A couple who owned three unkempt acres in Oakton asked landscape architect Katia Goffin to transform their disordered property into a clean-lined, modern landscape. “They wanted contemporary style with very strong geometry,” Goffin says. “But they also wanted it to feel like a haven out in the country.”
A modern addition to the farmhouse-style home was in progress, so Goffin collaborated with the architect and builder to create a seamless whole. The addition—encompassing a garage clad in bluestone veneer with a cedar-and-glass master suite above it—houses a new, glassed-in front entry.
The owners wished to turn the former front of the house into a garden, “so we reorganized the way the house and traffic flowed around the property to accommodate that,” Goffin explains. She relocated the driveway from the front of the house to the side—where the new entry is—and devised a fresh approach through custom-designed, cedar-and-stainless-steel gates. The driveway courtyard of poured concrete is scored in a geometric pattern, and a wide bluestone path extends from it through the house and out to the backyard—creating flow between indoors and out.
The property is now divided into two garden areas. In the back, Goffin updated the existing pool and its surroundings, adding an ipe deck with a limestone water feature at its far end.
An outdoor kitchen is tucked into a niche beside the house and a square expanse of lawn provides space to pitch a tent for entertaining. A thermal bluestone patio and steps, pea-gravel paths and rows of boxwood punctuated with linden trees create order and symmetry. Beyond the garden, a rolling expanse of lawn forms a bucolic vista.
Located in the former front yard, the side garden is accessible from the house via what was a traditional front door—now replaced by a wide, industrial-chic glass door of Goffin’s design that complements both the older wing of the house and the contemporary landscape. “The front yard was empty, like a prairie,” Goffin recounts. “I created a sense of geometry with boxwoods and retaining walls.”
A smaller limestone fountain at the far end of the garden lies on a direct axis with the door; bluestone steppers lead to it over swaths of grass and pea gravel. Parallel to the fountain, Goffin planted an allée of conical boxwood and American hornbeam beside a pea-gravel path—one of many on this property. “I create paths to encourage clients to explore their garden, to give destination points and to set up views,” she explains.
Such a neat, orderly landscape requires some upkeep—though, says Goffin, not as much as a garden heavy on beds full of perennials and flowers would demand. “Everything should be trimmed two or three times a year to retain its shape and scale,” Goffin advises. “The landscape is like a beautiful puzzle where everything fits. The key is that it has to feel like it’s always been there.”
Landscape Architecture: Katia Goffin, ASLA; Kameron Aroom, CLA, Goffin Gardens, McLean, Virginia. Architecture: Stefan Schwarzkopf, AIA, NCARB, Allied8, Seattle, Washington. Contractor & Landscape Installation: Jopal Construction Company, Rockville, Maryland.