This Vineyard retreat is so peaceful

Cape Cod Home  /  Autumn 2019 /

Writer: Brenna Collins / Photographer: Gil Jacobs 

An Edgartown Escape

This summer retreat on the Vineyard offers an intricately designed, peaceful outdoor space for a family tied to life on the island

In the age of “staycations”, a home’s outdoor space is a getaway of its own. To step outside of the home is to connect with nature in a personal manner, rooting oneself in the mindfulness of the moment. Feeling the touch of a cool breeze or bearing witness to your flowers’ bloom reminds us that summer’s fleeting days can be relished right on your lawn or patio. For Carol and Alexander Vietor, memories of idyllic summers spent on the Vineyard continue to take shape in both the interior and exterior of their Edgartown home. Embodying the character of an English courtyard garden, the home’s landscape architecture is a stunning sight to behold.

Alexander Vietor’s family began summering in Edgartown during his father’s childhood. As the years went by, the family was fortunate enough to create a family compound on South Water Street. “There were 20 great-grandchildren running around everywhere. It was like a camp,” Carol Vietor fondly reflects about her time at the home. Their traditions of sailing, biking, and walking around town with loved ones prompted the Vietors to continue to call Edgartown their summer home.

In 2008, after years of visiting the compound, the couple bought their own plot of land in town. Beginning with a clean slate, the Vietors were able to dream of their own design of their home and its landscape. “We were building the home with Louise Brooks as our architect. It was a real collaboration. She brought in Gregory Lombardi Design, with offices in Chatham and Cambridge, to help us figure out how to accomplish all of the landscaping that we wanted. We knew we wanted a pool and a pool house. We knew there would have to be some regrading done. We wanted a lawn—we call it ‘The Great Lawn’, even though it can be mowed in about three minutes,” she laughs. 

Gregory Lombardi was the chief landscape architect for the project, turning the Vietors’ vision into a reality. Lombardi is the founder of Gregory Lombardi Design, created in 1992 to design luxurious outdoor spaces tailored to their clients’ style. Lombardi reflects on the cohesive design process with the Vietor family, comparing the activity to a musical collaboration. “It’s the symphony analogy. Not everyone is playing their own sheet music. Everyone is following, but there is someone leading with a bigger idea and you’re all playing your parts to support it. Especially when you’re getting a great team that collaborates like this, you can really explore ideas,” he notes. “These people had been on the island for a long time and they were very much part of the community. They wanted something that had a certain style and elegance that felt like it had been there all along, but they also wanted it imprinted with their individual take on being on the island,” Lombardi comments. 

Given the limited size of the lot and the need for amenities as a family retreat, the design program required immense thought and detail. As the landscape created more privacy, the property’s views were focused more inward, transforming into an English courtyard garden on the Vineyard. “Everything was very tailored, deliberate, and thoughtful. Courtyards are typically like that, where there is not a lot of room for extraneous anything. It is very thoughtful,” Lombardi explains. 

From start to finish, the entire construction of the home and landscaping took one year. Due to the narrow shape of the lot, construction worked from back to front. The pool was built before all else, followed by planting of arborvitae trees for complete privacy, and the natural stone wall which borders the rear exterior of the home. Lush flower beds showcasing a colorful array of pinks, yellows, whites, and blues, are bordered by the stone wall that wraps around the home. The family was careful to specifically choose a summer garden, with everything flourishing in July, August, and into September. To the right of the property, the pool house offers an indoor retreat in the midst of outdoor entertainment. ‘The Great Lawn’, as the Vietors call it, perfectly stretches from the pool to the steps at the back of the home, leading up to the brick and stone patio space. Lombardi believes summer homes should have multiple outdoor gathering areas, allowing family and friends to have their own nooks, yet the ability to reconnect all together.

Outside of the front door, a quadrant of gardens, bordered with stonework and small boxwood, greets visitors at the home’s entrance. A blue and white color scheme enhances the front, with bouffant hydrangeas. Each of the little quadrants are filled with white phlox, lilies, salvia, veronica, a touch of malva, and various blue and white blossoms. An exquisite compass rose crafted from stone and brick lies in the middle of the quadrant, becoming a distinct focal point. Carol Vietor’s keen eye as an interior designer surely heightened the landscape’s detail, as she brought in numerous blue and white planters from China. These pieces can be seen on both sides of the front and back doors, as well as around the backyard, filled with a variety of boxwoods and white hydrangea paniculata. It is this attention to detail that gives the home a personal, individual touch. 

The front courtyard serves various purposes and is designed with a traditional scheme. “We went with the traditional island palette. A lot of very traditional materials found in New England homes are in the gardens where we created the parking areas. We tried to make them look unlike usual parking areas by paving them with brick and including the compass rose. It became more of a courtyard where you would meet and greet people at the street, very much like a neighborly gesture,” Lombardi notes.

When pondering her favorite aspect of the home’s landscape design, it was tough for Carol Vietor to choose just one. “I really love the whole thing; it blends together very nicely. The front is very dynamic with the stone compass rose in the middle and the quadrant of gardens around it. They’re small, but they’re eye-catching. Otherwise it is very easy. The kids love to run in and out to the pool. It’s easy and all very pretty,” Vietor notes. As the landscape architect, Lombardi appreciates the crafted detail in the space. The compass rose, to him, situates viewers in nature, drawing a sense of awareness to your location in the world. Additionally, the property’s drainage feature is banded with brick and granite, finessed as part of the overall design. 

The detail in the landscape design is precise across the entire property, from the stone compass rose in the front, to the impressive pool area, and the bordering stone wall. Such a magnificent space has brought great joy to the family. “I have three daughters and four grandchildren, and they are all up here all summer. We all live happily and quietly in this house together,” Vietor reflects. The lawn space often serves as the backdrop for the grandchildren competing in games such as croquet. 

This Edgartown home serves as a peaceful retreat that draws family together, rooted in the tradition of the village. “For me, when you look at a place, there’s some energy there. There’s some spirit of how it should feel. It’s a matter of teasing it out…of how you can enhance what it has going for it or what it should be,” Gregory Lombardi reflects as he remembers the shared passion for this collaboration with the Vietors. Both Vietor and Lombardi repeatedly note the ease of this collaborative process. Landscaping does not solely transform an outdoor space, but also those who find peace within it. “You have to disconnect to notice things around you. That’s a lot of it with landscape; to take what seems to be obvious and make it not so obvious. You will want to linger; you want to notice little details. The thoughtfulness comes through and then you get a sense of well-being,” Lombardi reflects. For the Vietors, their outdoor space unites family members as they continue creating memories on the island.