In Detroit Lakes, Minnesota, a client wanted to create a family vacation compound that felt like a high-end resort when visiting. Mariani Landscape was asked to include comfortable, yet elegant, living spaces to entertain and relax. The design intent was to draw the family outside into intimate spaces for multigenerational gatherings while taking advantage of the broad, dramatic lake views.
The end results of this project earned Mariani Landscape the prestigious Judges Award, which is selected from the highest scoring Gold Award winners.
“It’s always an honor to be recognized for a lot of hard work and a team of people worked on this project for a long time, so to get acknowledgment for all of that is wonderful, not just for me, but for the whole team,” says Carrie Woleben-Meade, PLA, and design principal for Mariani Landscape.
Fire and water serve as unifying features that connect the landscape elements throughout the property. The front entry bridges a water rill that ends at fire bowls on pillars of cascading water.
In the evening, the swimming pool serves as a striking focal element, paired with a dramatic fire feature along its infinity edge. Other fire features incorporated throughout the site include a traditional wood-burning fire pit, a fireplace on the back terrace and a gas fire pit on the pool terrace.
The design and installation project took four years to complete, as the scope of the project changed over time. The home was also being remodeled at the same time, so the company had to implement problem-solving during construction.
Woleben-Meade says the hardest part of the project was lowering the drive and the approach to the house, as the front door was recessed and under grade.
“To do that, we had to move all of the utilities, electric, gas,” she says. “Everything had to be lowered, along with the driveway in order to accomplish that. So that was really hard to coordinate.”
The highly variable weather required Woleben-Meade to conduct considerable research to ensure all the elements being developed could withstand harsh, cold winters and winds reaching 60 miles per hour.
To combat the strong winds, a glass wall was constructed to shelter one of the main gathering areas. She says the glass wall was something she’d seen on properties on the West Coast.
“The view of the lake is stunning, so we knew we wanted this wide panoramic view of the lake,” she says. “We wanted to figure out how to block some of the west winds so looking at different options, we found the glass panels.”
To further improve the view of the lake, the existing boat dock was moved out of sight. The detached garage was converted into a family room with a terrace to provide a secondary space that can be utilized in different types of weather.
A naturalized plant palette was used to nestle the property into its lakeside location. Plants such as Rudbeckia, Asclepias, Chelone and Allium were installed along with ornamental grasses. Woleben-Meade selected plants that would stabilize the grade changes while providing seasonal interest.
“It’s been a learning process,” she says. “It’s a different zone than Chicago, so it’s more of a zone 3 in that area, versus Chicago’s zone 5. We did a lot of research. We talked to some local nurseries. We did a bunch of due diligence to make sure that we were proposing plants that made sense. But then there’s specific microclimates on this site. We saw which plants were thriving and which ones weren’t, and we made some adjustments along the way too.”
Another challenge on the project was the strict code requirements to prevent overland drainage from entering the lake and watershed. To solve this, Woleben-Meade partnered with the civil engineer to develop a stormwater management program. This included underground storage infiltration tanks, rain gardens, permeable pavers and an underground infiltration area for the site.
“I think sometimes we go to properties and we get tunnel vision by what’s there and sometimes we just have to think bigger,” she says.
View the rest of the 2020 Awards of Excellence winners here. It is never too early to start preparing for next year’s Awards of Excellence – the awards entry process will open in March 2021!