Scott and Linda Stewart would often walk the property they’d bought just south of Meaford, Ontario, imagining the dream home they’d build on the 50 acres overlooking the Beaver Valley. And it wasn’t long before a hill commanding stunning views of the valley presented itself as the perfect location for their country estate.
There was just one problem. The land sloped rapidly away from the side and back of where the 6,500 square-foot house would stand, leaving no suitable location for the outdoor pool and living spaces the Stewarts envisioned. The terrace would need to be created.
Inspired in part by visions of a spectacular outdoor wedding reception for their daughter, Jennifer, the following summer, the couple began to imagine a series of outdoor “rooms” of various sizes and moods – quiet contemplative nooks and grander spaces ideal for gatherings – all framing views of the valley’s splendour below. And they called in Mark Higginson, of Natural Stonescapes in Meaford, to design and bring to life the landscaping they dreamed of.
Construction was already underway on the house, when Mark began working with the Stewarts to design a grand, formal outdoor living space, offering discrete areas tied together by clean lines and native stone and plants.
The swimming pool, bounded by a raised platform and a Zen-inspired waterfall, would anchor the formal lines of the layout with its striking sharp geometry. People would approach the pool from a wide grassy terrace on the lower level, or down a dramatic stone stairway from a raised patio on the main floor level. A second water feature on a higher level would frame the far side of the house and the lawn.
Before work could even begin, Natural Stonescapes needed to construct the raised terrace on which to construct the pool and the lawn. This had to be done well ahead of time, so it would have time to settle before construction began.
“We needed to create a level area almost 40 feet above the grade of the hill,” says Mark, whose landscaping team is expert in challenging hardscapes. “And while it was a man-made terrace, we needed to make it look as natural as possible, as if it had been there forever.”
After the team unloaded 3,000 yards of fill, ringed it with stone retainers, and let it settle over the winter, the terrace had begun to take shape. By spring, Higginson’s landscaping team could get to work on the next phase of the hardscaping.
Salt water in the 20′ x 40′ foot steel and vinyl lined swimming pool is heated by solar panels hidden off to the side of the terrace. And the cantilevered stone coping that defines the pool’s edge merges seamlessly with the surrounding stamped concrete deck.
Above the pool, Natural Stonescapes built a raised patio encased by stone-clad pillars and tempered glass walls. From here, family members and guests can look down at the swimming pool and the valley views beyond or, enticed by the refreshing water below, descend a stairway to the pool deck.
Across the lawn from the pool, another waterfall cascades down from the upper grade over huge slabs of limestone, quarried from the Bruce Peninsula near Wiarton and hauled in on seven flatbeds. “Our goal is to make the landscaping look completely natural,” says Mark. “So we use the same stone you’d find in the surrounding terrain.”
Work was proceeding smoothly and to deadline as wedding day approached. Then a twist. The tent booked for the wedding reception was too large for the area built up for the lawn. Natural Stonescapes would need to enlarge the terrace by about 10 feet. “When you dump a full tandem load of gravel on a space like that, it barely registers,” says Mark. “It just looks a couple of marbles have fallen out. To build out another 10 feet meant another hundred loads.”
But a bride’s perfect wedding was at stake. “There were 15 trucks at the house the Friday before the wedding,” Scott Stewart told Our Homes Magazine. “These guys worked 14-hour days to finish the work. When they left that night, I shook each of their hands.”
The wedding went off without a hitch, and while guests knew the landscaping was newly done, they marvelled when they learned exactly how much the landscape had been transformed; it looked like it had been there forever. “Under an unforgiving deadline, Mark translated our vision into reality,” says Scott.
Plant material supplied and installed by Greentree Emporium, Collingwood