May 2011

Seaside Reverie

Cape Cod Home  /  Early Summer 2011 / , ,

Writer: Andrea McHugh / Photographer: Eric Roth 

Landscape architect Greg Lombardi creates an environment for a busy family to “celebrate simple moments living by the sea.”

Landscape architect Greg Lombardi

The home’s back patio and lawn allow for a tranquil escape with a view. Photo by Eric Roth

Renowned landscape architect Greg Lombardi was asked to create an elegant, yet natural-looking design to complement the renovation of a mid-Cape home for homeowners seeking a coastal retreat by the sea. Right from the beginning of the project, Lombardi took into account the homeowner’s desire for a tranquil refuge from complicated metropolitan lives, one that would allow the owners to relax in understated comfort, making the most of Cape Cod’s natural glory. “The clients wanted to engage in Cape Cod’s abundant nature, celebrating simple moments living by the sea,” says Lombardi.

“The homeowners were very specific in their request for a vacation home that embodied a Cape Cod energy and lifestyle, very different from their year-round home,” Lombardi goes on to explain. “This meant a level of casual elegance where a certain simplicity, function and an appreciation of this unique place in the world trumped any overly formal or ‘too done’ interpretation.” Lombardi’s firm, founded in 1992, maintains a Chatham office locally, in addition to having offices in Cambridge, MA, and Palm Beach, Florida.

The landscape architect explains that listening well is always the first step in a sensitive, well-informed landscape design approach. He says there is a certain aptitude required to truly hearing how each client wants to live in a space, which ultimately is a reflection of how each client sees themselves in the world. Many homeowners look for their living spaces to make a statement; to be eye-catching, bold, or perhaps to reflect a desire for status or success. In this case, Lombardi’s clients looked to create a subtle, low-key retreat. “It is their statement,” he says, but in this case a refreshingly quiet one. Our team of professional technicians is prepared to come to your location, wherever you are, and provide top of the line locksmith services for all your security needs found a 24 hour locksmith near me on

mid-Cape home

The garden overflows from the front beds of the house, greeting guests as they walk up the path. Photo by Eric Roth

The first major challenge, as is the case in many waterfront renovations, was to address the ecological sensitivity of terrain. Not only is the land a valuable coastal habitat, explains Lombardi, but it is also in a potential seasonal floodplain zone. “Both of these considerations required a well-thought solution that meshed our client’s desires with the specific constraints posed by the site,” says Lombardi, who has a masters degree in landscape architecture from Harvard.

This meant working within wetland and waterways restrictions to protect the environment and create a flexible “base plan,” allowing for inevitable adjustments that need to be made. “It’s always a much longer, much more involved process,” than people typically think, Lombardi notes.

The next task was to create an overall landscape design that complemented the homeowners’ lifestyle. “It was an orchestration of spaces,” Lombardi explains, noting that he always choreographs myriad areas—pools, spas, terraces, outdoor kitchens and entertaining areas, herb or meditation gardens, dog runs—in an effort to create a comfortable, cohesive, yet aesthetically pleasing environment.

Explaining his design process, Lombardi says that when he brings a completed landscape design to the homeowner, it is like observing a person taking a Rorschach test. Part of the process is to study what each client sees in the plan compared to what they envisioned, and then evaluating how they see themselves living in the proposed areas. “We almost act as the translator,” says the designer. “What is the story we are trying to tell with the landscape? What is its identity?” Lombardi blends the homeowners’ input after reviewing the plan with a maintenance plan, taking into consideration environmental protection considerations.

extraordinary Cape Cod home

A white picket fence separates the garden of this home from the road, which leads to the beach a short walk away. Photo by Eric Roth

This extraordinary Cape Cod home by the sea was no different. “Fortunately we were able to achieve a delicate balance and arrive at a very gentle solution that fit the overall aesthetic goals set by our clients,” says Lombardi.

The architect explains that taking the landscape to the next level was really about working with Mother Nature. The team removed some existing shrubs and greens to allow the site to shine, which Lombardi says ultimately allowed the homeowners to develop a simple program for daily life and recreational enjoyment. “This also meant interpreting a very traditional Cape garden palette, relying on the many different types of hydrangeas, daylilies, boxwood, daisies, and climbing roses in conjunction with flowering perennials,” says Lombardi.

Given that a majority of the site is within a flood zone, Lombardi also had to integrate easy-care and salt-proof varieties of indigenous beach grasses and shrubs including Amelanchiers, blueberry, Arborvitae, and Viburnums into the property’s plantings. All are low maintenance, hardy plants perfect for challenging seaside conditions. “In all, the project looks like it evolved in that location over time,” says the architect, “eschewng pretense in favor of a natural delight in understatement and quality.”

Today, the landscape—a quiet, beautiful seaside escape—is lovingly maintained by Parterre Garden Services, Lombardi’s garden care and property management firm, ensuring that a unique coastal refuge thrives for years to come.

To contact Greg Lombardi, go to:

Andrea McHugh is a freelance writer and a gardener who lives in Newport, Rhode Island.

Andrea McHugh