ou could hardly find a more intriguing — or enchanting
— entrance to a vacation retreat than the pine plantation that
greets the visitor to this rambling estate in northern Vermont.
Yet when the owners bought the 75-acre parcel to build a
second home, the forest, planted in the 1940s, was a tangled thicket
of branches and brush. There was talk of cutting it all down, but
landscape designer Cynthia Knauf had something else in mind.
“So often a homeowner cuts everything down to create a big view, but it’s more
interesting if you frame the views,” says Knauf, whose eponymous firm is headquartered in Winooski, Vermont. “When you walk through a house, you have all these
opportunities to set up what you see out the window. So every window you look out,
you see a mix of the man-made landscape and the natural. You get much more of
the feeling of being sheltered.”
It’s like that on this property, which features layer upon layer of outdoor spaces,
some wild, some refined, some social, others intimate, woven together by winding
paths, curved stone walls, and plantings — lots of them native — that invite the
visitor to stop and look. Knauf worked with a local woodsman, who cleared the brush,
culled some trees, and cut the lower branches on many of those that remained. A
forbidding landscape was transformed into a cool and calming oasis.
“This is a really dynamic property because there are so many different environments: the pines, the field, the shady areas, the views,” says Knauf. “The idea was
to be out in the open, but also to have the experience of being nestled in the forest.
site plan Social Spaces
In approaching this hillside property, Cynthia Knauf took
advantage of the natural elevations to create a mix of public
and private gardens, each with its own view, stonework, and
seating. Terraces provide areas for gatherings, while, on the
outer edges of the parcel, several fingers of land overlook
more woods and meadows.