The kitchen may be the heart of the home, but outdoor space is the lung, the place to breathe. Life on the front porch is making a comeback, design in the backyard is breaking the rules. Homeowners are cozying up under pergolas and out on balconies overlooking skylines. This is life without walls.
“Nature is not a place to visit. It is home,” wrote the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Gary Snyder. A 16th-century villa in Florence, Italy, embodies the point of view. The eight-bedroom estate is set on ancient hills and counts members of the powerful House of Medici among its former owners. This perfectly preserved residence, a rarity on the property market, features a swimming pool and tennis courts on more than 45 acres of private gardens, parklands, and olive groves. A loggia serves as a kind of jardin d’hiver, or winter garden. It is protected from rough winter winds and extreme summer heat, making it welcoming year-round. Diletta Giorgolo of Italy Sotheby’s International Realty calls it the “most amazing” spot on the estate. “It faces south so you see the sun all day long.” The reaction of visitors to the historic property is one of astonishment, says Giorgolo. “It is almost impossible to find such a vast park in the city.”
Sumptuous outdoor space has skyrocketed to the top of homeowners’ priority lists, where it’s seen as having tremendous value, both as a financial investment and an investment in one’s well-being. Studies show that time spent outdoors has a restorative impact. Even in dense urban areas, microspaces are emerging anywhere there’s some available square footage.
It’s not just about what kind of outdoor space, but how many spaces: entertaining, fitness, pools, mediation, kitchens, outdoor movie theaters, outdoor offices, each as thoughtfully planned as any room inside the home.
The most successful landscape projects are based on context, architecture, and lifestyle, says Mike Albert, principal and landscape architect at Aspen, Colo.-based Design Workshop, a global landscape architecture and land planning firm. His approach is always a holistic one, one that strengthens the ties to the home’s architecture and elevates the experience of the homeowner. “The natural environment is paramount. We spend a great deal of time on site to understand the obvious and subtle factors that would become the drivers of an extraordinary design,” he says. For Albert and his team, that means observing the property at different times of the day and, sometimes, throughout the seasons to determine the best ways of “celebrating what’s there.”
Celebrating what’s there has not always been the preference of homeowners. “Historically it would be common for a client to come in and want to bring a different aesthetic, a little bit of where they come from,” Albert says. “Now they have a much deeper appreciation for the native landscapes.” It’s less about imposing upon and more about restoring the landscape. By reinforcing a sense of place, homeowners are taking on the role of stewardship.
“More than ever, people want to connect with the outdoors physically and visually. It gives them a sense of rejuvenation,” Albert says. “Residential landscapes possess the ability to deepen one’s connection to the land, and that can be a very rewarding feeling to have right now.”
Rancho Santa Fe
Private, luxurious, and unlike any other residence in the region, this phenomenal warm-contemporary architectural masterpiece successfully blends the ambience of a fine modern art gallery with the intimate atmosphere of a genuinely welcoming home. The custom estate occupies a prime hilltop setting at the end of a cul-de-sac in Rancho Santa Fe’s exclusive, guard-gated Fairbanks Ranch and features five bedrooms, five full and five half bathrooms, a casita, a game room, an office/library, a fitness center, a futuristic kitchen, a 14-seat theater, arcade/wine cellar, and an indoor pool. Terraced grounds in concert with a vanishing-edge pool and spa capture magnificent dawn-to-dusk views where seamless grand-scale indoor/outdoor entertaining is enjoyed year-round.