Home & Design

The entrance to the estate, dubbed “Primavera,” is dotted with blue spruce; a wall of trees partially conceals the house.

A pavilion covers the mahogany entry gate.

A diagonal path flanked by nepeta, lily and spirea leads to the house.

Masses of hydrangea separate the garden from the patio, where a birch tree offers shade.

A water wall with three sheer-descent falls enhances the pool, with its hand-chiseled, irregular flagstone coping.

McHale installed a pool, gazebo, spacious patio and extensive plantings.

Courtyard Retreat

McHale Landscape Design creates a blooming haven in the embrace of the Blue Ridge Mountains

When the owners of a 25-acre property near Charlottesville decided to build a small estate, they brought the architect, builder and landscape architect together for a team dinner before work began. “They wanted us to be a unit,” explains Kevin McHale, who spearheaded the landscape design. “And they wanted the whole project delivered at once.”

The owners envisioned a cluster of low-slung structures, with the main house positioned to make entertaining easy and facilitate flow from the inside out. Architect Kermit Huggins’ plan included a large front courtyard paved in brick and stucco, as well as a gated entry pavilion. In the courtyard, McHale installed a pool, gazebo, spacious patio and extensive plantings. A breezeway connects the main house with a guest house; both spill out into the courtyard.

Taking his cues from the architecture, McHale and his team selected hardscape materials that replicate colors in the building materials. Pavers in a pastel blend of earth tones pick up the salmon-and-tan-hued brick that clads the house, while the paths, patio and swimming pool are banded in irregular flagstone.

Plantings were chosen so as not to overpower the one-level home, with trees strategically placed to scale down the visually dominant lines of the metal roofs. Mass plantings of hydrangea, boxwood, Anthony Waterer spirea and daylily impart texture and color while keeping the landscape “soft and fluffy,” says McHale. “They are plants that won’t overgrow their space.” Along the breezeway, louvered doors offer glimpses of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the distance.


How do landscape and architecture relate?
Designing a landscape comes down to balancing the two. Here, the architecture was big and bold and the landscape needed to preserve and showcase it.

How do you choose plants for a large-scale project?
We advocate mass plantings. Too many colors and textures will make a landscape look like an arboretum.

How do you select hardscape materials?
Create a theme through repetition. Here, we picked up colors from the brick and incorporated darker brick pieces to complement the metal roof.

Advice Before starting a landscape project?
Know the intended use of the property and be mindful of what’s around it.

Architecture: Kermit Huggins, AIA, Kermit Huggins Architecture & Design, Inc., Hilton Head, South Carolina. Builder: Shelter Associates, Ltd., Charlottesville, Virginia. Landscape Architecture: Kevin McHale, McHale Landscape Design, Upper Marlboro, Maryland.

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