running along one side of the property, a meandering dry creek visually separates the ruin from the rest of the property with accessibility via a small Ipe wood bridge on one side and large stepping stones set “midstream” at one end. While the creek bed is only a true watercourse during heavy rainstorms, it serves two functions: physically, it channels water away from the home and back to the lake and visually, it creates a lovely, meandering streambed that draws the eye down to the Ruin and the lake beyond. Rain chains, an attractive alternative to gutters, hang from the corners of the home to funnel water off the roof and down to the creek bed.
At peace with nature
The homeowner says she wanted to create a more natural setting on her property, which is Schatz’s specialty and passion. Within this property, low maintenance planting and meandering paths encourage guests to wander, never knowing when a fun sculpture or interesting accent piece will grab their attention. The tall cut off trunk of a dead tree, known as a “snag”, was left in place near the Ruin as a habitat and food source for the local wildlife. A potted herb garden with a drip irrigation system is sited close to the kitchen and a butterfly garden is centrally located in a full sun location.
Elsewhere on the property, a large grove of invasive Melaleuca trees was removed and replaced with indigenous plantings. While it was initially traumatic to lose the privacy screening these trees provided, both designer and client knew these were not an eco-friendly choice. Now that the replacement grove of Florida native wetland trees and shrubs has grown in, the space abounds with small birds flitting from tree to tree. Nearby, a small grouping of citrus trees, carefully chosen from disease resistant stock has been planted.
This property is a marvelous combination of practical, low maintenance planting with innovative design, fun artistic elements and a dramatic, eye-catching feature. The result, as the homeowner says, “is delightful.”
Landscape design: Brian Schatz, Schatz Landscape Design; Stonework: Randy Nelson, Nelson Stoneworks; Masonry and core fireplace construction: Satch Bradley, Masonry by Satch; Cedar beam trusses and Ipe bridge: Tim Hanzelka and Terry Redman, Redman Wood Products; Landscape and dry creek installation: Scott J. Gainforth, Inc.; Landscape irrigation: Chris Swanborn, Swan Sprinkler Systems; Lighting: Robert van der Putten, Outdoor Lighting Perspectives Clearwater