It was an unseasonably cool but gloriously sunny day when my Instagram friend, John Howard, drove me up the driveway to one of his favorite projects that was built ten years ago.
The owner of the house charmingly describes her property as within an “English hamlet enclave” situated in the middle of Atlanta’s noted Northwest residential area. The choice of stone, unusual for this part of Atlanta, is refreshing, inspired by her years in Charlottesville. It is this Virginia precedent that prompted the specific mandate to architect Norman Askins and landscape architect John Howard…create a country house with a city garden.
An enthusiastic gardener, she requested plant material that would serve purposes as diverse as culinary ingredients and floral arrangements for the house. She also echoed a pragmatic sentiment of many who choose to build…wanting everything “to have its place,” which includes more than just large closets and multiple linen drawers. Her outdoor gardening duties also deserved an easy place to be carried out. That is why an envy-inspiring potting shed, used year ‘round for Christmas amaryllis to Easter centerpieces to fall bulbs, is singled out as one of her three favorite outdoor spaces.
John Howard’s gift for creating garden rooms also provided the other two favored outdoor spots…the poolside seating area, complete with John’s custom designed aluminum planters inspired by drawings of early American fruit tree boxes (hence the handles on the side for movability).
And finally, the small garden on a bit of a precipice that looks across to a neighbor’s farm, with its Virginia-inspired manor house and animals strolling in and out of view.
Norman Askins’ gifts as an architect are many, but one in particular is becoming rarer to find — an impeccable appreciation for, and understanding of, scale. Both the house and its counterpart pool house act as bookends for the swimming pool while John’s garden talents soften the hardscape to embrace this centerpiece of the family’s living area. Proportion was indeed key to the visual success of this concise outdoor environment.
Norman and John are both advocates for a subtle but very important design detail…how the house “sits on the land.” Contouring the property and raising the building pad by six feet affords a view of the entire breadth of the house from the street, rising above a hedge that is pruned to accommodate just that sight.
Talk about attention to details…