This Walland, Tennessee, house and garden were designed to maximize their Smoky Mountain setting
Coordinate with the Landscape
"The beauty of this land is what attracted the homeowners," says landscape architect Sara Hedstrom Pinnell, who worked on this brand-new Walland, Tennessee, dogtrot-inspired cabin alongside architect Keith Summerour. The duo strove to preserve the site's rugged landscape throughout the construction process so the finished house would fit seamlessly into its natural setting. To minimize tree removal, Summerour took a cue from old country builders of the 1830s. (Without the assistance of machines like backhoes and bulldozers, they would simply situate homes in natural clearings.) Once construction was complete, Pinnell skillfully placed an array of native plants to help the new structure seem even more at ease there.
When specifying materials for the exterior, Summerour chose rough-sawn wood for the siding and had it stained to match the moss-colored bark of the lot's surrounding trees. "These materials aren't meant to make a statement," the architect says. The stone on the house complements what was used on the front steps and the pathway, making them seem like they could have been quarried on-site (though they weren't).
Plant for All Seasons
When designing a home's landscaping, Pinnell prefers to incorporate a variety of specimens to provide color—and rhythm—throughout the year. She typically positions evergreens (such as the boxwoods, laurels, and rhododendrons used here) close to a house to give verdant structure to the yard during the winter months. She introduces autumn hues through perennials such as the chrysanthemums planted on the border of the courtyard (shown at right). Some of her other favorites for fall color include autumn fern, Japanese painted fern, and soapwort. Pinnell bordered the stone steps leading to the front door with David viburnums, fothergillas, and "Delaware Valley White" azaleas.
Fall-blooming anemones, vibrant chrysanthemums, and a redbud tree (just starting to change color) surround the home.
Create the Illusion of Age
To give the impression that this mountain home is older than it really is, Summerour designed a rambling, asymmetrical floor plan. Guests enter through a glassed-in foyer that links the house's main body to a master suite, situated off to one side. He used exterior materials inside the foyer to imply that this connecting space and the master suite were later additions.
Relocate Your Family Room Outdoors
"Porches have started to become the living rooms of today's houses," says Summerour, who advises homeowners to picture these spaces like the best sports bars. For him, that means equipping outdoor living areas with amenities once reserved only for interiors: a fireplace, a dining area, a TV (hidden behind cabinet doors), and a place to relax that's "preferably close to the fireplace," he says.
Summerour recommends opening up porches on three sides to take advantage of natural light and scenic views.
Practice Native Gardening
Pinnell advocates landscaping with as many indigenous plants as possible to avoid damaging the woodland environment. Another plus to native gardening? When the surrounding forest reaches peak autumn color, your yard will too. "East Tennessee's plants always put on a big fall show," says Pinnell, who used local species such as oakleaf hydrangea (shown above), fothergilla, and redbud trees in this design.
Think Loose Rather Than Manicured
Throughout the property, Pinnell supplemented the existing canopy with oak, beech, and hickory trees, but she made sure not to select any specimens that had a straight-from-the-nursery look. "In a forest environment like this, plants need to seem more open," advises Pinnell, who is especially fond of the loose, irregular appearance of oakleaf hydrangeas. Try to situate tidier-looking plants, such as English boxwoods, closer to the front door.