Almost as soon as she and her husband moved into
their 1876 Newton, Massachusetts, Victorian in 1991,
Laurel Farnsworth had an indoor/outdoor lap pool in
mind for the backyard. Tom Farnsworth’s response was a
droll “I’d rather hire a limo to take you to the Y.”
The backyard became one of those projects they
would do “someday.” As someday stretched into more than a decade, the
best they could say about the nearly quarter acre of open and somewhat
dusty land out the back door was that it was low-maintenance. But every
winter, they fantasized about a garage. In summer, they imagined gardens and, for Laurel, if not a pool, perhaps a pond with trickling water.
But it was only in 2004, when a new neighbor terraced the steep
land behind them, that they finally took action. “We felt exposed,” says
Laurel. “We had lost our sense of privacy.”
They turned to architect Thomas Huth of Huth Architects in
Newton. Huth specializes in residential restoration and had worked
with the couple on their house, including restoring a screened-in porch.
Built by the Rev. Francis Tiffany of the First Unitarian Church in
Newton, the house is one of only a handful of local Stick-style buildings
— named for their flat, sticklike bands and ornamentation — surviving
from that era. “This particular house also had a strong Gothic influence
that was added a bit later,” says Huth. “Lots of arches and quatrefoils.”
Whatever he created in back needed to reflect and honor that.
There was one other challenge. Although the house is located on
an out-of-the-way cul-de-sac, it’s within earshot of the Massachusetts
Turnpike. No problem, said Laurel: Wouldn’t a pond with running
water provide ambient white noise?
Just steps from the house, the three-bay garage Huth designed has
a heated walkway and apron and plenty of storage. The overhead garage
doors are mahogany and crafted to look as if they swing open. Attached
but feeling totally separate is the 12-by-34-foot pavilion, a protected outdoor living area that can comfortably seat 20 for dinner.
“Inserting this building onto this piece of land and making it look
as if they grew together and belong with the house was a piece of trickery,” Huth says, adding that the structure reminds him of an old train
station, “the kind that once dotted suburban lines around here.”
That it’s a pavilion and not a patio is what makes it a success. The
roofline not only provides definition and the privacy the Farnsworths
craved, it also creates a cocoonlike sense of calm and comfort. Not too
tight a cocoon, though — not with a 14-foot 10-inch cathedral cedar
ceiling that glows golden at night in soft light from Arts and Crafts-style
sconces and discreet uplights, not with the breeze that manages to waft
through even on the hottest day, and certainly not with the verdant
plantings that surround it.
Designed by landscape architect Karen Howard of Howard Garden
Designs in West Newton, the naturalistic setting uses existing spruce
trees to provide borders. Howard filled in with plant-
for more ings such as wood aster, rhododendron, and variegated
details, dogwood. Between the house and the pavilion, there’s
resources a lush swath of lawn, large enough for croquet or bad-
minton. Then there’s the pond. Bounded on one side by
boulders that were on the property, at 16 feet by 8 feet, it accommodates
two small waterfalls. As Laurel relaxes in the pavilion, she takes in the
view with a sweep of her hand. “I could sit here all day long,” she says.
“This morning, there was a frog in the pond. The other day, I saw a